Attacking and Defending Set Pieces To give our teams an edge over our opponents, it is important that we have an understanding of how we should prepare our teams to approach set pieces. If you have some pre planned routines going into a game then you are helping your players by allowing them to concentrate on other aspects of the game. It is important that we teach them both attacking and defending these situations, as preparation is important to give the team as much of an edge as is fairly possible. As we have already learned, discipline, concentration, and organization are the key elements for all of these techniques to work. Corners Defending corners are very important as we have all learned to our cost. First we put two of our smallest players on the front and back posts. We do this to prevent a) the ball going in straight from the kick, and b) this gives our goalkeeper some cover if they decide to come and take the ball. We use the smallest players, as this releases the taller players to attack the incoming ball; also it has to be a perfect corner, shot, or header to find the very top corner out of the players reach or ability to head the ball clear. Next we have our defenders form a relaxed line across the 6 yard box and picking up the nearest attacker to them. Remember the “sweeper” will stay free and organize all of this. Also remember to tell the players to use their initiative to pick up a player of similar height. Now we have the midfielders take up positions around the 18 yard box, with everyone marking an attacker, always staying goalside. It is crucial that every player except the sweeper, stays with their opponent, unless they can pass them over to another man, but do not leave them unmarked. One of the forwards should come back to help leaving one up field to try and pick the ball up when it is cleared. It is an important thing to remember when defending in the 6 yard box, stay as tight to your opponent as possible and ALWAYS jump with them for the ball even if there is no way you will win the ball. This puts off the attacker and also stops them from having a free header on goal. When marking outside the 6 yard box, you can give yourself a yard or two between you and your attacker as long as you remain between them and the goal. The reason for leaving this gap is that you can get a better leap with a couple of steps run up. If the opposition decide to try and play a short corner make sure that the player that goes out to mark them doesn’t leave a hole behind them. I could go on forever but I will just leave you with one last comment and that is, if there are spare defenders they should double up on the tallest attackers, one in front one behind .I should just reiterate that you should always remind your players to attack the ball and not wait to see what is going to happen. When you are attacking corners there are four main types of corner kicks with several variations for each kick. It is important that the corner taker has a signal for each type of corner they are about to take. This will let the players know where to line up. 1. The near post corner. This is as it sounds when the ball is kicked high to the near post and the idea is that the player at the near post, flicks it on to the back post, drawing the keeper and most of the defenders out of position leaving your attackers to pressure the goal and back post. 2. The penalty spot corner. This is the most common taken corner. The kicker tries to float the ball out to the penalty spot and your biggest players attack this area. If the player taking this kick can try to curl the ball out to the penalty spot. This serves the purpose of tempting the keeper to come and take it, leaving the goal a much bigger target. 3. The far post corner. Again as it sounds the kick is high to the far post ,well the corner of the 6 yard box actually, with the idea being that you have by passed the keeper and most of the defenders leaving your attackers to make late runs into this area and either go for goal or knock it back across the goal. This results in temporary chaos leaving it up your players to react first and attack the loose ball. 4. The ball to an unmarked player outside the area. This is only used if you have a player with confidence to strike a fast moving ball, and it is not used very often. The idea behind it is to try and fool the defense into thinking the ball is going into the area leaving the player outside of the area unmarked as they are not really “the danger”. Then a quick accurate pass to this player who then takes a snap shot, leaving defense and keeper taken by surprise. I will demonstrate the players positioning for all of these corners so you will be able to instruct your teams. Free Kicks When defending a free kick, the very first thing to do is, the sweeper calls a line and no one goes past them. This gives you an opportunity to have some control of the situation by dictating where you want their players to be or they will be off side. Next thing is to send your midfield to make a wall, depending on how far out the kick is this determines how many people in the wall, (the further away the less people in the wall). The goalkeeper should line up the wall to cover the area of the goal that they are not covering. This needs to be done quickly to be most effective. Now with all of your players in somewhat of a line, they need to mark the player nearest to them, as tightly as possible but also be aware of the line so as not to run behind and play everyone on side. Remember that the offense will not be static so the defenders will have to pass the players around as we talked about in earlier weeks. If the kick is right on the edge of the area, then the sweeper will have to decide if they need to put a player on the post that the keeper is not covering. Obviously if this happens then you cannot call a line as the player on the line will be playing them on side, in which case the defense will have to mark tightly and concentrate so as to be aware of attacking runs. The most vital parts are the line and the marking, if these are done well, then only an excellent piece of skill will beat you. Again point out that the players need to attack the ball and be first to the loose ball. Think safety first and clear the ball or put it into touch if you are under pressure. There are literally hundreds of different free kick techniques, but I will demonstrate a few and let you try and work out some of your own. I will put more details onto this sheet for it to be put on the website. Throw-Ins Keep these simple. An easy rule to teach the teams is, always throw the ball up the line. If you have two players up the line, one near and one far, then the thrower has choices. They can throw it to the nearest payer for them to pass back and play begins from there, or they can throw it high to the first player to head it on to the second player. Another option is to throw it long for the second player. The reason we do this is because if you throw the ball sideways or backwards and you lose the ball, you are already in a bad position, if you throw it up the line and lose it you still have most of your team behind the ball. As with everything there are exceptions to the rule for example if you throw it back to the keeper or if you are beside the opponents goal area you still want the two men in a line technique but this time sideways instead of down the line. When defending a throw in have one man in front of the player and one behind IF possible, if not then stay behind the player and force them to play the ball back the way they are facing. Penalties You should practice penalties occasionally just so as to take a little pressure off the penalty taker in games. When taking a penalty, pick a spot to aim for, do not look directly at it, and never change your mind. It may help to see if the keeper is moving from side to side and when they are moving to the opposite side to where you wanted to go, then strike the ball. Patience and calmness are vital. When facing a penalty, watch the players body language and the players eyes as a lot of players look to where they want to kick the ball, without even realizing it. As I keep repeating practice is the key to improvement, so good luck and any questions call me Chris Haggerty on 651-982 1596.