How to train defenders

How to train defenders

This excerpt refers both to developing young players as well as to training amateur and professional players. Nowadays, a good defender is worth the same amount of money as paid for a top-scoring forward. The dispute between attack and defense unfolds permanently – different methods, principles and rules are being searched and born and players by whom each team should reach supremacy: a defense which receives no goal, and the attack, on the contrary, to score as many as they can.

That is why I believe that, starting with children up to the seniors, defenders should be trained their individual defensive technique, and only afterwards to be integrated in the defensive collective tactics. Thus, before teaching them defensive diagonals, “T” coverage, anticipative dubbing or other attributes of the collective game, we must teach them the basics of defensive play: marking and dispossession.

During a coaching course held in Bucharest, famous Italian coach Alberto Zaccheroni, who invented the 3-4-3 system and later on 3-4-1-2 by introducing an offensive-profile midfielder behind the attackers, while coaching Udinese, said that, in his opinion, coaches omit or work too little on the marking during training sessions. How many games did you watch in which the attacker scored being alone in the penalty area? That probably happened because the defender, instead of marking him was distracted by the dubbing of his colleague or of the area.

Individual defensive technique starts with man-to-man marking. In soccer, winning the 1 to 1 duel can make you win or lose. That is why, starting from the juvenile sector – equality, inferiority or superiority in number exercises must be used: 1^1; 2^1; 1^2, etc. These exercises will be developed in various situations to create a basis wherefrom the player may choose, at the right time, the correct answer in order to solve a respective situation. In time, through continuous practice, these reactions will be memorized, resulting in the so-called skills or automatisms.

In order to win these duels, we lay emphasis on coaching:

  • Attention, including the distributive one
  • The correct position of the body, being permanently balanced, irrespective of the misleading movements of the ball-carrying attacker
  • Correct orientation, the defender being on the ball-carrying opponent – own goal axis in such a way that he can see them simultaneously
  • Right-timed and correct attacking in order to recover the ball from the opponent
  • Interception
  • Anticipation
  • Responsibility in solving the tasks and game situations
  • Leading, conducting the ball-carrying opponent towards inactive, danger-free zones

Thus, these would be the main components of the individual defensive technique. Every coach will have to teach, consolidate and improve them if he wants to create players or teams.

It is known that, no matter the tactics, the more the opposing team approaches our goal, the more the 1^1 duel becomes decisive and that is why marking the area opponents is very strict. In conclusion, we must learn how to perform this marking, to learn the man-to-man game so that we be able to practise zone coverage throughout the competition.

Prof. Ciprian Urican

translated by Prof. Cristian Sandor