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How to defend counter attacks

It is all well and good if you have a goalkeeper who is confident enough to clear counter attacks or long balls over the defence – but that is a rare quality in the youth game. You have to put in plans to stop this kind of attack.

A player who clears up balls played behind a retreating defence has been known as the Sweeper, but mention a sweeper today and you will get all kinds of responses. However, in youth games, this style of player is ideal to cover your goalkeeper.

There is nothing worse for a goalkeeper than having to face 1v1s or even 2v1s against a team with fast attackers that play over your defence. At 7v7 for instance you will not lose out tactically as your defence will not be playing for offsides so you can keep a player deep to cover the balls fired out from the opposition defence.

It also gives an advantage to slower defenders who will have more time to recover. It may not be the trendiest of tactics but playing with a sweeper in youth football goes a long way to helping your team keep out fast attacking teams.

Try the sessions below to help you cover your team at the back:

As the last man in defence the sweeper must cover right across the back of defenders but mainly cover the central areas as this is the key area for a sweeper to cover. Start with a small sided game called The Sweeper which gives an overview of the role and what benefits a team can get from using a sweeper.

The sweeper can see all the play in front of him ­– one game I love to get my younger age groups playing is The Conductor which gives sweepers the role of telling players what is happening and where defenders should go to cover any attacks. This gives them the authority to close down any gaps that are left by the other defenders and anticipate where the weak spots in defence are. It also shows the importance of communication with team mates when defending.

A more modern approach to using a sweeper is to get your goalkeeper to act out the role when teams are caught out and the ball is played over the top of the defence. A fun game to play for this role is Sweeper keeper. It’s a great way to get young goalkeepers more involved with the match and also to be ready for defensive duties during a match.

For older age groups the session 3v3 sweeper keeper is a more advanced version of the fun game.

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