The last defender is also a playmaker

In these days of attack and counter attack there is a huge role for the last defender to sweep up when the team lose the ball and keep the attackers away from goal. The role can be to hold up play or to remove the danger by clearing the ball, but also in a forward looking team this player makes passes from deep like a playmaker.

Sweeper is an old fashioned term but if you watch most teams you can identify a player that does the sweeper role – and it is very effective. Your goalie will also benefit from not being left alone to save from a breakaway attack.

Players in this role anticipate moves by attackers and attempt to steal away the ball from them. They will also be expected to increase depth and field coverage in order to push up the ball and support attacks. Another vital role of this position is to be like an on-field coach and direct players since the sweeper position is deep and they have a good view of the entire field of play.

Tactically this works well with a back three like Pep Guardiola at Manchester City or Antonio Conte at Inter Milan where the centrebacks cover play but also act as deep lying playmakers.

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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