Dynamic defending drill

by Pablo M29th Mar 2023

Drill created with TACTICS MANAGER

This dynamic defending drill will keep defenders on their toes. The exercise transitions between 1v1, 2v1 and 3v1 depending on the attacker’s decisions. In addition, it is not enough for the defender to stop the attack; they must transition into a clean attack.


This drill emulates a defending scenario that defenders often find during a counterattack. You can practice a reduced version of this drill with as few as three players: two attackers and one defender. However, ideally, you will have a full football pitch and two groups of 7 players, one group running the drill on each side of the field. The picture and details below explain the exercise using 1 group of 7 players.

In addition to a full-size field, you will need balls, small goals, and cones to mark the pitch, as shown in the picture.


In a previous post, we discussed a set of exercises that focus only on the defensive aspects. This dynamic defending drill adds transition and unpredictability. Follow these instructions as a starting point:

  • Three players are involved in each game: two wall players, one attacker and one defender.
  • A wall player is shared between parallel games, as shown in the picture (wall 2).
  • The attacker aims to run with the ball under control through the cones on the opposite side of the small goals.
  • The defender must stop the attacker, recover the ball and score in the small goal.
  • Wall players stay on the side of the playing zone, and their only objective is to be a passing option that will help the attacker reach the end of the zone.
  • The attacker can carry the ball and have as many touches as they want but must pass it to one of the wall players at least once.
  • There is no limit on how many times the ball can be passed between the attacker and the wall players.
  • The wall players can only touch the ball twice: control and pass.
  • The defender can use any legal means to recover the ball, except sliding tackles.
  • Once the defender recovers the ball, they attempt scoring in the small goal by drilling or shooting as soon as they recover it.
  • Once the attacker loses the ball, they must defend and stop the defender from scoring.
  • Switch players when the ball goes out of play. Rotate players from left to right: the wall player on the left becomes the attacker, the attacker becomes the defender, and the defender becomes the wall player on the right. Then, the furthest right wall player becomes the furthest left wall player.
  • In the setup of the picture, one of the games may finish earlier than the other. Therefore, players must wait for the other game to finish before completing the switch.
  • Continue the drill until everyone has played four times as a defender.

To make this drill fun, make it a contest to find the ultimate defender. The defender that scores the most goals wins. You can also introduce variations to this drill, such as having an additional defender, another goal for the attackers, etc.


This drill will help defender practice defending under a numerical disadvantage and transitioning into attack when the ball is recovered. In addition, this dynamic defending drill will help all participating players improve:

  • Passing. Using the wall players is best for the attacker to progress through the zone (see One touch attacking triangle drill). Therefore, all players and attackers must be precise when passing the ball.
  • First touch. Because the number of allowed touches by the wall players is restricted, players must improve their first touch to control and pass the ball.
  • Teamwork. This drill encourages collaboration over individual efforts. While some attackers may be able to dribble through the defender, using wall players is a better strategy.
  • Positioning. Defending players must position themselves to close passing lanes, and wall players must move to create passing lanes.
  • Patience when defending. Not allowing sliding tackles forces defenders to be patient. Defenders practice how to recover the ball, avoiding reckless defending.
  • Fitness. This game is physically demanding for defending and attacking players. Players have some time to rest when switching to a wall player role.

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