Tag Archives for " tactics "

The Role of Central Midfielders

By Sean Pearson

Area Size: 32 x 45 Yards

Teams: 15 mins

Players: 8 v 8


  • For the deep midfielder to understand their role
  • For the attacking midfielder to understand their role


Three zones separate the sections of the team, defense, midfield and attack. In the defensive section it should be 4v2, midfield section 2v2 and attacking section 2v4.


When playing out the back, whenever there is an opportunity for the deeper midfielder (known as the #6) to drop down and receive a pass from the goal keeper they should move into the defensive zone to overload the area even more. They should look to do this when the defense splits and the strikers go with them. Upon receiving the ball the deeper midfielder looks to move the ball out of the area through travelling with the ball. At the same time the full backs should look to move forward to create width and to overload the middle zone against the 2 defenders.

When moving out of the defensive zone the deeper midfielder must now realize their role is to both find an option forward and be in a position to both support the attack and help screen the defense if the team lose possession.

The attacking midfielder (known as the #10)

1) looks to get behind the lines of the defending midfielders. They receive with an open body position and look to drive forwards with the ball as they enter the attacking zone they are free to shoot. If a defender comes to stop the shot, they aim to assist in one of the strikers to shoot.

2) If a striker receives the ball from another source and is unable to turn the attacking midfielder can enter the attacking zone and look to shoot after a set back to them from the striker.

If an attack slows with the attacking midfielder inside the attacking zone the deeper midfielder should look to be an option to play back to. The attacking midfielder should then drop back into the midfield zone to open up the attacking zone again and create space to attack into. The attacking midfielder’s role is to then see which option is best to attack. Below it would be to have the wide player advance further into the space on that side of the field. Other times it might be again to drive forwards and shoot or set up a striker.

Role of the #6: To help the defense playing out the back, to facilitate attacks by using their passing range and to be at supportive angles when the ball is ahead of them to recycle the ball.

Role of the #10: To get into positions behind the lines of the opposition and look to influence the attack by driving forwards with the ball or creating opportunities for others to attack and possible shoot.


  • Change the formation both teams use
  • Play with different formations for each team to challenge the player’s roles

By Sean Pearson. Sean is also the author Coaching Team Shape in the 3-3-1, Coaching Team Shape in the 4-2-3-1 and Coaching Team Shape in the 4-3-3

Making Play Predictable

By Sean Pearson

Area Size: Quarter or Half field (depending on age of players)

Teams: 15 – 20 mins

Players: 7 v 7


  • To stop forward penetration
  • To force sideways and backwards passes


2 teams set up in a 2-3-1 formation in a scrimmage like scenario.


The aim for this session is for your team to work together defensively by stifling forward progression of the opposition and frustrating the other team into backwards and sideways passes until they become frustrated. Your team must stay close together to stop penetrating passing lines into the feet of players further up the field. They cut off angles so the only available pass is one of backwards or sideways.

The defending team does not have to sit right in front of their own goal for this tactic to work. It is more effective to perform it in the middle of the field. As the opposition pass wide, the defending wide midfielder gets across to pressure the player on the ball so they can’t move forwards, the rest of the team slides across, compacting that side of the field, leaving the opposite wing open. The striker drops down to stop any balls into the center of midfield.

As the ball travels back to the CB the striker of the defending team presses the CB to force them to make a quick decision, again not allowing forward penetration. The obvious pass is sideways to the free CB. The team again slide into the middle to compact the area directly in front of or around the ball.

Now we have a little change of shape, because we don’t want to be so compact that passes out wide can break the defensive lines. Again the focus is to stop forward penetration by cutting off forwards passing options. As the ball travels to the opposite CB, the striker drops down to stop passes into the CM. The wide midfielder stays narrow to stop passes into the striker’s feet. The FB comes across to pressure the WM when they receive the ball and the CB and opposite WM slide across to cover and keep defensive shape.

As the ball arrives to the WM the FB is close to Pressure them, the WM has dropped down to block the pass into the striker’s feet again and striker drops to stop passes into the CM again, this leaves a pass backwards to the CB as the only pass available.

Players need to understand that they are working as a team to stop forward progression and not become individual and start to run all over the field. If players can win the ball when pressing then absolutely go for it, but the aim is to frustrate the other team going forward and giving the ball away by trying passes that are not on.

When the other team wins possession the defending team aims to frustrate and stop forward progression just like they experienced.


  • Add neutrals to challenge the defending team and increase the difficulty
  • Allow only 1 or 2 players to communicate to teammates to help build leaders in defense

By Sean Pearson. Sean is also the author Coaching Team Shape in the 3-3-1, Coaching Team Shape in the 4-2-3-1 and Coaching Team Shape in the 4-3-3