Archive for the ‘Books’ Category.

Position Specific Training

I think that much of our time as coaches is spent teaching all of the players the same thing. There is obviously a place for this at the younger ages when they just need to learn the basics. But in my opinion, as the player get to be 12 and 13 there is a place for position specific training.

Learning the roles and responsibilities of a particular position will allow the players to apply the technical skills that they’ve learned to the place on the field they will be playing. The options are different for a wide midfielder than they are for a center midfielder and the more comfortable we, as coaches, can Continue reading ‘Position Specific Training’ »

Coaching the Principles of Soccer

When you coach young players, it can be difficult to know where to start. Some coaches will focus onlyon developing technique without teaching the key elements of the game. But this can just stunt a young player’s development. When they don’t understand the game’s core principles, they won’t know where they need to be and why so they can use their  technique to create chances to score. To solve this age old problem, two experts in youth coaching have created Coaching the Principles of Soccer – Attack and Defense. This book presents a structured approach to developing an understanding of how the game is played and to provide them with a solid base on which they can develop.

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The drills in Coaching the Principles of Soccer – Attack and Defense will Continue reading ‘Coaching the Principles of Soccer’ »

Developing Soccer Intelligence

Soccer is a ‘Player Centered’ game. The players make the decisions as the game is played. Unlike our traditional American sports of football, baseball and basketball. In those sports the players rely heavily on the coaches for direction and decision making. The coaches call the play, give the sign for a certain pitch or run an in-bounds play that the team has worked on at practice.

By contrast, soccer is a free flowing, constantly changing game where the players have to decide what to do based on where they are, where their team mates are and where the opponents are at any given moment. There are no time outs and few stoppages that allow the coach to directly effect the play. The players must have the ability to Continue reading ‘Developing Soccer Intelligence’ »

The Triangle Midfield

The two most popular systems of play in the world at the moment are the 4-3-3 and the 4-2-3-1. Both are predicated on creating a connection between a group of three midfielders. Getting these players to understand their roles and work together are the key factors that will contribute to the success or failure of the team.

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Our latest book, Triangle Midfield tells you everything you need to know about Continue reading ‘The Triangle Midfield’ »

Small-Sided Games in Training

Small-sided games are a great tool for player development. But as with any tool they must be used correctly to achieve the best results. It’s not enough to create two teams of eight and drop a ball. The more specifically you design the game, the more your players will benefit.

Most coaches will choose a game that focuses on the technical or tactical elements that were worked on earlier in the session but many miss the one factor that can be the difference between a session that translates into improved performance in the next match: the formation that the teams use during the small-sided game.

Playing small-sided games in the same formation that your team uses on game day means that the players will get used to the shape and angles of support of your formation and know more about what to expect from their teammates and the opponents.

Here’s an excerpt from, ‘Formation Based Soccer Training‘, that talks about this in more detail.

3 v 4 EXERCISES TO TRAIN THE 4-4-2 DIAMOND MIDFIELD, FLAT BACK, ZONAL DEFENDING

OBJECTIVE: HOLDING THE FLAT BACK SHAPE IN THE BACK, TRAINING ZONAL DEFENDING

Players and equipment: 7 players; square shaped grid large enough to play 3 v 4 to small, Pugg type nets; seven bibs, three one color and four a different color; two Pugg nets placed opposite each other at each end line.

Objective: To force the four players on one team (backs) when defending to stay compact playing flat and defending zonally; and to force the three players on the other team when playing offense to move the ball wide with centered balls to the vital area to create shots on goal.  This exercise is for the benefit of the defending players. Use four backs on one side. The other side should be the one attacking mid at the top of the diamond shaped midfield and the two front or the two outside midfielders and the one defensive mid at the bottom of the diamond. Remember, this is only a sample objective. The objective changes each time a training session theme changes but positional play remains the same.

Set up: Square shaped grid with small, Pugg type nets placed opposite each other at each end line large enough to play 3 v 4, two-way directional (about 40×40 yards). Two teams of three players on one team and four backs on the other team in different colored bibs playing against each other, no limit on touches. Place 3 soccer balls in each Pugg type net to be used to keep the game going after a shot on goal.

Exercise: Two teams in bibs, two-way directional competition to score to goal. Unlimited touches. Defending team must maintain flat shape. First team to reach three goals wins. Use multiple grids so all players are involved at one time.

Progression: From Pugg type nets to target players: Remove Pugg type nets and replace with a target player without a bib at each end line. The target player moves in the goal channel, behind the end line to stay open to collect a ball shot to him. The target player belongs to the team on his side of the grid. Rather than shooting to the Pugg type nets, each team now shoots or passes to the target on the opposite team who collects the ball and passes it back to a player on his team (the opposite team that passed the ball to him) to start play again. The pass made by the target player must be done quickly to keep the game moving.

