When to Close in Wide and Central Areas

This is the fourth in a four part series on defending tactics.

To Close or Not to Close in Wide Areas

close in wide areas
  1. This is an example of what can happen if the wide defender is drawn to the ball when it is at (C). Notice as (2) leaves the space and closes (C), the ball is passed into striker (E) who can lay off the ball wide into the open space that has been left by (2) for (A) to run into unopposed.
  2. This now compromises (4)’s position who now has a 2 v 1 against. If (2) were to anticipate the pass early and be in a position to intercept, only then would it be possible to close (C) down and have success. If you were to tie the four up this would prevent this situation happening and let the players feel how they should position with the restriction of being tied together.

To Close or Not to Close in Central Areas

close in central areas

This is the best course of action when a central player’s position is threatened by a movement short by the striker. (5) Only goes so far then lets striker (F) go deep into midfield. In a game situation a midfielder could pick up (F) on entering their zone. As extra cover, as (5) goes short, (4) moves across to cover the space left by (5) and (2) moves across to cover the space left by (4)’s movement leaving the outside space free. The best scenario is if (5) only goes so far then drops back to establish the chain link of the back four again maybe even dropping into the position (4) left to fill the first space if this player has covered across.

central players close
  1. A position to avoid getting into would be when the striker goes short to receive the ball to feet. The central defender must decide how far to follow but not allow a big hole to be made behind by being pulled away from the other three defenders.
  2. This shows the defender going too far and being drawn into midfield. The correct decision would be to only go so far as to not lose touch with the back four unit shape, if the striker keeps going short then he / she is moving away from the danger area and into an area where they will be less of a danger to the back four defenders. (4) And (2) can still move across and fill the spaces left but player (5) doesn’t want to get too far away from them to become isolated.

Defending in an 11 v 11 Situation

defending in an 11 v 11 situation
  1. Here we have developed the practice into an 11 v 11 game situation, still working with the defending team (numbered team). The coach serves to the opponents lettered team in different locations on the field and the team need to try to win the ball back individually and collectively.
  2. The target for the defending team when they win the ball could be to just chip the ball into the opponent’s keeper and the defending team has to win the ball again starting from where the coach serves the ball. 
  3. I have shown zonal defending as a team using a 4-3-1-2 system of play with a diamond shaped midfield but the same principles apply with other systems using the zonal method of defending and it is easy to practice this method with different shapes of teams.
  4. Over the page the same idea with a different set up. You can set the session up in your preferred team system of play and / or set the other team up in the system of play you know your next opponents play to practice defending against. There are numerous variations to use in this set up to achieve your defensive goals.
11 v 11 defending
  1. Here we are using a 4 – 4 – 2 system to work the defending set up.
  2. It is the same idea as the previous diagram the coach can play the ball into various situations always to the other team to attack and for the defending team you are coaching to try to win back the ball.
  3. Once you have used the target plan to allow lots of opportunity for defensive situations to practice, the defending team can now be allowed to attack the opposition as a reward for regaining possession and score a goal if possible. 
  4. Eventually let the game go free.