Rock solid defending in 5 weeks WEEK 5 Winning the ball



The moment of transition from defending to attacking is a crucial one for young players. If they can take advantage of winning the ball, they are more likely to win games – but all players must understand what they have to do and how they do it.

The sessions below cover this stage of defending and will give players the edge when they win the ball, allowing good movement and the creation of passing channels to get the ball quickly up to the other end of the pitch before the opposition have had time to recover.

Squeeze the pitch

When teams are in the defensive position they are squeezing the life out of the pitch so the opposition have no gaps to advance through, but at the moment of transition they must spread out quickly or the benefits of winning the ball will be lost.

Once a team has comfortable possession then movement is key to advancing up the pitch. Body shape should be on the half turn with backs to the nearest touchline, so players can see the ball, where players are and recognise where the space on the pitch is.

This allows them to then move into supporting positions to create passing channels. The players must think about distance in relation to how far their team-mate can accurately pass the ball and time their run into space so they arrive as the ball does.

Penetrate the defensive zone

The aim of the following coaching sessions is to get everyone moving and passing forward so the players are advancing on their opponents’ goal as quickly as possible and penetrating the defensive zone.

Modern teams like Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Chelsea use the counterattack to great effect, winning the ball in all areas of the pitch and reacting quickly to regaining possession. Players should be adjusting their position on the field of play in relation to where the ball is. When Cristiano Ronaldo counterattacks quickly, his team-mates will often not be able to keep up with him so he has to go it alone – this happens in youth games especially when the supporting players are slow to react or don’t keep up with play. It’s okay to do this if you are Ronaldo, but most players in your side will need a team-mate to help out when they have won the ball.


Once your defenders have regained possession of the ball, they need to know how to launch a counterattack
> Winning the ball by intercepting or tackling or forcing a mistake.
> Movement to create space – spread high and wide creating passing channels quickly to get behind a retreating defence.
> Supporting positions transfer from defensive support to attacking support. Important that players understand when to support in front and when to come short or support from behind.
> Passing becomes vital to make the most of counter attack timing and weight of pass is crucial to success as is passing to a team mate’s strongest side so he can hit the opposition defence quickly
> Communication is an essential part of the transitions so all players know what is happening

Reacting to the moment of transition is something all teams have to work on and if you use the sessions below from Mike Smith, director of the youth academy at MLS club the Portland Timbers, they will help your team to make the most of winning the ball and going from defence to attack.

Dave Clarke

About Dave Clarke

Dave Clarke is head coach and editor of Soccer Coach Weekly, providing thousands of subscribers worldwide with drills, insight and advice covering all aspects of coaching.

As well as being a skilled journalist and editor, Dave has excellent coaching credentials, having coached U9s – U16s at grassroots level for over 20 years.

He holds a UEFA B license and is qualified in FA Youth Award modules 1, 2 and 3, as well as the Coerver Youth Diploma Module.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *