Tactics when your team has a lead

Diogo Jota and Rúben Neves, benched as the clock ran down to full time in the FA Cup semi final between Wolves and Watford, could only watch in horror as Troy Deeney won and then converted his equalising penalty. Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo had jettisoned two of his better, younger players in attempting to lock things down.

“The game was ours,” sighed Santo but those changes had contributed to Wolves’ desperate disappointment.

Defender Ryan Bennett and utility man Ivan Cavaleiro were tasked with keeping the score at 2-1 but disaster struck. So how should teams defend a lead?

A cool defender does the simple things well when defending a lead, ushering danger away from goal rather than jumping in recklessly.

Whether there’s a ball being swung into the box from the wide positions, or when anticipating a corner, a defender’s speed of thought and athleticism helps switched on defenders to clear away the danger.

If there is a ball to be won on the ground, anticipation is key.

There should be no panic, no diving in recklessly and conceding free-kicks in dangerous positions. Be calculated in the tackle and drive forward making sure possession of the ball is achieved.

I get my players to practice these key sessions to help them control the game at the back. This small-sided game is all about defending in small numbers where it’s common for one or two defenders to find themselves in situations where they are exposed to an overload of attackers.

Defending 1v1 in midfield pits the wits of defenders and attackers against each other in 1v1s within the main game. Plus use sweepers to give midfielders a ‘get out’ clause when their way ahead is blocked.

For specific age related sessions it is ideal to use my EasiCoach curriculum series:
The idea in Full pitch pressure to win the ball is to keep your own passing going while also trying to block or intercept the other teams’ balls. All players must keep on the move to make angles for their team mates to pass to and stay away from opponents.

And now try the small-sided game for older players.

There are also a few hints and tips in how to play in the articles below.

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