Door 19: Different games to train rest defence

The term “rest defence“ has become more and more popular throughout the last few years. But what exactly is “rest defence“? When does the “rest defence“ play an important role during a match? And how is it possible to improve the“rest defence“ on the training pitch?

To clarify, in the following we will speak of the “rest defence“ as the players in the back who are not able to directly influence the ball-carrier or the players around the ball. However, indirectly, they can have an impact on the following steps, they can decide whether they concede or even score a goal just within seconds after a ball loss.

As the players within the “rest defence“ are the players remaining when the pressing or counter-pressing gets overplayed, they are essential for the prevention of goal-scoring chances. Ideally, they are even able to stop the opposition counter-attack within the opposition half and introduce another attack for their team and exploiting the created space by forward-moving opponents.

Therefore, the “rest defence“ is often confronted with situations that are closely connected with goal-scoring chances which underlines the importance of a well organised “rest defence“.

On the training ground, however, this vital element of the game does not get the deserved recognition yet. That is mainly due to the reason that the “rest defence“ is often far away from the ball (from a spatial perspective) and coaching this component of the game requires good overview and anticipation.

Alternatively, rules and constraints can function as a tool in position games to optimise the behaviour of the “rest defence“ which can also facilitate implicit learning.

“Double rest defence“ in a 3-zone game

Two of three teams consisting of five players position themselves in the end zones of the pitch. Their goal is to play towards the team in the opposite end zone, while a pressing team attempts to win the ball.

In the middle zone, one joker can support the teams in possession. At the same time, the pressing team will be occupied by the joker and therefore they cannot press with all of their five players.

In this case, the joker simulates an opposition attacker and therewith creates the necessity of deploying a “rest defence“ during the defensive phase of the game as well.

Since after a turnover, the pressing team can score on the passing goals, the game also provokes a „rest defence“ during the possession phase.

That way both participating teams are required to establish a solid organisation, not only in ball near areas but behind the ball as well, in order to control all opponents.

In the graphic above, we have used a setup that represents a situation on the wing. The passing goals for possible counter-attacks are set up diagonally on one corner at the end of the pitch. Therefore, the “rest defence“ of the possession team will have an asymmetrical character due to the different threat in certain areas.

The same game can be played in the half-spaces or in the centre as well by simply adjusting the position of the goals.

Main coaching points – “rest defence“ during the defensive phase:

  • Create numerical superiority in the “rest defence“ (+1 at the back)
  • Forecheck whenever all forward passing options are closed (1v1 at the back)
  • Communicate from the back to ensure your team to stay compact

Main coaching points – “rest defence“ during the possession phase:

  • Evaluate the risk of a ball loss and adjust the distance to your opponents
  • Position in a way that enables you to get on the inner line of your opponent in case of a ball loss
  • Cover the space in front of the backline to support the defenders
  • Communicate from the back to be prepared for a possible counter-attack

For the following games, the coaching points will always remain the same, although the setup of the games will change slightly.

4v4+3 with transitions

In a 4v4+3 one team attempts to play a certain number of passes (e.g. 6 passes) before they are allowed to play towards their striker and attack the opposition goal. The pressing side can directly transition from defence to attack when winning the ball. Once any of the teams start an attack, the players can use the whole width and depth of the pitch. Only the dotted lines as the offside-lines reduce the attackers in their deep positioning. As a result, the attackers can occupy the defenders or overload midfield by dropping into the middle zone.

After one side started an attack, the other team will be allowed to have one counter-attack before the 4v4+3 starts again.

The three jokers function as supporting attackers or as anchors that stay behind the ball and offer a diagonal back passing option. At the same time, the latter scenario means that they also pose a certain threat for the attacking team since they switch teams in case of a ball loss. Due to the numerical inequality created by the jokers, courageous defending in a 1v1 at the back and a good organisation and communication becomes necessary.

Therewith, the jokers create a variability which demands adaptability from the players within the “rest defence“. This is supposed to strengthen especially the decision-making of the midfielders in whether to support or to cover the attack.

„Beware of the counter“-game with 2 balls

Last but not least, we will make use of additional rules to provoke “rest defence“ situations during a 8v8+GKs game. It is also possible to play this game in a 7v7/9v9/10v10.

Two teams play against each other with equal numbers.

Whenever one team enters the final third of the pitch, the coaches can start a counter-attack for the opposition by playing a second ball into the middle third. Ideally, a new ball will only be brought into play if the initial attack has progressed over the dotted line as the attacking team will rather aim at finishing the attack in this area than playing the ball back again. From then on, the pitch is divided into two, one being the final third, and the one the counter-attacking pitch consisting of the middle and defensive third.

A possible situation is displayed below. While the red team entered the final third and now attempt to score, the blue team can counter-attack. Whenever the defenders (of both teams) win the ball, they can use the diagonal passing goals at the halfway-line.

The number of counter-attacking players and defenders can vary as the midfielders are allowed to decide whether to defend/attack or counter-attack/stay in the “rest defence“.

Moreover, the teams can choose whether to press high up the pitch or to defend deeper. This can lead to a high variety of situations and the game therewith makes use of the differential learning approach.

The presented games pose an opportunity for coaches to lay an emphasis on some “rest defence“ principles without interrupting the play. The players need to organise themselves in various situations in a competitive character. Therefore, the games are not only motivational for the players, but they also improve their ability to “control the chaos“ during transition phases.

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