Tactics board from youth module course

Coaching Session of the Month

Defending deep

This month’s session from the Nottinghamshire FA County Coach Developer Chris Dowhan, is all about reducing the number of goals a team concedes. Coaches who have used this practice, and transferred it to match days, have experienced success by getting their team to defend deeper in their own half, to then catch teams out on the counter attack.

One of the five attacking principles of play is penetration, which simply means getting the ball into the space behind the defence, either by passing or dribbling.

This month’s session looks at how teams can prevent this happening by restricting the space behind the defence, simply by defending deeper (nearer to their own goal).

The diagram of Chris’s practice is for a 7v7 format. Now we appreciate that you may probably not get 14 at your practice every week, especially if you play at U9 or U10, but you can work on the principles with fewer players in training, and really work on it on match days.

Play starts by the ball being fed to the reds in their own half. This gives the coach the opportunity to see how the blues react to this. Do they chase the ball and push up? Do they naturally drop (you may well know this from experience of seeing them play every week) If your team are conceding goals by players penetrating behind the defence, it may be the former.

After observing how they play, you can then go in and coach, introducing the concept of defending deep.

If your team defends deeper, then as a unit they will naturally become more compact (a defending principle of play) If you restrict the number of times the opposition has a free run on goal, you will concede less goals.

Remember to coach one team, but also to manage the other team, to create space (another attacking principle of play) and to play realistically. You can change players around to give them all a go, whilst remembering that repetition is really important in getting players to understand the concepts you coach. So make sure you give them lots of goes.

An important thing to remember is to transfer what you coach into the match day at the weekend. Focus on the things you have been working on in training i.e. Defending deep as opposed to dribbling/passing/shooting etc.

Don’t view this session as being negative, just because it’s about defending. Consider this as part of a block of work of topics linked to when your team are Out of Possession. This in turn can form part of your wider syllabus to ensure you give your players sessions which cover In possession topics, and transition between the two.

As a coach, how would you lead up to this practice to ensure your players get the topic? Well you could put on a ‘shadow practice’ where you cover the concept of getting your players to retreat towards their own goal when they lose the ball.

Be patient – Rome wasn’t built in a day. I’m sure a pretty decent manager used that phrase at one point didn’t he?

Let us know your experiences of using the practice with your players. Did it work, did you concede less goals etc. If you need some help or advice about this or any other practice you want to deliver, don’t forget you have access to FA Coach Mentor Anthony Beaumont, so get in touch. You can find out more about the Coach Mentor scheme by clicking on the article in the newsletter. 

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