Door 1: Forward defending and chasing the ball
- Game always starts from the red zone, with Red in possession
- After 6 passes have been played (in the red zone), Red is allowed to score. Backpasses are always allowed
- Blue tries to win ball. If this is not possible, a backpass should be forced. If the ball is won, Blue counters on the big goal. A return pass by Red to another zone (e.g. red zone to yellow zone) results in a point for Blue. A goal from Blue into the big goal scores 2 points.
- Offside line is the line between red and yellow zone.
- Blue end zone defender is unlocked after 6 passes or backpass by red to the yellow zone. Blue pressing player in yellow zone will be unlocked after a backpass from red.
- For Red 10 passes = 1 point, goal on mini goal = 2 points.
- If red kicks the ball out of bounds, the coach plays a ball in for blue and they can counter
Forward defending and chasing the ball has become very popular with coaches with Jürgen Klopp’s ascent at the latest. The aggressive pressing of the ball brought a small revolution especially in Germany, the German Bundesliga became the “Pressingliga”. For me, too, I had decided to let my teams chase the ball rather than defend passively, which is why I chose the following game for the Advent calendar opening.
Four zones are marked on a slightly narrowed, half field. An end zone with two minigoals, a midfield- and starting-zone at the same time, an attacking-zone and finally the penalty area. The somewhat narrower playing field is intended to give the defending players slightly shorter distances in pressing in order to control the workload.
The number of repetitions of all football actions should remain high so that learning can take place, but I don’t want excessive fatigue to stand in the way of this learning after a few repetitions. The two minigoals should intensify the half space focus in the offensive on the one hand, on the other hand the defending team of course to shift.
Although it’s nothing new to most readers of this calendar, I think it’s important to mention that the focus of the training is on learning behaviors that you want to recognize on the court. Everything should aim at that, every decision in the training design should have well explainable reasons. For this, detailed awareness of one’s own playing style is of course essential. That’s why I break the design of this exercise apart and explain the benefits.
As already mentioned, the somewhat narrow playing field has several reasons. First of all, the previously mentioned control of the workload. The football actions of the sprinting, the use of covershadow, the orientation and so on will continue to be carried out with a high number of repetitions and high intensity. This leads to more effective experiences, which can be intensified by coaching in breaks in between exercise-rounds. “Game day” is replicated in “moments”, but the load is not.
Since only 9v8 is played here, it was important to me not to use the complete width to create shorter staggerings, especially in the distances to each other. In addition, the pressure on the team with the ball naturally increases when the field is narrower. Especially in the middle zone at the beginning of the repetition, perception and quick decision-making ability are important. In my opinion, this should always be the focus of player development.
Because apart from athletic components, the speed of action plays the biggest role in the difference in level between teams and leagues. Due to the narrowness of the field, the countering team is forced to take vertical actions, the speed of the game is increased and depth is promoted.
The zones, especially in combination with the rules, help the players to recognize certain triggering moments and to react to them. The red zone should represent the midfield. Here, especially midfielders and outer defenders should learn to aggressively stop the opponent’s circulation and win the ball. The attack of the opponent into “our” last third should be prevented with all means.
Only after 6 passes the opponent is allowed into the violet zone. This should help with the intensity build-up in defending, aggressiveness in starting up promote and of course implicitly also the ball possession game. The aggressiveness in the starting promotes the rule because mistakes in the starting can not immediately result in a breakthrough of the opponent, and thus possibly weaken the morale of the players and tempt to caution.
Because after one or two fast goals you often prefer to secure your own goal first and become passive. Especially when it comes to getting the players used to it, I regard rules as a means of promoting courage as very helpful.
Above all, I see the intensity in pressing and attacking the ball as the main point in coaching. Here emotional coaching is helpful, but clear instructions should not be neglected in the improvement of pressing. Since there are fewer defenders, the use of covershadows can be pointed out. Checking your shoulder in defense, awareness of the opponent’s options, as well as players’ coaching can significantly improve the organization in pressing and thus the effectiveness. The players should learn what to pay attention to and how to adapt their behaviour to the conditions in the game.
In order to make defending even more effective, a certain amount of automation is needed. Although mutual coaching can help, ideally the players perceive situations the same way and decide together for the actions corresponding to the playing style. For defending forward, it is not only the recognition of pressing triggers (which should be defined according to the team) and the intense sprinting, but also the covering behind the attacking players.
If this kind of collective-thinking takes hold, then the players who try to get the ball do not have to waste their time to make sure that the teammate is covering, but can go with confidence to press the ball. Because he will know, the teammate will be there, covering him.
The next coaching point is to force the player to pass back and press the ball, also known as “chasing”. If a back pass is forced into a zone behind it, there is a point for the pressing team, and in addition another pressing player is activated in the yellow zone. The player should be able to anticipate these back passes and either intercept them or press them on immediately.
The opponent is to be pushed back and the ball is to be won in the ideal case, so that a counter on the large goal can be started. The advantage of a counter in such situations is that the pressing players are already in the sprint and thus have a clear speed advantage over the opponent’s defenders.
Counterpressing and appropriate ball circulation are also taught implicitly in this exercise and can be explicitly corrected if necessary. Especially if the pressing becomes too easy, the ball possession phase has to be coached so that the challenge for the defending team remains big.