Three steps of team defending

The session will lead your team through three key steps of defending in order to improve the team’s shape and awareness of space.

What this session is about

  1.  Team defending.
  2.  Working as a team.
  3.  Breaking the opponent’s attack.

What to think about

There are some simple tips to apply to your team’s defending.

  •  Try to have all your players facing the opponent’s goal. This means the ball is in front of the team and lots of players are in defensive positions. This is the skill developed in game 1.
  •  Try to defend narrow. Do this by pulling all players into the centre of the pitch. Defending narrow stops opponents playing through their midfielders or to the strikers and limits them to wide areas. This is developed in game 2.
  •  Try to keep the space between the defenders, midfielders and forwards tight. This stops the opponents from playing balls between the lines of midfielders and defenders. This is developed in game 3.


The three games are played on your normal match pitch. Mark out a cone line across the attacking third for game 1. Mark two cone channels from each 18-yard box for game 2. For game 3, mark a cone line across the defensive third of the pitch.

Warm upSessionDevelopmentsGame SituationWarm Down
10 minutes15 minutes15 minutes15 minutes5 minutes

What you get your players to do

Two teams play a normal game with conditions. Ideally use 11-a-side but adapt your squad according to numbers.

Team A’s goalkeeper starts play by passing the ball to a team mate while team B takes up a defensive shape to regain possession and counter attack.

Team B is not allowed to pressure team A inside the final third of the pitch (coned line). This forces the defence to drop deep and keep the ball in front of them.

The defenders now face team A’s goal. The defence tries to force attackers to make backward or sideways passes. If the ball leaves play, the game is restarted by team A’s goalkeeper.

Defencers drop off and keep the play in front of them, facing the opposite goal.

Defencers drop off and keep the play in front of them, facing the opposite goal.


Cone two channels down the width of the pitch from each 18-yard box. Team B must again drop off, after team A begins play, to keep the ball in front and face the opposite goal. However, the team must also come narrow in order to outnumber the opponents in the central channel.

This will force team A to pass the ball wide. Now team B moves across to that side of pitch. This will isolate the player in possession and keep play there.

Isolating the player in possession on one side of the pitch will allow team B to quickly pressure and outnumber opponents in this area of the field.

By bringing in defenders, attackers are forced wide.

By bringing in defenders, attackers are forced wide.

Game situation

Now look to reduce the space between the lines of defence/midfield/forwards. The defensive team does this by pushing forward to raise the back line and compact the team.

This final stage can come become dangerous as the defenders must be aware of not getting too tight to opposing attackers and allowing a longer ball into the space behind the defence.

The attackers can help in this process by pressing opposing defenders as they try to make forward passes to their midfielders or strikers.

Push the defence up to keep the team lines compact.

Push the defence up to keep the team lines compact.

What to call out

Share this

Follow us