Organise defence to counter

Diego Simeone organises his 4-4-2 formation so the defence is a solid two banks of four which can hit the two forwards with accurate passes when they win the ball. A strong defence is a great foundation to launch counter attacks. In Simeone’s Atletico team the strong tackling defensive set up wins the ball and wins games by capitalising on counter attacking.

Set up

You need balls, bibs, cones and goals. Mark out a 40×30 yard area with one half divided into nine equal squares and a goal at each end. We used 12 players in the session.

How to play it

Split your players into two teams of six players. The defending team plays in the half with the squares in it and only one defender can be in each square at any one time – they can move squares but a player must vacate the square if the team mate enters it. The attacking team can only shoot from their opponents half of the pitch and they must make three passes before they can shoot. If the defending team wins the ball they counter attack quickly and must score within three passes or the ball it given back to the attacking team.


Defenders should use the halfway line as the first point of pressure but the key areas defenders must protect are those spaces immediately in front of and behind their team mates. They have to make decisions about when to tackle and when to drop deep. On the counter they have to be switched on to quick passing and not get caught on the back foot.

    1. Play starts with the goalkeeper of the attacking team playing out to a team mate.

      2. The defending team must all be in their own half in separate boxes – if a player vacates a box another defender can then drop in.

        3. The attacking team must make at least three passes before they can shoot at goal.

          4. Here the defenders are pressing and forcing play to try and win the ball.

            5. The defenders counter attack when they win the ball they must score within three passes.

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