Tag Archives for " defending "

Training to Slow the Attack

By Sean Pearson

Area Size: half a 7 v 7/9 v 9 field

Teams: 2 teams (4 v 3)

Time: 15 Minutes


  • To slow progression of the attacking team down
  • To recover into positions of support


The area needed is half a field, teams are in 3’s (plus a GK) the attackers start with 2 players wide and one centrally. The defenders start with one on the ‘D’ and 2 the same distance as the central attacker. The one defender on the ‘D’ is very important to the recovery of the other 2 defenders.



The central attacker starts each time and passes the ball to a wide player. The central defender moves to the side of the ball. But, unlike other defending sessions, does not sprint to pressure the ball. This would allow an easy pass across for other attackers to advance on goal too easily.

Remember the main objective of this central defender is to slow the attack down, not to win possession, so the other defenders have time to recover.


As soon as the central attacker passes the ball the 2 recovering defenders start their runs to get behind the ball to act as cover and balance. The central defender makes sure to slide across and allow the attacker with the ball to advance. At the same time going roughly half their speed backwards to allow the attacker the come on to them. Their position is such that they do not allow a clear run on goal but also delay/cut any pass to the opposite wide player off. Passes backwards are fine as this allows further time for the recovery defenders to get into position.








Explain to the 2 recovering defenders that they must sprint back into a position to support and slow down the attack. Once they are in position they can then aim to win possession. If they intercept a pass while recovering, then this is fine. Once the defenders win possession the play stops. If you have the players have another 2 recovery defenders ready to go as players will need time to rest after each repetition.

Next tell the central attacker to dribble the ball forward, straight at the central defender. Remember the central defender’s aim is to slow the attack down and should not go sprinting to the ball. When the ball is passed out wide, one of the recovering defenders gets close, on the inside, of the attacker and aims to force them out wide.

The central and opposite defender then become cover and balance respectively to support the recovering defender pressuring the ball.


A GK is also used for game realism. The main objective for the initial defender is to slow the attack down by not committing themselves to get close to the attacker with the ball. If possible force the attacker away from goal while the recovering defenders get back into a position to help. Force the attackers into making either poor shot selections or into making predictable/slow decisions like passing backwards/sideways or slowing down.


  • Have different starting positions for both defenders and attackers
  • Have goals for the defenders to score in when they win possession back
  • For really advanced players have less defenders than attackers (underloads)

By Sean Pearson.  Sean is also the author Coaching Team Shape in the 3-3-1, Coaching Team Shape in the 4-2-3-1  and Coaching Team Shape in the 4-3-3

Doubling Up in Defense

By Sean Pearson

Area Size: 55 x 42 yards

Teams: 5 v 5 + 3 (Extra defenders)

Time: 20 Minutes


  • To slow the attackers down
  • To realize who is the closest defender and ‘double up’ on the attacker



There are 3 areas, 2 large end areas and a middle zone (5 yards wide) where the 3 defenders occupy their own personal zone between cones. Depending on numbers, separate the middle zone into 2 or 3 equal areas for each defender. 3 defenders and 2 attackers are in each end zone.




The attacking teams are aiming to score in the goals but only the 2 attackers can score. There are no GK but with a 3 defenders it should make it more difficult to score. The team in possession is looking to pass through the middle zone to their strikers. The defenders on the opposite side are not allowed in front of the attackers to intercept the ball as this is not what we are working on. But what you want them to do is to step close to the attacker to deny them the ability to turn and shoot. They should be 1 arm’s length away and side on and their main aim is to slow them down not to tackle them.

Whichever defender in the middle zone is nearest, determined by which cones the attacker is in between, is allowed to help defend and win the ball off the attacker. This term is called ‘doubling up’ on a player making a 2v1 scenario.


As soon as they win possession they must pass to another defender on that side of the field. The middle zone defender then returns to their original position.


Because the attacker is in a different area of the field there is a closer defender in the middle zone to double up. Therefore, the defender behind the attacker slows them down and denies them the ability to turn and shoot and the second defender wins the ball.


When a scenario occurs where there is a large distance between the defenders in the middle zone and the attacker it is then the responsibility of another defender, who is closer, to double up. This gives opportunities for decision making, increasing player’s awareness of the scenario and communication.



  • Depending on numbers have 2 defenders in the middle zone.
  • Allow a player who is defending to move into the attacking area when their team is in possession.

By Sean Pearson.  Sean is also the author Coaching Team Shape in the 3-3-1, Coaching Team Shape in the 4-2-3-1  and Coaching Team Shape in the 4-3-3