Tag Archives for " tactics "

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

Possession to Attack

By Sean Pearson

Area Size: 40 x 50 yards. (end zone 20 x 2 yards)

Teams: 6 v 6 + 1

Time: 25 Minutes


  • To build possession from the center backs
  • To work together as a team to create opportunities to move the ball forward

Each team has 2 CB’s off the main area of the field, they start the game off each time. Both teams have a CM, 2 WM and a ST. A neutral is used to create an overload in the midfield for passing options. To start with instruct your team not to high press but to defend how they see fit. Work with one side and see if the other team also responds to what you are coaching.

Playing out from the back (1)

When either CB has the ball, there are specific movements that other players should make to create different options. The CM drops down and away from the ball, the WM start high and drops down and further wide and the neutral moves opposite to the CM. The ST aims to stretch the defense by moving as far away from the ball that the defender moves with them.

Playing out from the back (2)

This then gives the CB 3 different options to pass the ball forwards. You can see here the movement of all players allows the neutral more space to receive the ball beyond the first line of pressure. It is up to the CB to decide where to pass the ball depending on the positioning of the defending team. When a player receives the ball the first option is to continue to play forward whilst making high percentage passes to maintain possession.Playing out from the back (3)

If the CM is passed the ball and pressured they can pass backwards to the opposite CB. If there is no obvious passing option available, then encourage them to bring the ball forward into the space ahead of them. If this happens the CM takes their place at CB to maintain defensive discipline. Now the CB will draw attention from opposition which is when options for a pass become available.Playing out from the back (4)

The whole point of playing out from the back is to make high percentage passes to move the ball forward. This can only be achieved through movement of all other players to effect the opposition and a confidence and composure in possession. If the defense is well organized know when to go back, but also know when to penetrate to attack. When the ball is in the attacking third of the field the team can shoot. If there is no GK apply a 1 touch finish rule, you can even put cones in the goal in the middle so only goals in the corners count.

Coaching Points

  • Movement of players ahead of the ball is key for creating passing options forwards
  • Move players out of position by ball movement and having composure to play high percentage passes


  • Add a GK
  • Play with 2 touch
  • The striker must touch the ball before scoring

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

Becoming More Flexible and Unpredictable

By Alex Trukan

Formations are often the first thing that comes to our mind when talking about tactics. We hear numerous TV commentators introducing a team starting with a formation they play: 4-5-1, 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1. Formation is a big part of the team’s tactics as it is a tool which helps to fulfil team’s style of play, however, it is not the best reflection of it. Especially when attacking, we rarely see players in exact the same positions and shapes throughout the whole game. Modern teams are becoming more flexible, unpredictable and often playing in a very unusual ‘shapes’. That points our attention into considering a shape as something which is not ‘set’, but rather than that, very flexible, with different effects depending on its’ characteristics. For example, we might see a team playing with no players positioned around the opposition’s back line what will then create an overload in midfield and at the back as well as open up opportunities to make unpredictable forward runs. That makes the shape asymmetric and flexible.

One of the first examples of the asymmetric shape is creating overloads on one side of the pitch. That might involve winger staying wide, striker making a movement into wide areas as well as midfielder supporting them. By doing that, three players will be positioned within 5-10 yards from each other, what will create an opportunity to combine play as well as drag opposition players in to mark them. It can also help to isolate winger/full back on the opposite side.


On the other hand, a team might choose to leave no players on the opposite side to where the ball is. That makes it possible to play through the opposition as they will retain a certain level of width, no matter how narrow the attacking team is playing. This type of shape encourages to play forwards rather than recycle play and switch sides.


Another example might be when a team creates an overload on their own half, leaving a lone striker on the opposite side. That enables them to have controlled possession during build up play, gives them defensive security as well as invites the opposition to press what will open up possibilities to play forwards (into the striker) quickly.


In this type of situation, wingers might come towards central areas to create additional option when trying to play forwards through the opposition defensive block. As we can see below, striker is the player that stays high to create a degree of attacking depth and stretch the opposition shape.


Narrowness in the attacking shape can not only be applied in terms of width, but also in length. Positioning players only within the middle third leaves enough width to recycle the play but also provides opportunities to play into space behind the opposition’s back line. It also potentially stretches the width of the defending team’s shape what helps to break through them.



As coaches who design our team’s style of play, it would help to be aware of how does different shapes affect the attacking opportunities. It is, therefore, important to be open minded and not restricted by only looking at formations. That will help us to create our own identity and come up with new tactics and strategies.

By Alex Trukan, Development Coach, Nottingham Forest