I’m also working through the previous episodes as well so keep checking back if there’s one your looking for or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know if there’s a particular episode you’d like to have printable show notes for. I’ll prioritize episodes with the most requests.
This week I look at the benefits of training your team to press as a team. I’ve always preferred to have my teams play a high pressure defense. It puts us on the front foot and creates an aggressive mentality that carries over to every area of the game.
We saw this during the recent Women’s World Cup. There were a number of changes that contributed to the US Women’s improved play as they entered the elimination rounds but I think a one of the most important was the fact that we pressed much more than we did in group play.
The training session at the end of the episode will help you train your players to do a better job of pressing their opponents. This will allow them to win the ball higher up the field but more importantly, it will increase their confidence and speed of play across every phase of play.
Women’s World Cup
During the group games the US Women didn’t really press very often. But this changed in the elimination rounds. Two players would not be available for the game against China Lauren Holiday and Megan Rapinoe where out with yellow card suspensions so Amy Rodriguez and Kelly O’Hara would take their places.
The team also changed formations. Some commentators called it a 4-3-3, some a 4-5-1 but I looked at it as a 4-2-3-1 with Morgan Brian and Kelly O’Hara playing as Holding Midfielders which allowed Carli Lloyd to play much higher than in previous games. Amy Rodriguez and Health played on the wings which left Alex Morgan playing up top alone.
These players and this formation allow the US Women to press the China defense and force them into making mistakes and losing the ball close to their own goa.
This totally changed not just the tactics but the team’s mentality. Pressing changes not only your defense but also your attacking mentality. Your speed of play increases because you’re playing hard and fast to win the ball so it’s more likely that you’ll keep this rhythm when attacking. By winning the ball closer to the opponent’s goal there are more opportunities to create goalscoring chances. All of this fosters a, ‘Go for it!’ attitude in the players.
The Keys to Effective Pressing
The first defender, the one closest to the ball, has to make it difficult on the opponent with the ball and make their play predictable. Forcing the player inside, toward their weak foot, into pressure to against the sideline with limit their options. Then the other defenders must be ready to ‘Step On the Next Pass’. Anticipating where the ball will be passed allows you to pressure the next player more quickly and limit their options.
If we hunt in packs then we can force them into a mistake and regain possession. If only one players pressures, they can find a pass, break our pressure and play wherever they want.
I love the energy this type of defending encourages. The players all have to be on the front foot and ready to pressure the ball or step on the next pass.
This is a very effective tactic with youth teams because young players are prone to make mistakes anyway. This puts more pressure on them and puts your team in position to take advantage of their mistakes. It also boosts the confidence of your players which will improve their play.
I found this pressing warm up on, ‘The Coaching Manual’ YouTube page. Here is a link to it.
The player across from the ball presses it. The player with the ball passes right and runs left and the pattern continues with the player across from the ball pressing it.
Then have the player with the ball pass to the left and run to the right. Finally, allow the players to choose which direction they pass but they alway run to the other side. Now the players have to read the defender and attacker to figure out where the ball is going before it has been passed. The question becomes, ‘Do I need to prepare to receive or defend?’
Encourage the defenders to take one side away and force the ball to the other side. This makes play more predictable.
5 v 2
Take these same concepts and put them into a game of 5 v 2.
The first defender cuts off one side and forces the ball to stay on that side of the field. The covering defender positions themselves to prevent the through ball and prepares to pressure the ball played to their side.
The defenders must win the ball or force it to be passed out of bounds. Have the defenders win the ball four times before they switch.
Use a space the size of two penalty areas. This is an easy way to make the size of the area relative to the age of the players. Divided the space in half and put eight players on each team. Fewer is fine but keep the size of the area relative to the number of players and their ability level as well as their age. One team is on each side of the area. The coach has a supply of balls at the halfway line.
The ball is passed in to one team and the other team sends two defenders to win it. If the attackers make five passes the defending team sends another defender to try to win the ball. If they make five more passes, the defending team gets another player.
Give five points if the defending team wins the ball before five passes are completed. They receive three points if they win the ball after 10 passes. The defending team receives one point any time after that.
This creates the motivation for the defenders to work hard and win the ball quickly. It also provides an opportunity to emphasize the key points of pressing from earlier in the session.
This is a normal small-sided game but the attacking team scores a point every time they can keep the ball for ten seconds. They receive two points if they can also score a goal.
The gives the defending team motivation to pressure and win the ball back quickly to prevent the attackers from receiving points for possession.
You can change the amount of time the attacker keep the ball depending on the age and ability level of your team. Make them keep it longer if possession for 10 seconds is too easy.
I think that players really enjoy playing in a pressing system. The energy and attitude is positive and aggressive. The whole team is focused on winning the ball back quickly so they can start attacking again.
Go through this training session or one like it the week before a game and then focus on pressing in the next match. This is where you’ll see how well the players understand the concepts. You’ll be able to remind the players of the key points and what to look for as they press the ball.
Printable Show Notes
Make sure you subscribe to Coaching Soccer Weekly through iTunes, or your podcast provider of choice, to be sure you never miss an episode.
We would appreciate it if you would leave us a 5 star rating and/or a written review on iTunes to help spread the word about the show and ensure that we can continue to bring you top notch guests in the future.
In the Next Episode
We’re coming to the end of our summer break in my area and regular training begins again in a couple of weeks. Next week I’ll lay out what our club does in the week before training begins that gives our teams a great jumpstart to the season.