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Soccer Performance Metrics

In today’s information age and the availability of “Big Data” enabled by camera and on-body sensors, more data than ever are available to soccer coaches. Each player in each game and each practice can be measured and data can be aggregated to the team level. To illustrate: distance run in a game can be measured for each player and team distance can be aggregated by adding all of the players’ distances.

There are software packages that manage all the data for coaches and generate any number of analyses and reports. As a trained soccer coach and professional engineer I understand that it is not the amount of data you get, but the appropriateness of data. The purpose of data is to identify areas for improvement and to enable the development and implementation of improvement plans. A wise person once said: “Tell me how I’m measured and I’ll tell you how I will behave”.

I have sifted through a lot of the metrics collected all over the world, some of which are reported during live broadcasts on TV. The scope of this review is game performance and improvement. This therefore excludes medical, physiological and any other individual or team health data. The idea is that if you have data that relate to your team’s performance, then you can identify what areas need to be improved and structure your soccer practices accordingly.

Possession %

This measures the amount of time a team controls the ball as a % of game time. Usually camera systems track the seconds each team is in control of the ball. Analysis has proven that possession % does not correlate to winning games. This metric is therefore only useful if your game philosophy and strategy is to dominate possession. Then you should establish a target of possession % (say > 65% +) and practice how to play a possession game.

Scoring Chances & Shots Taken

Shots taken is what you see on TV and it is a simple measure. Any shot from anywhere deemed to be in the direction of the goal counts as a shot taken, regardless of whether or not it actually hits the target. So a shot going up into the rafters counts as a shot taken. There is very little subjectivity. The metric is to count the number of shots taken by the team during a game.

Scoring chances is more subjective, but in my opinion more relevant. A scoring chance is defined as a play that offered a good chance of scoring a goal, even if the final shot isn’t taken. The metric is to count the number of scoring chances your team generates in a game.

To illustrate the difference between these two measurements:

A shot taken from 30 m out that goes 5 m wide of the net is counted as a “shot taken”, but wouldn’t qualify as a scoring chance.

A cross into the box to an open player 5 m in front of goal is a scoring chance, even if the player slips and never gets their foot on the ball – no shot is taken.

Shots on Goal

This metric goes with both of the previous metrics – scoring chances and shots taken. You count the number of shots on goal. A useful statistic would be to calculate the % shots on goal as a percentage of shots taken AND as a percentage of scoring chances. A low % of shots on goal  indicates that shots taken need accuracy improvement or scoring chances need finishing improvement (determination, timing, etc.).

Ultimately goals scored as a % of shots taken or scoring chances generated gives you an idea of the efficiency and effectiveness of your team’s attacking plays.

Getting By Opposing Players

This is a more recent metric. There are two ways to get by an opposing player – a 1 v.1 move or a pass. Furthermore it is of significance which players you get by, any player or defenders. So the metrics are, for each player and aggregated to team total for a game (or practice drill)

  • getting by any opponent in a 1 v. 1
  • getting by an opposing defender in a 1 v. 1
  • getting by any opponent with a completed pass
  • getting by a defender with a completed pass
  • receiving a completed pass past any opposing player
  • receiving a completed pass past a defender

You can also analyze these results by position and set some goals for your team. For example if you encourage your wingers taking on defenders 1 v. 1 to generate a cross and scoring chance, then measure the number of successful and failed 1 v. 1 moves by your wingers. By wingers I don’t mean only the designated wide players in your formation, but anyone who happens to be in the attacking third on the wing, such as an overlapping defender. You can count these for each player and later aggregate the numbers for individuals, positions (defenders, central midfielders, etc.), and the team. You can further accumulate the data for each game and the sum of games played to date.

Summary

There are many more metrics but if you consider those presented, you could easily formulate a vision/strategy for your team. For example:

“We are a fast attacking (not possession) team generating at least 10 scoring changes per game and scoring at on at least 20% of scoring chances. We generate these scoring chances through two touch soccer, quick and accurate passing past opponents, with a final cross or a vertical pass into the penalty box.

Then pick the metrics that are meaningful to the strategy, correlate the data to goals scored, wins, points and formulate improvement plans.

I should mention that I have illustrated offensive metrics. Defensive metrics for your team are the exact opposite. Track the same metrics for the opposing team.

Coach Tom

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Soccer Tactics – Breaking Down Defensive Teams

Icon of a clipboard showing a page with a soccer strategy.

It has become more prevalent for the better soccer team that dominates a game in possession not to win or even lose. By better we mean a team with more highly skilled players who play their system well together. In international competition they typically end up in the final four and in league competitions they routinely occupy the top five spots.

