We’re often caught out on the break. How can I get my team to repel counterattacks?

Ask Dave

Dave says

It’s strange how most of the talk of counterattacks revolves around how to pull them off, yet few coaches take time to explain how to defend against them.

And let’s be clear, when you’re a lone centre back with two attackers and a winger bearing down on you, it can be a fearful sight! The trick is to slow a counterattack down. Defenders should be coached in the art of jockeying – keeping a wide stance and backtracking slowly, attempting to block the attacker’s progress without tackling.

This is all about balance and positioning, and can be practised in 1v1 situations. The defender should attempt to slow the attack, steering the forward onto his weaker side. An awareness of other opposition players is crucial so that a simple switch doesn’t offer another attacker a clear route to goal.

We’re often caught out on the break. How can I get my team to repel counterattacks?


While one or more players slow the attack down, others must be determined to get back and support. You can practise defending against the counterattack by starting a 2v1 attack 30 yards from goal, with two additional defenders a further 10 yards back down the pitch. The ability of a lone defender to jockey, slow, position well and communicate with retreating team-mates will decide whether defenders can recover in time to help.

Practice makes permanent in every aspect of soccer, but I do feel it’s especially prevalent when defending against the counterattack. Why? Because it’s a technique that, firstly, requires commitment and aggression on the part of defenders looking to get back to help; and secondly, it demands positioning sense, patience, concentration and of nerve on the part of the overloaded defender or defenders.

Answered by William East, a Level 3 coach from Aberdeen Scotland

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