Shape up your team to defend all over the pitch
Shapes are important in soccer. They happen all over the pitch, but you must make sure your players know how they work. Playing 3v3 matches shows you how to use triangles, says David Clarke.
3v3 helps your players keep shape
Playing 3v3 brings up situations that often occur in 7-a-side or 11-a-side. It illustrates how poor shape has an effect on the other players, making their own job much harder. The triangular shape in midfield is very much something coaches can use to great effect all over the pitch. But you must use it properly. Have a look at the diagrams and I'll show you what I mean:
In the top diagram the white team have the ball and have to bring it out from their own goal. The grey team has adopted the shape of a triangle, however, the middle player has dropped back deep to protect his goal, in effect becoming a sweeper behind the other two grey team players. This means that the white player bringing the ball out is unmarked and can either directly attack straight down the middle or create 2v1 situations with his team mates. The two grey wingers have a problem. Do they mark their player or go towards the man with the ball.
A simple wall pass opens the path to goal
By moving away from the player they are marking they leave themselves open to a simple wall pass and leave the goal at their mercy. If they stay, this creates a 1v1 directly in front of their own goal. Or the white player can elect to move towards one of his teammates creating a 2v1.
Problem for the man on the ball
In the bottom diagram the grey team is still in a triangle but the middle player has moved up to the man on the ball. This gives the man on the ball an immediate problem as he tries to bring the ball out. He is under pressure to pass the ball because he dare not dribble past him. Passing is difficult so the grey team are more likely to win the ball. The grey player can also force the player to pass one way or another by moving slightly to one side, forcing a pass and allowing a grey team mate to intercept.
The difference in these two situations highlights not only how bad shape can make effective team play more difficult, but also how important communication is. If you don’t explain how it works young players might conclude that the situation in the first diagram is reasonable. They can play like this for quite a while believing they are following your coaching, and then blame one another for any mistakes that lead to goals.
Key coaching tip: Teach your players by showing them both these situations.
* Publisher's Tip *
It's December, it's cold and the school term is drawing to a close so your players are tired, grouchy and irritable.
Running a training session under these circumstances is very difficult. It doesn't matter how much you know about soccer, or how good a player you were in your youth. If you don't handle the situation properly your session will be wasted.
The trick is very simple - keep them moving! All the time! If they stop, their hands get cold, they become uncomfortable, they lose their concentration and you may as well pack up and go home.
We've said it many times before, but in such situations planning is more important than ever. Make sure all your helpers are fully briefed on the activities in advance of your players arriving. Get them to mark out each exercise in advance. When your players arrive let them have their own ball and try to let them have as much ball play as possible for the session. If you play a practice match make sure that no-one becomes isolated in defence or attack. They'll quickly get cold and before you know it they'll be wishing they were at home in bed.
Of course, all of this applies to you too. Make sure you keep moving. Lead by example, stay warm and keep your enthusiasm for the session high.
* Inspirational Quotation *
"It's not about the long ball or the short ball, it's about the right ball"
Bob Paisley, legendary Liverpool FC manager
© 2008 Green Star Media Ltd