Quite often their system of play has been innovative and they enjoy initial success. But once the competition adjusts they are less successful. Less successful in this context doesn’t mean they drop to the bottom, but rather that they don’t win the titles they used to win or defeat the “easy teams”. To illustrate a few prominent examples:

Spain

Spain invented the “tiki taka” possession game focussing on precise passing over short distances supported by quick runs into space. The opponents were chasing players and ball and eventually a space was created around the penalty box which Spanish players exploited to scorer goals. When their opponents had the ball Spanish players quickly closed in on the ball carrier with two or three players to pressure him into a mistake. At the same time a second layer of defense closed down all passing lanes. So the combination of high pressure and possession game was effective and led Spain to successive Euro and FIFA championships. But then the opposition adjusted by setting up defensive walls and essentially letting the Spanish pass the ball around without giving them space to penetrate into dangerous areas. When opponents gained possession they used super fast break counters to catch the Spanish defense out of position and get an attempt at goal. The result is that Spain has lost its domination and advances in tournaments.

Pep Guardiola

Pep was the embodiment, if not the creator, of tiki taka at Barcelona. He was successful with it in Spain and then was hired first by Bayern Munich and now by Manchester City to create dominant teams. In Munich he did create ball possession dominance but in three years struggled to deliver the success that the quality of the roster (and management) demanded. He did win three successive championships but was knocked out of the Champions league semi-finals three years in a row, twice in embarrassing fashion. Even in the Bundesliga his team faded in the second half of the season. Why? because everyone knew what to expect and adjusted to it with their own strategy. A similar pattern is emerging at Man. City. A solid season start with nine winning games at the top of the table has turned into mediocrity (at a high level still). Man City will not win the EPL.

Jürgen Klopp

One of my favourite coaches for enthusiasm and ability to quickly turn a team around. His stile isn’t tiki taka, it is high pressure, requiring lots of running, and a fairly direct play into the box to generate scoring chances. His teams play through the middle and down the sides, they switch play often enough. It is a game strategy this coach embraces, with one exception. Initially at Dortmund Klopp was very successful, then teams caught on, personnel changed, and results dropped. Now at Liverpool he has inspired his team early, charged up the table bringing Liverpool back into contention. As of late his team is in a terrible slump, particularly against weaker teams, losing against bottom EPL teams and lower league clubs in cup competition. Klopp’s game demand a huge physical effort to keep the high press up and to transition quickly to defense upon loss of possession. His players are marathon sprinters. They get fatigued in a game and as the season goes, especially if key players get insured. I wouldn’t play a permanent pressing game but allow the team some periods of rest and sitting back.

WHY DO WEAKER TEAMS SUCCEED?

With two exceptions the teams I have coached were the weaker teams in competitive youth and university leagues. I have coached against the Spains, Peps, and Klopps in  my world. I wasn’t surprised by their play because I scouted their teams and games and had a very good idea who they played and which players to watch for in particular. Good professional coaches do the same, so there is no surprise.

I had no choice but to move into a defensive mode. Here are proven soccer rules:

  1. If the clearly weaker team tries to ignore the strength of their opponent and play “their game”, they get slaughtered – Liverpool, Man City, Spain still generate lopsided wins.
  2. If there are equal strength teams on the pitch it becomes a very entertaining chess game as each will play to its strength and be successful in certain phases of the game.

So the clearly weaker team MUST move into a defensive shell and rely on counter attacks, without exposing their own defense while doing so. This usually results in a flat back defensive line of five or six players with a flat four defensive midfield  line 10 m or so in front of the defense. One or no attacker is kept up to challenge defenders or at least keep a couple of them back. The space here doesn’t allow to get into all of the tactical formations to accomplish this strategy.

The strong team now is forced to find a way through this tight defensive mesh and despite 70%-80% possession, gives up the ball 1 out of 4 times. This change of possession is the opportunity the weaker teams rely on the start a fast break counter attack quite often ending up in 2v1, 3v2, 4v3 advantage at the other end. The longer the game stays close the better the chance for the weaker team to snatch a point or a 1-0/2-0 win.

WHAT ARE THE STRONGER TEAMS TO DO?

First of all the coach must realize that the ONE game strategy has been adapted to by some teams. The moment they recognize this in a game (or even before a game) they need to be able to change game plan. Instead of setting up occupation outside the opponents penalty box and passing the ball sideways and backwards waiting for a gap in the defense, they must adapt themselves. The goal is to break the two defensive walls, creating spaces for penetrating passes through the middle or crosses from the goal line into the back of defenders. Here are some traditional ways:

  1. Take defenders on 1v1 with your best dribblers (thinking of Ribery and Robben at Bayern Munich). This draws out the supporting defender and starts to open up spaces for quick runs and passes into the back of the defense.
  2. Set up 2v1 to get by defenders, tried and true tactics are give & goes, overlaps. You’ll see them from good teams and they work.
  3. Switch the side of attack quickly.
  4. Move your attacking player around randomly to confuse the defense. Get your center forward to make diagonal runs to the wing and have a wide midfielder break to the center. It will distract the defense and open up spaces.

