Rock solid defending in 5 weeks WEEK 3 Pressure and support



Getting young defenders to understand the art of defending can be difficult because it is not the glamour end of the game – it’s about working without the ball and we all know how much young players love having a ball at their feet.

However, a good defending session can be fun too, especially when you play at a fast tempo and get players to press high up the pitch, giving them the chance to win the ball back and attack. Putting pressure on the ball high up is a brave tactic and needs players to support each other in every position. Indeed, when the first defender goes in to press the ball, the second and third defenders must be ready to step into any gaps created.

High pressure

High pressure is an excellent tactic because it can stop the opposition providing the ammunition to their attackers by cutting off attacks at the source while high up the pitch. In fact, you’re always on the front foot if you can impose the way you play on the opposition. You don’t necessarily need quick defenders to cover the space, if they are in position they won’t have to move far to do it.

Of course this type of defending means the back players have to recover quickly when the ball is lost, dropping deep and squeezing the space out of the centre of the pitch. In particular young defenders need to protect that area just in front of the penalty area because a lot of traffic will come through there. It will be easier to make the play predictable if the team can keep the ball out on the wings and try to force mistakes there.

It is at this point that support play becomes vital – if the defence forces play wide, then one defender is going to have to go to press the player out on the wing, leaving a hole in the defence from the position he left. Problems will occur if a player is beaten, resulting in the opposing player being clean through on goal. A covering defender must be able to provide pressure and support to his beaten team-mate.


If you want your team to defenders to come away with the ball when pressing, they must remember the key points…
> The angle of approach is important to force the attacker one way or the other.
> Communication is vital – defenders must be in close contact at all times and help each other to cover positions.
> Players must interchange positions so that when the first defends presses there is cover and support from the second and third defenders.
> The body shape of the pressing defender is key to dictate the play one way.


This week’s defending sessions are by Ricky King, the head coach of Vancouver Whitecaps FC Alberta South Academy Centre. By using them your players will get a good grounding in what they have to do when they haven’t got the ball – and they will have some fun doing it too.

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