Defensive shape

The positioning of players relative to the ball, their team mates and the opposition

Traditionally a case of two banks of four defensive shape has developed with the increasing variety of formations and tactics.

The session plans below explore a number of top level themes around defensive shape in pairs, units and as a team in different formations and scenarios.

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Defending principles

by Paul Heckingbottom in Defending

This session is all about building the defensive role of every position when out of possession. It starts with individuals defending in 1v1 and 3v2 situations and builds all the way through the units to whole team defending when out of possession. I like this session because all the problems posed to players are realistic to game situations. MORE

Defending against counter-attacks

by Ben Garner in Defending

Defending against the counter-attack and reacting quickly to these transitions of play is important. That’s because in the modern era, once teams win possession they are capable of breaking forward at great speed and with real quality. The ability to make the correct countering defensive decisions is a core part of being a successful defender.... MORE

Defending as a zonal back four

by John Still in Defending

In this session, we try to give players an understanding of their roles and responsibilities in defensive zones in and around the box – this includes defending individually and as a back four unit. We also look at covering, team balance, and the ability to support. It’s important to practise this because, more than anywhere... MORE

Defending against a 4-2-3-1 formation

by Chris Powell in Defending

This is a session focused on defending against a particular formation. It is aimed at stopping a team that plans to attack in a 4-2-3-1 set-up. When facing a team who have the ability to pass through you or exploit spaces with their running on the ball, being unbalanced in your shape and not closing... MORE

Defending shapes

by Jimmy Bell in Defending

This session is looks at defensive structure – movement from side to side, pressure on the ball and cover from supporting players. Good defensive organisation is obviously called upon throughout matches, so these are principles that must always be practised. We believe that the unity of defenders and a shared knowledge of how to deal... MORE

Defending in and around the box

by Keith Hill in Defending

This session is about defending the 18-yard box when in control and when in states of ‘chaos’. It’s a great practice that improves both individuals and collective units, and instills rare fundamentals of the art of defending the red zone/danger zone (or 18-yard box). The reason I like this session so much is because the... MORE

Defending compact in midfield

by Alex Morris in Defending

This session places an emphasis on midfield units staying compact and being hard to penetrate when out of possession. I like to run this because although it is midfield weighted, it strongly focuses on defensive ideas, which is important because defending is traditionally a less appealing topic in the minds of players. The introduction of... MORE

Back four understanding

by Iain Dowie in Defending

This overview session is about the responsibilities of the back four, and how they use distance, movement and angles in order to produce a formidable defensive unit. This is an important session for improving confidence, because a proficient defensive base acts as a springboard for the whole team, not least in a side’s ability to counter-attack... MORE

Cutting out counter-attacks

by Keith Hill in Attacking

Analysis at the end of our 2008/09 League Two campaign showed we needed to develop a new collective responsibility to defend against the counter-attack. We knew this would increase our potential to keep clean sheets whilst also ensuring that we had players in good areas of the pitch in order to regain and maintain possession.... MORE

Clearing defensive danger

by John Sheridan in Defending

This session is about the reactions and movements of defensive players. It looks primarily at the role of the back four in squeezing up and condensing play as they would do in a match day situation, yet also checks on how players in other areas need to adapt their movements so as to protect the... MORE

Back four protocols

by Lee Johnson in Defending

The purpose of this session is to assess and coach the specific roles of the defensive unit, to include defensive protocols, communication and recognising triggers. It’s a session pivotal to how we organise our defensive thinking at Barnsley, and although it is specific to our back four, it is introduced in the context of the... MORE

When to press and when to drop

by Nathan Jones in Defending

This session is all about teaching players when to press and when to drop as a defensive unit and it encourages them to identify and respond to the visual triggers shown by their opponents. As a practice, it allows for the consistent repetition of the key triggers but within varied circumstances, helping players to quickly... MORE

Match preparation

by Terry Butcher in Formations and Tactics

This is the kind of training session I run with my teams in the build up to a match. It helps to rehearse the formation and shape we are going to use and it also introduces the shape and tactics that we expect our opponents to employ. Tactics are not always set in stone and... MORE

Defending – individual, unit and team

by Mick McCarthy in Defending

This session is a straight competition between defenders and attackers. It takes the principles of defending as individuals, in units and as a team, whilst also encouraging forwards and midfielders to engage, thus making it as realistic as possible for defenders. MORE

Improving the defence

by Phil Parkinson in Defending

This session begins with simple 1v1 and 2v2 defending exercises in order to rehearse players in the basics. It then progresses through practices designed to show defenders how to deal with attacking wide players and how to prevent crosses. MORE

Defending as a back four unit

by Dave Jones in Defending

Get your back four working as a unit, whilst developing a clear understanding of defensive roles. This will create a solidity that is difficult for opposition teams to penetrate, meaning attackers can only create chances by doing something really special. MORE

Dealing with crosses

by Kenny Jackett in Defending

Get your players dealing with crosses that are played both into and outside of the 18-yard box. Heading, clearances, blocks and communication are the key areas of focus in this session. MORE


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