Additionally you can consider:

  1. Play the odd long ball just to send the message that it’s not all possession.
  2. Intentionally give the other team the ball and then win it back and launch your own fast break counter catching the other team out of shape and balance.
  3. Vary your style during the game.

Teams that you can study who are more or less successful AGAINST WEAKER DEFENSIVE MINDED teams are Bayern Munich, Manchester United, Arsenal, Real Madrid, Juventus, Germany,

The one thing is for sure – sticking to one formation and one style doesn’t work in a game, in a season, or in a tournament.

We have a great book to help you practice successful high-speed transition: Competitive Pro Fast Break Soccer Practice Plans & Drills

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Soccer Drill Unpacked – 7v7 Flank Attack

Today we unpack the player and team development principles embedded in a youth competitive (U3-U18) flank attack soccer drill embedded in an end of practice scrimmage. All drills in our  Youth Competitive book are assembled into practice plans to ensure that each practice offers the proper balance between the four pillars of soccer:

Technical Skills – Tactics – Physical Fitness – Mental Fitness

It is this balance, practiced over a season, that has led the tens of thousands of coaches who own our books to improve the performance and social environment of their teams.

Youth Competitive Soccer Drill

Download the drill here: Youth Competitive Flank Attack Scrimmage

From our book: Youth Competitive (U13 – U18)

Soccer Drill Profile:

 

The profile indicates that this is a fairly balanced soccer drill involving strong elements of tactics, physical fitness, and mental training.

Set Up:

This a full field 7 v. 7 practice game. Near each corner flag a 10m x 10m square is marked into which the ball is passed into the run of an attacking player. The attacker cannot be challenged and gets a free cross. Upon change of possession (goal, save, out-of-bounds) the previously defending team must now cross the center line and then attempt to play a pass into ANY of the four corner squares.

Technical Skills:

Passing, crossing, finishing and goalkeeping are the key skills developed in this drill. Defenders will train closing down passing options and intercepting passes. This is not a 1 v. 1 drill employing moves to beat defenders.

The team in possession is encouraged to play fairly short one/two touch passes. Passes have to be accurate and are either played to feet or into space.

Passes into the square can be long and high, diagonal or down the line, or they could be a last short pass after combination plays.

Within the grid ball receiving and control are essential to allow quick movement of the ball.

The goalkeeper will have excellent opportunities to come off the line to intercept crosses, to come off the line and cut the angle of the shot, or to stay in net and make reaction saves.

The attackers running into the box train one time shots/headers, timing of run, or one touch control of the ball followed by a second touch shot.

Tactics:

There are several key tactical elements in this soccer drill.

  • the first is to play a quality pass into one of the squares allowing the “incoming player” are very quick one or two touch cross into the danger area. Therefore the pass should be into the run of the player.
  • the second is a quality cross and importantly, proper runs of attackers into the box to get into a position to finish. The flight of the cross must be judged and the run timed to strike/head the ball with maximum accuracy and power. Likewise defenders have to be in position to prevent a strike.
  • the third is the quick transition after gaining possession to get the entire team across center into the other half. At that point the team must recognize which of the four corner squares can be reached quickest and allowing the defense the least amount of time to set up to defend the cross. A key coaching point is to make the team aware that once they cross center there should be space behind them in the half they just left, assuming the defenders came along with them. That indicates an opportunity for a quick turn around and attack of the space just vacated.

As a transition drill, as soon as the defending team gains possession they become the attackers. They have to switch mental gears immediately to set up a scoring play in the box. Likewise the attackers who lost possession must now transition to blocking/intercepting passes and defend.

Fitness Training:

When done correctly both teams will be in constant motion with frequent sprints to get across center to start a new attack after change of possession. This should be excellent anaerobic/physical speed training.

Mental Fitness:

There must be communication (verbal or non verbal) to ensure that only one player runs into a square for a cross. This soccer drill involves all Seven Speeds Of Soccer

Perception

The attacking players must perceive a path with sufficient space to pass safely into a square. Defenders need to perceive the same spaces so that they can close them. All players need to perceive a change of possession so that they can switch roles from attacking to defending and vice versa.

