Adjusting Defensive Tactics

By Stevie Grieve

Pep Guardiola a main exponent of ‘positional play’ (or ‘Juego de posicion’ in Spanish) and uses a system based on overloads via occupying multiple defenders, occupying specific spaces, creating overloads and spaces to attack into whenever possible, and looking for ways to turn 11v11 into a 2v1 or 3v2 by placing players in areas where a zonal defence can be exploited.

A common feature of this is positioning a player in a pocket of space between the lines and in particular in the channels between wide and central players while between the lines. If a defender comes out of his zone to press, this leaves a gap for another to move into, and often de-stabilizes the defence for a few seconds, which is often exploited and leads to scoring chances.

If a player is unable to receive in any position, often they will only stay there for 2-3 seconds then make another quick run; the position will be interchanged with someone else, and the defenders have the decision – mark or stay in zone. The attackers regularly rotating positions causes confusion and often leads to Bayern overloading 2v1 or even leaving someone 1v0 in a dangerous area against the defensive line.

With the regular movement and occupation of several defenders with 1 or 2 players, this frees up players in defence or midfield to overload, gain control of the centre of the field then force the defence deeper.

Playing against positional play with a zonal defence is a job which requires a well drilled team and have the ability to deal with playing 3v2 or 4v3 in wide zones, but

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Pressing 3 v 1 or 2 v 1

By Stevie Grieve

In the Champions League encounter between Schalke and Real Madrid, Schalke played the their usual deep 5-3-2 formation adopted by Roberto Di Matteo since he took charge earlier in the season. They normally play quite passive and only engage to press in numbers, specifically in 3v1s in the channel or when there is a good chance of a regain and particularly 2v1 against the touchline.

Schalke blocking Real Madrid’s channel attacking zone


As Kroos, Isco on the ball, Ronaldo and Marcelo are in the same strip of field. Schalke are able to control any forward passes, so Isco elects to dribble with no

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Altering a Formation to Create Space

By Stevie Grieve

In the recent Champions League match between PSG and Chelsea, Chelsea set up to play compact and defensively with an emphasis on counter-attack, with a high prioritization with blocking PSG’s left with lots of players on that side of the field, with Willian, Cesc, Ramires and Ivanovic all regularly defending on that side against Maxwell, Matuidi and Lavezzi.

Normally, Costa would go to help and Matic would drift over to provide cover for the right side incase PSG broke though and exploited the space, while PSG would often send over Verratti and Cavani to provide extra bodies to try to find an overload.

Consequently, this means that often 8-11 players would be found on one side and within ¼ of the field or less, resulting in Chelsea blocking the vertical attacking actions PSG were looking for on the right side with Maxwell and Matuidi giving left sided balance and crossing opportunities.

PSG Tactical Alteration at Half Time- 3-4-3 with Switches to free Maxwell and Matuidi


In the 2nd half, instead of playing directly into the

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Defending Opponents with their Back to Goal

By Sean Pearson

Session Length: 90 mins

A lot of sessions focus on defending when players are dribbling the ball towards the defenders. I can’t remember seeing a session that focuses on defending players with their back to goal. This is an extremely important part of defending, because if done right will frustrate the opposition, slow down the opposition’s attacks and make them predictable. A lot of what I will cover will be counter intuitive to your players as they will want to lunge, kick and pursue the ball but is important not to let them do any of this and to be patient to know when and where they can win the ball.

Warm-Up Time: 10 mins

To warm up the specific muscles used heavily in

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A Complete Training Session for Build Up Play

By Sean Pearson

This session is purposely detailed to give you, the coach, as much information on why, where and how specific things should happen.

Session Length: 1hr 30mins

Warm-Up Time: 10mins

  • In pairs pass through gates. Make sure the pair are 10-15 yards apart when passing.
  • Player A passes ball the player B, B takes ball and dribbles, player A finds a new gate, player B passes to player A’s feet through the gate.
  • After the players have been going for a minute, introduce body position and receiving on the back foot. Explain how the receiver should have their shoulder facing the ball, NOT the chest. The reason is because, when the chest is facing the ball, every first touch is back in that direction. When your shoulder points to the ball, this opens up the body to a sideways stance and naturally the instep of the back foot (which is the foot furthest from the ball) is now at a different angle and will push the ball forwards, in front of you but at a different angle. Later we will see why this is important.
  • Make players aware that it is not just good enough to stand sideways and face the side of the field but the must face in field to see as much as they possibly can. This may mean turning 180 degrees to be in the correct position. You will see players cheat and receive on their front foot because they are being lazy, do not let this happen and reinforce correct body shape.
  • Explain that their first touch must not stop the ball underneath them, so their head goes down to see the ball for their second touch, but it should be pushed in front of them so they can make a decision with their second touch.
  • Move on to receiving the ball on the move. Here player A passes the ball into the space beyond the gate for player B who is at the side of the gate and can run onto the pass. Again it is important to have your shoulder facing the direction of the passer, to turn your body and receive on your back foot in order to go forwards with your next touch.

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Allowing Freedom of Movement Within a Formation

By Stevie Grieve

Despite the criticism of Luis Enrique this season, he has made an improvement on the work by Tata Martino last season, by re-introducing a pressing game and adding an aggressive offside trap, while finding a way to play the front 3 of Luis Suarez, Lionel Messi and Neymar. Earlier in the season, Luis Suarez and Messi failed to connect with enough regularity so Enrique had to find a solution; change Messi from being the false 9 and instead play Messi in a right sided free role with Suarez central.

Obviously, having Messi on the side and not in the centre would make him less effective, so to allow him to drift inside and have Suarez occupy several defenders, there has been a newly formed right sided triangle created with the occupation of the wide zone rotating between Messi and Rakitic, with Alves playing slightly deeper due to his declining physical prowess.

Normally, we will see Ivan Rakitic as the right sided central midfielder, with Messi as a

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