Defending With 10 Men When Winning 2-0 And Counter Attacking

Wayne Harrison was the Technical Director for Youth for the Al Ain Football and Cultural club in the United Arab Emirates in the Middle East. In his time in Charge the youth teams won SEVEN National Champions at Youth Professional Level in the United Arab Emirates in 2 years. The most successful professional academy in the country. 6 Finishing Championship Runners up. The academy was Voted the Top Professional Academy in the UAE by Marco Monte of Inter Milan the Consultant for the Abu Dhabi Sports Council in 2011. Also beating teams such as Inter Milan, Valencia, Atletico Madrid and Raja of Morocco in tournaments at U15 and U16. 

Here is the second example of some Coaching Clinics he taught to the 40 plus full time coaches he oversaw; all entirely relevant to what is being taught today.

Part 1: Back Four Defending and Attacking Team Shapes

Part 2: Attacking Team Shape And Off The Ball Movement For 9 v 9

Phase Of Play


1-4-2- against 4-3-2. Six outfield players (plus a keeper) are playing against nine outfield players. The six defending players are 2-0 up and need to maintain the lead. This is going to build up into a 10 v 11 game situation eventually. We are set up like a 1-4-4-1 without a number (10) position filled. We have three goals to attack for the six defending players. These represent in an actual game our (7), (9) and (11), so our attacking teams shape of 4-2-3 with 10 players.  

Once the defending six win the ball they can counter attack quickly by passing the ball into either of the goals, as if they were the three attacking players in the game.

When they do this successfully they get a goal for it. Depending where the ball is won you can play from the back through midfield from the back and then to the strikers this is to vary the build up, so it is not route one every time which becomes predictable. Having said that it is best if we can counter quickly when we win the ball to catch the opponents out who are in an attacking phase at that moment and have an overload of players.  

Start with a tight field only; goal area wide. This is to make it a tighter area to play in with smaller spaces between players and will help the overloaded defending team of six have some initial success and give them confidence.

Coaching Points:

  1. Patience as individuals and as a team, no need to chase the ball as we are winning with numbers down  
  2. Keeping a compact team shape, short and tight  
  3. When having to commit as an individual; pressing skills but often delaying rather than winning initially and then winning 1 v 1 when you know the support is there should you be beaten  
  4. Support, your immediate teammates positioning  
  5. Cover, teammates around and beyond these two;
  6. Recover; when the ball goes past a player of ours try to get goal side to counter this
  7. Track, when an opponent makes a forward run we cannot leave him free  
  8. Regaining possession
  9. Getting compact from the back and squeezing up when we counter
  10. Quick counter attack where and when it is on; otherwise maintain possession as long as possible till the counter opportunity opens up  
  11. High or low pressure on the field when we lose the ball, but depending on where we lose it and where the players are positioned (likely low pressure mostly  being numbers down and winning because we are not chasing the game; to conserve energy)

After initial success, let’s say the defending six who started at 2-0 up won the game 4-0 with two successful counter attacks, and not allowing any goals against, now open the field up and use the full width.

It is now a much bigger challenge for the defending team with bigger spaces between them and much more space for the overloaded attacking team to play in. 


An example of a counter attack. (E) Has run forward hoping to receive a pass from (D) in behind (2). The pass is under hit and (E) is out of defensive position and (2) intercepts the pass.


(2) is free and has time on the ball and could also play a quick direct pass to one of the goals but instead 2) plays a quick pass to (8) who is free and (8) plays a long pass to the center goal (simulating striker (9) in a game) and this counts as a goal for the defending six. The overload team can try to intercept the pass to the goal.


Now 6 against 10 players, a much bigger challenge for the defending team. You can bring in the width of the field again if you wish to make it easier for the defending team.    

 If that is successful then widen it to the full width again, you can experiment with field sizes and player numbers to lead up to the 10 v 11 actual game SITUATION.


Now bring in the wide players (7) and (11) and take out two of the goals and leave only the central goal that represents our striker (9). Now it is 8 outfield players against 10 players.

Now the defending team counter attack and score by scoring in the single goal still but also if they can play it forward into the path of (7) or (11) who have attacked quickly once we won the ball.


Same set up on the big field.


Here (C) passes to midfielder (G) who tries to pass to a striker and makes a bad pass.  We have won possession now and with this (4) has time and space to look up. This is the CUE for (7) and (11) to make forward runs to receive the forward pass.


Here there are three options shown that (4) can do. All three passes are into the three furthest forward players in the team and this is the best counter attack if it is on to do so, direct and fast.  

If the opponents are in a full attacking mode, being two nil down they need to chase the game and take chances. In this situation their fullbacks have pushed on and have been caught wrong side.  

Alternatively if (7) and (11) are not free and the pass directly to the goal representing striker (9) is blocked then we may need to perform a slower build up and keep possession of the ball longer until a counter attacking moment appears.

A 10 v 11 Full Game Situation


We have built the session up with several progressions and now we are at the full game situation.

The following are various start positions you can use to create situations that will happen in the game.