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The best defensive tactic

One of the most important topics in defensive play is compactness. A key principle of compactness is that the playing area of the opposition is minimised so there is less space for them to attack in. Think Atletico Madrid and RB Leipzig who quickly drop into a compact shape when under attack – it works wonders for them.

Compactness can be defined as the tight positioning between teammates both vertically and horizontally. Compact teams are organised and well trained to keep their shape and work as an interconnected unit. The spaces between the players should be restricted, with the defence, midfield, and attack close enough to communicate with each other.

The shorter distances between individual players makes penetrative passes more difficult as the passing lanes are minimised, whilst multiple players can challenge the same through ball.

In most situations the optimal area to control is the centre of the pitch where most attacks will develop. It also offers a great platform to win which gives a greater range of potential movements whilst it offers the best platform to access alternative spaces.

It is a great tactic for youth teams because by using it they can control the game without the ball and make it almost impossible for the opposition to penetrate the defence. This forces teams to try long balls and crosses which a well organised team will find easier to defend.

To help you coach your players how to create a compact defence I have created the ninth lesson in the Coaching Classroom: Compactness.

It’s a new section of the website that we’ve developed to introduce and develop key principles of the game without limiting the amount of time players spend with a ball at their feet at training sessions.

Over the past couple of months, I’ve created a new lesson plan each week to deliver to your players online, building a valuable set of lessons for you to go back to time and again.

Soccer Coach Weekly subscribers can immediately access all the materials they need for the first 9 lessons including compactness:

  • Support
  • Create Space
  • Movement
  • Penetration
  • Creativity
  • Pressing
  • Delay
  • Cover and Balance
  • Compactness

I’ve just released my latest podcast Touchline Tales: Episode Two – Goalkeepers. This is a conversation with the goalkeeper coaches at my club and has some very good and interesting advice. It is hard to come up with ideas for warm ups and sessions for goalkeepers but also it isn’t easy to work on the mental side of coaching so listen out for some help in that area.

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