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Increase the tempo at the end of matches

Maybe like me you’re sitting at home reading up on your coaching plan rather than being out there with the players. I find it very frustrating to be at home during the pandemic lockdown… but hopefully just a few more weeks to go. However, I do find that it gives me time to look at the sessions I have been working on and think about how my players are doing in matches.

One of the things I have done a lot of work on this season is getting my team to play right to the very end of matches. Not only that, whether we are losing or not in the last 10 minutes as a collective we up our game and try to score a goal. It helps us end on a positive note and it also puts into the minds of my players that goals can be scored right up to the last whistle.

Playing at a high tempo in the final minutes will also catch the opposition off their guard especially if they are winding down to the end of the game. You can plan out how to get your team to up their tempo at the end of a match or use the sessions if you are one of the lucky ones still coaching.

One way to demonstrate the impact of increasing tempo is to progress a small-sided training game by making it one or two-touch only. This will increase the pace that the ball is knocked around and force players to move to receive it more quickly. Once they have got to grips with this, when you call for that final push they will know what is required. Try Score one touch, it’s a great game to get players to take tired defences to task.

Formations can also be altered for that final push. If you’re holding your opponents comfortably enough at the back it can be a good idea to send a defender up, leaving one less in defence, or take one off and put an extra striker on. Free to attack releases your defenders but remember take care that the midfield remains intact and is still in a position to retain possession to thwart any counterattacks.

Pushing a midfielder into attack is another option but the risk is that you might lose the control of possession that you need to unleash the final surge. Explosive in midfield focuses on the way Luca Modric of Real Madrid attacks at pace from midfield but is always ready to defend.

Rather than lumping the ball upfield, it’s also worth reminding your players that there’s nothing wrong with a long pass into space provided it’s a deliberately played ball rather than just a frantic punt. Getting it wide in front of quick wingers can also really stretch tired opponents and open things up in the last few minutes, and long diagonal passes when timed right can be really penetrating. Use Long pass game to train your players to hit a team-mate with pinpoint accuracy.

Whatever you do there are risks involved and remember to remind players after the game that if it hasn’t worked, or if you have been caught out by a counterattack, that it was a risk you were aware of and felt worth taking. Make sure they know that it was your decision if it fails so they don’t blame themselves. And if it works, give them all the credit for digging deep and doing a great job.

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