EXPERT SESSIONS AND ADVICE FOR GRASSROOTS SOCCER COACHES

Defending priorities

When your opponent has the ball it is vital to focus on prioritising areas of danger in your defence. Once these areas have been identified, your team needs to keep the ball away from them.

What this session is about

  1.  Defending as a team.
  2.  Forcing the opponent away from goal.
  3.  Defending when outnumbered.

What to think about

It is important to give your players/team clear guidelines on how you want them to defend.

By prioritising the most dangerous areas (where most goals are scored from), you can begin to put in place a defensive strategy.

Obviously the farther the ball is from goal, the less dangerous the opponent’s attack will be. In addition, if the ball is in wide areas, the attack is less dangerous than in central areas of the field.

This means if you cannot directly tackle to win possession, then forcing play into wider areas or backwards is a good strategy.

Set-up

Warm upSessionDevelopmentsGame SituationWarm Down
10 minutes15 minutes15 minutes15 minutes5 minutes

What you get your players to do

Set up a numbered pitch, as shown in the top picture, with three defenders and a goalkeeper against five attackers (two are in the wide channels).

Defenders try to keep the ball in zone 2 or force the ball to zone 3 because if the attackers have the ball in zone 1, it is the most dangerous area.

Long shots from zone 2 are harder for the opponent to score and crosses from zones 3 give defenders a chance to clear the cross.

The key for the defending team is to hold the entrance line to zone 1 and stay compact to stop passes being played between them. This enables the defenders to keep play In front of them and to force a wide pass. Once a wide pass has been made, the nearest defender must go to pressure and keep play to this side of the pitch.

Use the offside rule so the defence gets used to holding the line.

The outnumbered defence prioritises which areas are most dangerous and tries to prevent attackers breaching them.

The outnumbered defence prioritises which areas are most dangerous and tries to prevent attackers breaching them.


Development

Mark out an identical area that faces the one used previously, as shown in the middle picture.

Each team has three defenders in one half and five attackers in the opposite half.

The defenders face the same task of defending 3v5. However, on regaining possession they must quickly pass forward to their attackers who now have a 5v3 overload in the opponent’s half.

This gives the defenders a reward for their good defensive teamwork.

Defenders try to regain the ball and quickly switch the overload in their attackers’ favour by passing forwards.

Defenders try to regain the ball and quickly switch the overload in their attackers’ favour by passing forwards.


Game situation

Remove the zones and play a small-sided game between two teams.

Defenders need to remember where the danger areas are without the markings and keep attackers away from them. It is key to prioritise such areas and try to force the opponent wide or backwards.

Normal rules apply including offside. Play for seven minutes. Take a minute’s rest and swap ends to play a further seven minutes. The team that scores most goals wins.

With the zones removed, defenders need to be able to prioritise the danger areas.

With the zones removed, defenders need to be able to prioritise the danger areas.


What to call out

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