To small cone goals: Leave the target player as is and add a cone about two yards to his right and another cone about two yards to his left creating a small goal area. The target player can move laterally within this small goal area to collect the ball. The purpose of this small goal is to give perspective to the shooter with an obstruction (the target) in goal. The shooter is to try to avoid the target rather than pass to the target as in the earlier progression. The target which could be a keeper using his hands or a field player not allowed to use his hands, tries to stop the shot on goal. He collects the ball and distributes to his team.

To full sized goals with no keeper: Replace the target and small cone goals with a full sized goal with no keeper. The full sized goals are at each end line.

To full sized goals with keepers: Add a keeper in each goal.

The square shaped grid marked with cones or disks remains the same for each of these 3 v 4 exercises.

Or, use four backs, flat, and two outside midfielders with a defensive mid at the bottom of triangle.

Next, restrict touches for the 3 attacking players to two touch.

Have a Great Day!

Tom

Spanish Training Games

The key to seeing improvement in your team is for your training activities to relate to the game as closely as possible. You can spend weeks teaching your players to understand and perform a complex drill full of movement and rotation but if they can’t relate the activity to what they do in the game it’s just a waste of training time. Sure, they’ll get better at the drill but it won’t improve their performance on game day.

That’s the beauty of straightforward training games; you can spend your time teaching the game not teaching the drill. Then on game day you can see the players use the skills and tactics they learned in training to improve their chances of success.

In our latest book, Coaching Spanish Soccer, the author, Jodi Pascual, discusses the methods and tactics used to create successful Spanish teams and players. He also shows practical examples of drills, exercises and games that they use with players both young and old. The drills are not complicated but the key is how they relate back to the game. Here’s an excerpt from the book that shows an example:

The next activity is another “rondo”, but this, more than a warm-up, is a real “positional SSG” with implications in the way the team plays. This one is 4v1 in a 5×5 grid. Again, at high level is played with just 1 touch, so, the same we told before can be applied here, about awareness and/or decision making; of course, technique is also very important: you can be ready but, if your technique is not good, you won’t be successful when passing. This is used a lot to improve the quality of the first touch (no matter if it’s a pass or a control of the ball). As we said, this game has real implications on the way of playing. Why? Easy: Imagine that the player at the bottom is one of the CB; the players on the side are the other CB and one of the FB and, the player at the TOP is one of your DM. This first diagram just show the drill, and nothing else; just how to an activity.

This is the game as itself (4v1); now, we’ll show a new picture, with names written on it; probably, it’s easier to understand the idea of this exercise and how it can be used. I think that all of us have seen several times this disposition on the pitch, and also this kind of movements with the ball.

Here is the result: the four players (3 Defenders and 1 Midfielder) can play the ball in this “keep away” game but, as written, it’s a real part of the time. You have seen the players several times positioned in that way and the ball moving from one to another: also, if the man at the bottom was Casillas and the two men wide were Piqué and Puyol, with Alonso at the top, we would find that this is a normal build up from the back for Spain.

The next situation is closer to opponent’s goal, but with the same set-up: one player at the bottom, two on the sides, and one at the top. Exactly the same as before, but with names and situation of the pitch changed. But, the important thing is that this drill (as many others), can be used no matter your formation or where you are on the pitch. Change players, go right, left, up or down, but you’ll also find this disposition several times on a pitch during a match. And that’s the important thing.

We are now going to a drill than that can be considered a progression from the last one; in this case, it’s a 4v2; quite similar, but players are working in pairs; this means that the chasing players, no matter who of them can get the ball, will go to be players and, for the same, if a player loses the ball is he a his mated the ones that goes in. It’s a easy drill to introduce the concept of “team”; it’s not my self alone: it’s me and my partner. If the pressure over the carrier/kicker is good and the second (cover), is well positioned, it’s possible to recover the ball easily or, force the team with ball to a mistake. And, at the same time, as you can see, the concept of pressure/cover is easily introduced.

In this case, the grid will be no larger than 10×10. If it’s bigger, too much space for the “chasers” and it will be quite difficult to get the ball; for very advanced and experienced players, a smaller grid can be possible. As written, 1 or 2 touches (maximum) for the players, unless they are young and beginners and we want to show them about these concepts. As before, this drill is still a “positional” one, so, the players must stay on the line and can’t go in dribbling or whatever. Again, the accuracy of the pass is a key for the success of the drill.

This is just one of the drills from Coaching Spanish Soccer.

Have a Great Day!

