In soccer, learning to defend is typically much easier than learning to attack. The ease of teaching defense is because the defender's primary job is to dispossess the attacker. Even if the defender does not gain possession of the ball by dispossessing the attacker, this allows the defenders support to close down the loose ball or cause the ball to go out of play. An essential element in good defending is to remember the primary role is to break down the attack. Attackers, on the flip side, typically have to be more creative to beat defenders. Simply pressuring the attacker will often cause the attacker to turn over possession.
An aspect of defending which we cannot overlook is the need to quickly go on the attack once the defender has won possession. Remind players often that the importance of attacking starts the moment the ball is in possession.
When defending 1v1’s in soccer, it is imperative to focus on the following key elements:
Remember that the player closest to the attacker should be the player pressuring the ball. Players should sprint to close down space as quickly as they can, then when they get 5 yards from the attacker they should slow down and take steps backward to match the pace of the attacker. During this time, the defender should slowly close down the space between the attacker and defender. Often proper pressure will cause the attacker to lose the ball.
One way to have players recall the proper way to defend is by the term “Quick, Slow, Sideways, Low”.
Quick refers to the defender speed while closing down the attacker with the ball. Closing down the attacker should be done at full speed sprint and note that it is often best to close down the ball when the ball is in flight.
Slow refers to the defender's ability to change speed and direction required to start moving in the same path of the attacker.
Sideways relates to the body positioning often used when defending. The defender should turn their body at a 45-degree angle to create the largest amount of defensive area. If the defender was to face forward, the attacker could then go around or between the defender’s legs. If the defender turns perpendicular to the attacker, the attacker could easily attack the backside of the defender and have the advantage. However, if the defender positions their body at a 45-degree angle, they will have covered the largest area of space while giving the defender an advantage to channel the attacker.
Low refers to the defender's body position which should be bent knees with weight on the balls of the feet, chest leaning over the toes and low center of gravity for greater explosion/quick change of direction.
Remind defenders that they should “do their work” during the flight of the ball. So this means defenders should close down the player as the ball is in flight. Tight pressure causes the attacker to look down, where lose pressure allows the attacker to lift their head and have a better vision of defenders, space, and possibilities.
Another important aspect of defending is knowing when to tackle. The defender should be patient and look for queues to predict the right time to tackle.
Also, defenders should learn how to channel an attacker. This simply means to encourage the attacker to go a particular direction dictated by the defender. Typically channeling is done by bending the run on approaching the attacker to encourage the attacker to move the ball away from the defender. Too much bend will allow the attacker to blow past defender, so the run must be slightly bent just enough to make up the attackers mind for them. Typically we want to channel attackers for the following reasons:
To close this tip on defending, I want to make the third mention of a critical rule of defending, and that is proper defensive pressure will often cause the attacker to lose the ball. Therefore, teach your players the above mentioned defending techniques, and you should see a difference in your player’s abilities to defend.
Good luck coach.