This tactical analysis seeks to highlight some practices that would allow your team to understand how to quickly counterattack through a low block. In previous coaching articles, we have provided a analysis to coach the key tactical to defend in a low block, and so this session would build on that very well, allowing them to understand how this tactic can be used to prevent goals, but also to create them. This article simply describes examples of practices that could be used and does not suggest copying and pasting these ideas as they may not suit your game model, players or age, however, I hope it can provoke thought and even reject similar ideas based on these examples.
Typically in these articles I would suggest a practice, however, I had two ideas and wanted to share both as alternatives, or even compliments of each other.
First, we want our players to understand the importance of playing forward quickly and accurately in these moments, allowing them to move the ball forward safely. While there may be a temptation to hit the long pass, and we don’t necessarily want to strictly discourage this approach, we want our players to understand that the ball can be advanced almost as quickly, but certainly more surely, through fast forward passing sequences. David Moyes’ West Ham side have used this tactic to good effect with some of their break-out goals this season, and are a great team to watch for concrete examples of it.
Throughout these practices, players should be encouraged to play firm passes and make quick decisions in possession of the ball. They need to be encouraged to scan before they receive, which will underpin that quick decision-making and those short, quick passes. They should be asked to receive on the foot that allows them to play fastest in that momentum and attacking players should be encouraged to anticipate turnovers of possession and start moving forward in transition before the defending team can react. They should also be asked about the benefit of changing the point of attack when counter-attacking, as playing on the same side of the pitch was won in possession is likely to give the defending team a greater chance of succeeding in counter-press. .
A positional game, especially one with a simple structure familiar to players, is a good way to introduce this first. Instead of having a standard transition position game where attackers and defenders basically swap positions in transition, this practice will be slightly different.
As shown in the image below, there are no final neutral players, but instead two goals. However, we have two neutral players in the middle of the field, giving the side in possession a 6v4 overload. The possession team will look to combine passes and may be given a pass objective to complete in order to score a goal.
We want to force turnovers in order to bring out our practice points, so we force our possession team to play the ball inside and not use simple passes over the line to their teammate on the same side of the grid than them.
As possession is handed over, the defending team will look to find a neutral player, receive a pass near them representing a third man, and finish in one of the mini-goals. A goal scored allows the defending team to become the attacking team.
To force the defending team to have to play a more realistic forward pass, and not just a quick pass two meters from their nearest neutral player, they should be asked to break the center line set up on this grid with his pass. The attacking team, the blues in this case, are allowed to counter-press and, if they prevent the defending team from scoring, they will continue to attack.
Another option is to have one defending team and one attacking team, with a 5v5 plus a target man for the defending team.
Initially, the attacking team seeks to score in any way possible in the only goal they are attacking. Tiers can be used to structure play, where no team can have four players in the same tier. This will prevent them from closing the space too much and provide structure for both sides.
The target player can cross the baseline, and when the defending team wins the ball, they must seek to find their target player in order to score a goal. The deepest player, standing in front of the target man, will likely be looking to shield any pass to that player, so the red team in this example should be looking to find a short pass to one of their midfielders who can engage that blue defender. , before playing in the target man.
Initially, a pass into the target player may be worth a goal, however, as players begin to master this practice, a goal should now be scored by finishing in either of the two goals, after a backhand from the targeted man. This will encourage our red team to move forward quickly and support all forward passes during the offensive transition.
This practice would lead to a more realistic practice of the match, which would benefit from being positioned in an area of the pitch where this scenario is likely to occur. The pitch can be configured to reduce space for the attacking team, allowing the defense to easily sit in a low block and giving them a better chance of successfully turning over possession, while giving them more space. to counterattack once they have won the ball.
We can see this in action as the red team gains possession and, through a quick possession streak, can play their left winger into space to score.
The red team should be challenged not only to play fast forward right now, but to recognize that it is in their best interest to change the game when moving forward.
In the example below, there is clearly little or no space on the right side of the pitch as the blue team have chosen to attack from that side, and so they should be looking to use their short passing to gain access quickly to the other side.
Of course, if they see the possibility of immediately breaking the lines and playing straight into their centre-forward, we don’t want to discourage that, however, they must recognize that it is a more difficult pass and, therefore, more likely to end in an interception or misplaced pass.
Final practice would be best suited to using a full size pitch in an 11v11. By playing the full length of the pitch we obviously increase the amount of space the counter-attacking team has to attack once they have won the ball. The game should always start with the blue team, and preferably be given to them inside the red half, so that they can immediately begin a “developed” attacking phase and allow the red team to move forward. Instantly defend in a low block.
Once again, the pitch will use all five channels mentioned in this set of coaching articles, with our defensive team tasked with staying compact and working in all three ball channels.
The red team should be given a time limit or pass limit to score once they win the ball. The time limit could be something like 8-10 seconds, or 5-7 passes at most before you have to score. If they are unable to do so, the ball may be immediately played into the blue team and they may be allowed to continue their developed attack phase once more.
The image below shows the red team reversing possession near their goal.
That should be the trigger for our centre-forward and wingers to stretch the pitch vertically. We want them to force the defense down and create space between the opposing midfield and the defense that our number 10 can access.
As the defender finds a short pass option to one of his midfielders, those aforementioned players are expected to spring into action.
As mentioned, the 10 wants to access the space created by the aggressive forward runs of his attacking teammates, and can be found quickly, with two passes.
This immediately puts the red team in an overload situation, attacking with a 4v3. If they are unable to continue playing forward, the blue full-backs and central midfielders will recover and prevent them from being able to take advantage of this situation.
We can see the plethora of passing options available to the red team right now, and they should have the freedom to make their own decisions and think about the effectiveness of those passes. However, if the ball is won on one side of the field, we still want to encourage them to change their game when they go forward and stretch the blue team further.
These practices are structured to allow the team to start with the basics of recognizing forward passing options and playing them quickly, and understanding the importance of playing short forward passes, fast and away from the pressure, rather than just relying on a long, fast ball forward. Once these principles have been understood and there has been some success with it, he gradually moves it into a full game situation, using the geography of the field and a structure similar to a full game in the second practice , before putting constraints on the 11v11 to bring out the desired behavior of the counter-attacking team.