Anticipation

The player in possession must anticipate a team-mate’s run into a square to make the final pass before the cross. Players without the ball must anticipate which square a ball might be passed into and make the run.

All attackers must anticipate the cross and time their run to meet the ball in the danger area.

The goalkeeper needs to anticipate the cross.

The defenders need to anticipate every pass so they can react and intercept.

Decision Making

The attacker with the ball needs to decide if they should pass to a team mate within the grid or pass into a square.  They also need to decide if they should continue the direction of the current attack or make a quick turn and attack the goal in the opposite half (behind them). The attackers without the ball need to decide which one breaks into a square. Once in the square the attacker decides whether the cross is high/low, near post/far post or around penalty spot. The goalkeeper decides whether or not to come off the line to intercept the cross.

Reaction

The key players who need to react are the one going into the square for the cross and the goalkeeper. They have been anticipating the play and made a decision to act, and in the case of the attacker communicated that decision to team mates. They need to react to the actual pass and time their runs accordingly.

Movement With Ball

Given this is a one/two touch drill there isn’t much dribbling, 1 v. 1 or other movement of players with the ball. The movement that is critical is setting up a good second touch (shot, header, pass) with an excellent first touch.

Movement Without Ball

This is a critical element of this drill. Attackers in the grid must move into space to receive a pass and also to have an option to pass into the square with their next touch. Thus the recognition of space and anticipation of defenders’ positions are important. It is quite acceptable for attacking players to run into more than one square, giving the player with the ball options. If they make a run and the ball is not played to them, then they must adjust to join play in the grid or to go in for the cross. Finally, the attacker wanting to break into the square must sprint to the anticipated point of contact with the ball.

Game Action

This soccer drill is all about game action speed to set up and finish scoring chances.

Coaching Tips:

This soccer drill, as is the case with all of our over 500 soccer drills, has coaching points and progression suggestions.

In addition to those you can vary the numbers of attackers in the grid using up all available players evenly in two teams. You can also create unbalanced teams, playing 8 v 6 or 10 v 6 to increase scoring success, test defenders, etc.

Consider grouping players into functional units, i.e. defenders + defensive midfielders vs, attacking midfielders and strikers.

If the attackers are executing well, you can challenge them by allowing defenders to follow them into the square.

The perception of the opportunity to turn and attack the half the team in possession just left may be weak. Stop the drill a few times initially and point out where the space and opportunity was if the team missed it.

 

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FIFA Expands World Cup To 48 Teams

From FIFA:

“The FIFA Council has unanimously decided in favour of expanding the FIFA World Cup™ to a 48-team competition as of the 2026 edition. World football’s supervisory and strategic body held its third meeting at the Home of FIFA in Zurich on 9 and 10 January, and decided on a new tournament format with the 48 national teams split into 16 groups of three. The top two teams from each group will then advance to a 32-team knockout stage……”

Read the full article on FIFA’s web site: FIFA expands World Cup

There have been many articles about the pros and cons of this already, and everyone will need to decide for themselves. Here are some of the views:

PROS

  • more nations qualify and hence more global engagement in the sport
  • more games on TV for the TV soccer addicts
  • more revenue for FIFA (+20%) leading to more money available for development
  • more exposure for good players from countries that typically don’t qualify
  • more Cinderella story potential

CONS

  • watering down the competition and devaluing the qualification process
  • less meaningful games in the first round, less chance of two top ranked teams meeting in the group stage. With 16 groups the top 16 teams will not meet in group stage, therefore no group of death.
  • Only two games per team in the group stage takes away the “tournament” flavour.
  • Two out of three teams in a group qualifying is 67%, two out of four was 50%. This makes the drama of elimination, especially for top teams, less meaningful.

Like all change, it will take time to adapt to it but eventually, it will become the “new normal”. We have 10 years to get ready!!!!!

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2017 Soccer Calendar

Welcome to 2017. As usual we offer you a comprehensive calendar of major soccer tournaments (finals) for the year. Watch games (with your team if you can) in person, on TV, or on-line and remember: sometimes the youth tournaments offer the purest and most exciting soccer. Also, keep an eye on the game tactics and how the commentators interpret them. Apply it to your team.

