Defending can be waiting game for teams that play a good attacking game and dominate the opposition. How do you keep them alert, organised and ready to drop back, recover and defend a counter attack or long ball over the top? MORE
Manchester United’s three-ball routine
Manchester United’s first-team coach Rene Meulensteen developed what he called the three-ball routine to increase team speed and mental awareness. I saw it in action and it was a real flurry of movement and attacking action.
I created my own version of it to use with my youth teams.
It provides a very effective way of getting a side prepared for a forthcoming match because it improves the speed of defenders and the movement of attackers.
The routine starts with a shot from outside the box, then moves on to a cross that needs to be defended. As soon as the crossing element has finished, a third ball comes in from the other wing.
Meulensteen said: “It’s an exciting exercise – you’re looking at the quality of the passing and the variety from the wing, while watching runs at the near and far post. Can the players react to the ball?”
How to set it up:
- Player numbers can vary but we’ve used 10 in this instance.
- You need balls, cones and a goal, plus one keeper.
- Place a pole or cone just outside the D of the penalty area, plus two additional cones on each wing – one to mark an early cross and the other a deep cross.
- Four central players stand so the cone just outside the D is between them and the goalkeeper, with one player further forward than the others.
- Two players position themselves on each of the wings.
- There is one defender in the penalty area.
- Ensure the central group have a good supply of balls.
- The central players one-touch pass to each other. When the ball arrives at the most advanced player, he turns on the cone and shoots first time at goal.
- As the central group lays a ball to the right wing, the shooter makes his way into the penalty area to challenge 1v1 against the defender. Both players prepare for the cross from the side.
- The right crosser then joins the action and the defender must defend 2v1 on a cross from the right. The ball is again fed from the central group.
- The left crosser now joins to complete a maximum 3v1 in the middle. Repeat the crossing scenario with the two remaining wingers, this time from the deepest crossing cones.
Developing the session:
- Set up as before but have an attacker and two defenders in the penalty box.
- The advanced central player lays the ball back to a team mate before joining the other attacker – he needs to head for the post not covered by his team mate.
- The ball is switched to the wing and the subsequent cross challenged 2v2 in the middle.
Why this works:
This is a great workout for defenders because it’s very match realistic.
There is reward for good play from the attackers in the form of goals, and the growing number of attacking players creates a constantly changing proposition for the lone defender – who ends up defending against a 3v1 overload.
Finally, the variety of attacking angles mean both attackers and defenders need to stay aware at all times.
This session originally appeared in Soccer Coach Weekly.