Tom

Progressive Finishing Game

As the year progresses I like to add more functional activities to replace purely technical exercises. Not only do the players enjoy activities that are game related more I’ve also seen a greater transfer of training when I use them.

I prefer drills, exercises and games that are progressive; moving from low pressure to full pressure. They allow the player to have initial success but then be challenged by the ever increase pressure of Continue reading ‘Progressive Finishing Game’ »

Jose Mourinho’s 4-2-3-1

Next week we will have our new book, “Coaching the 4-2-3-1” ready for release.  With teams like Real Madrid, Chelsea, Man City, Spain and others all playing with a 4-2-3-1, this has become our most anticipated book for a long time.  Coaches can’t wait to get their hands on it.

Just to give you a taste, I have copied an excerpt from the book below.  Watch this space next week for details on the new book. 

Jose Mourinho’s 4-2-3-1 – Ronaldo and Di Maria provide different abilities on the sides

In Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid 4-2-3-1, he has built a very strong team unit, which uses the individual players’ abilities very well. For example, Xabi Alonso in central midfield can play long and short passes with ease and this helps vary the attacking angles and types of passes they can play. They have 3 regular attacking midfielders: Mesut Ozil, who doesn’t really have a position, he is the number 10 and floats around the field looking for space an generally plays close to his attacking team mates to provide short passing options for quick combinations down the sides or use his agility to turn and find a new pass to the other side. Angel Di Maria, who plays on the right and is left footed, he likes to cut inside and look for reverse passes into diagonal runs, or shooting opportunities but is also very adept at playing long diagonal passes, from deeper positions.

On the left of the 4-2-3-1, Cristiano Ronaldo, who has a powerful shot and is very fast and skilful in 1v1’s, and these abilities are used when he is allowed to cut inside and shoot from around the box – Ronaldo scored almost 50 goals in the 2011/2012 season and many were from this sort of attacking scenario – receiving on the left, cutting inside and shooting. He also comes in from the side when Di Maria has the ball, looking for a long diagonal pass or a cross to the back post to use his speed and ability to head the ball well from inside the box to score, as he has done for Manchester United in the Champions League Final, and against Barcelona in the Copa Del Rey Final.

Mourinho’s 4-2-3-1 – Ronaldo cuts inside to shoot with overlapping full back


A regular feature of Real Madrid’s play is the use of Cristiano Ronaldo’s ability to cut inside and shoot from the left hand side. Marcelo or Coentrao regularly overlap to give Ronaldo a decoy run and a new option in case he is crowded out by several defenders.

Coentrao passes and runs ahead of Ronaldo to create the space to shoot


Ronaldo receives the pass and looks for the space to cut inside and shoot. Ozil’s forward run will help take away central pressure, while Coentrao’s forward run will help take away pressure from the full back. Ozil, Di Maria and Ronaldo are all circled to highlight the freedom of movement in the Real Madrid midfield. Di Maria has moved inside to help overload the centre as Atletico are also playing with a 4-2-3-1 formation.


Ronaldo has the space created and on his 3rd touch, he blasts in a shot from 30 yards which flies into the far top corner, under no pressure. The reason he is under no pressure is because Ozil and Coentrao made the forward runs to take away the players who may have pressured Ronaldo’s shot.

The chapter continues with a look at Di Maria’s role.  The book then includes sections featuring drills and training sessions so you can coach your team to be effective with the 4-2-3-1.

Creativity Through Small-Sided Games

For over 20 years I have coached teams of all ages and abilities from U6’s to U18’s and from recreational teams to national champions.  And over the years, my coaching philosophy has steadily changed to using more small-sided games in my training sessions…and for the better.

I find that not only do players prefer to play small-sided games, they are a better way of teaching skills, technique and tactics than typical soccer drills and exercises.

Small-sided games also allow players to express their creative side much more than when standing in a line waiting for their turn to make a pass or take a shot for example.

So I am really excited about our new book, Developing Creativity Through Small-Sided Games.  And you can get it either in print OR as an immediate download eBook.

Try more small-sided games in your training sessions and you Continue reading ‘Creativity Through Small-Sided Games’ »

Small-Sided Game Working On Interchanging Positions and Support

Welcome to the FineSoccer Drills Newsletter.  Today’s featured activity is a structured small sided game working on interchanging positions and support.  Similar type activities can be found in the book Professional Youth Academy Training Sessions by  Sam Saif.

This is a 5 v 5 game on a 30 x 20 field with 2 full sized goals. The field is broken into thirds and there is a keeper in each goal, 2 backs, 1 midfielder and 1 forward for each team.


The ball starts with the black teams keeper who can roll the ball to either of his backs.   Continue reading ‘Small-Sided Game Working On Interchanging Positions and Support’ »