5 simple individual defending drills to beat attackers
by Pablo M20th Aug 2019
Football is not all about scoring; you also need to stop the opposition from scoring. Besides, all attacks start from recovering the ball. There is nothing more frustrating than players on the field that do not know how to defend. These simple individual defending drills will help you and your teammates develop defensive skills.
Defensive drill 1 – Be physical
This drill is executed without a ball. You will need a set of cones or similar to configure a grid about 15 meters long by 5 meters wide. The attacker will try to get from one side of the grid to the other by getting around the defender. The defender will try to block the attacker by being physical and forcing the attacker to wherever there’s the least space on the field. This drill is excellent for the player on defence to be more physical.
When defending, if you stand straight up, you will get thrown off by the attacking player. So you have to bend your knees and be low. Get your shoulders involved and be physical. Don’t use your hands. Use your shoulders. If the referee sees you are using your hand, they will call it.
You don’t want to be too far away from the attacker. Keep yourself at a maximum of an arm’s length away from your opposition. This way, you close down spaces for the attacking player.
This drill also improves your defending in corner kicks and free kicks. It doesn’t matter if you’re not going to be first to the ball. You’re not going to let the attacker get by.
Defensive drill 2 – Facing the attack
You will need cones and a small goal. Use the cones to set up a playing grid of about 30 meters long and 10 meters wide. The defender stands beside the goal and the attacker on the opposite side of the delimited area.
The attacking player’s objective is to score. The defending player aims to deny any goal opportunities by blocking a shot, pushing the defender out of the delimited area (applying the learnings from drill 1) or recovering the ball. The game restarts when either side fulfils its objective.
This drill simulates an opposition player breaking a line of defence and coming towards the next defender. This exercise is helpful for both players. The attacking player practices dribbling and shooting skills, while the defender focuses on positioning, body usage and tackling.
For this drill and the following individual defending drills, defenders should follow the tips described in our previous post: Defending one on one attacks.
Defensive drill 3 – Defending from behind
This exercise is very similar to the previous drill. The setup is the same. The difference is that both players start from the same side. The attacker is given a few steps of advantage over the defender, but they can only score from close range (one meter or so away from goal).
This drill simulates an opposition player breaking a line of defence with defenders chasing from behind. This exercise is helpful for both players. The attacking player practices dribbling and controlling the ball at speed, while the defender focuses on reaction, speed to get to a position, body usage and slide tackling.
In this exercise, defenders will likely use sliding tackles to gain the ball. Make sure that they do it using the correct technique to avoid injuring themselves or a teammate if they do this.
Defensive drill 4 – Defending crosses
You will need three players to complete this drill. Use an actual soccer field if possible. The exercise is simple. One attacking player crosses the ball to a teammate running into the box towards the penalty spot. The running player attempts to score. The defender’s objective is to clear the ball.
This is a situation of a high level of difficulty for the defender. The attacker is outside his visual field. The defender should not make the mistake of watching only the ball. They have to keep searching for the attacker and look for the physical contact that will allow them to focus on the ball. The primary objective is to get the defender used to check over their shoulder.
Like previous individual defending drills, this exercise is also suitable for attacking players.
Once all players master this drill and the skills required, you can increase the difficulty by including a goalkeeper.
Defensive drill 5 – No turn
You will need three players to complete this drill. Use an actual soccer field if possible. The drill is simple. One attacking player passes the ball to a teammate standing in the box with his back toward the goal. The receiving player attempts to turn around to score. The defender’s objective is to keep the attacker from turning and scoring.
This is a good exercise for all players involved. The player starting the drill improves accuracy on passing. The attacker becomes more comfortable playing with their back to goal. It also enhances their sense of where the goal is relative to their position. Finally, the defender improves their ability to keep an attacker from turning and scoring by using their position, footwork, and strength.
Once all players are comfortable with this drill, you can increase the difficulty by including a goalkeeper.
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