January

  • African Cup of Nations (14 Jan – 5 Feb)

May

  • U17 Women Euro (Czech Republic, 2-14 May)
  • U17 Men Euro (Croatia, 3-19 May)
  • U20 World Cup Men (Korea, 20 May – 11 June)
  • Europa League Final (24 May)

June

  • Champions League Final Men (1 June)
  • Champions League Final Women (3 June)
  • U21 Euro Men (Poland, 16 – 30 June)
  • FIFA Confederation Cup (Russia, 17 June – July 2)

July

  • U19 Men Euro (Georgia, 2 – 15 July)
  • Concacaf Gold Cup (USA, 9 – 26 July)
  • Womens Euro 2017 (Netherlands, 16 July – 6 Aug)

August

  • U19 Womens World Cup (Northern Ireland, 8 – 20 Aug)

October

  • U17 Mens World Cup (India, 6 – 28 Oct)

December

  • FIFA Club Championship (UAE, 12 – 17 Dec)

In case you are soccer starved from February to May, remember that Champions League and Europa League knock out rounds are happening, World Cup 2018 Qualifiers will kick in, and soccer leagues all over the world are in the home stretch towards their championships and relegations.

“Soccer is Life” – Enjoy

Coach Tom

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Soccer Drill Unpacked – Pass & Shoot

Today we unpack the player and team development principles embedded in a youth (U9-U12) pass & shoot soccer drill. All drills in our  Youth Foundation book are assembled into practice plans to ensure that each practice offers the proper balance between the four pillars of soccer:

Technical Skills – Tactics – Physical Fitness – Mental Fitness

It is this balance, practiced over a season, that has led the tens of thousands of coaches who own our books to improve the performance and social environment of their teams.

Youth Soccer Drill

Download the drill here: Youth Pass & Shoot Soccer Drill

From our book: Youth Foundation (U9 – U12)

Soccer Drill Profile:

youth-pass-shoot

 

The profile indicates that this is a fairly balanced soccer drill involving strong elements of technical skill, tactics, and mental training.

Set Up:

Eight player plus goalkeeper play in an area extending the penalty box by 25m. In a 16m x 25m grid outside the box teams play a 3 v. 3 with a neutral player on each wing. The purpose is to pass or cross into the penalty box to set up a quick shot on goal. Defenders cannot enter the penalty box to defend the shot.

Technical Skills:

Passing, crossing, shooting and goalkeeping are the key skills developed in this drill. Defenders will train closing down passing options and intercepting passes. This is not a 1 v. 1 drill employing moves to beat defenders.

The team in possession in the grid is encouraged to play fairly short one/two touch passes. Passes have to be accurate and are either played to feet or into space.

Within the grid ball receiving and control are essential to allow quick movement of the ball. The neutral players have no pressure and therefore have time to set up an accurate cross to the target area.

The goalkeeper will have excellent opportunities to come off the line to intercept crosses, to come off the line and cut the angle of the shot, or to stay in net and make reaction saves.

The shooter running into the box trains one time shots/headers, timing of run, or one touch control of the ball followed by a second touch shot.

 

Tactics:

The key tactical element is to play a quality pass/cross into the penalty box and for a team-mate to time their run into the box. Ideally the passed/crossed ball and the shooter arrive in the target space at the same time so that a one touch shot/header is possible. If the ball is played through the middle then the ball should lead the shooter. If the neutral player is used then the shooter sprinting into the area to receive the cross must delay their run. They do not want to wait in the box for the cross, but must run onto the cross to shoot/head with maximum power. This also makes it difficult for defenders.

A key tactical decision is whether to pass through the middle or play the ball wide for a subsequent cross. That decision is made based on the gaps between defenders. If they are wide enough for a pass through the middle, then the direct approach to net is available. If the defenders are shifting and closing gaps then the wide option is preferred. One way to open gaps between defenders is switching play within the grid quickly. This is an excellent drill to teach young players the concept of space and constant movement to open up and use it.

The other tactic being trained is transition play. As soon as the defending team gains possession inside the grid, they become the attackers. They have to switch mental gears immediately to set up a scoring play in the box. Likewise the attackers who lost possession must now transition to blocking/intercepting passes.

 

Fitness Training:

Ideally this is a 15 – 30 minute drill in which all players sprint short distances constantly. As coach you need to encourage this movement as young players might have a tendency to stand and wait for a pass.

Mental Fitness:

There must be communication (verbal or non verbal) to ensure that only one player breaks into the penalty box for a shot/header. This soccer drill involves all Seven Speeds Of Soccer

Perception

The attacking players must perceive a gap in the defense to pass safely into the box. If the gap is not there then they need to perceive the neutral players. Defenders need to perceive the same gaps so that they can close them. All players need to perceive a change of possession so that they can switch roles from attacking to defending and vice versa. The neutral players must follow the play so that they are ready to receive a pass in the space in front of them.

Anticipation

The two attackers without the ball must anticipate a pass into the box for one of them to follow the pass for a shot on net. If the neutral player has the ball for a cross then the three attackers need to anticipate the flight of the ball such that the best positioned attacker breaks into the box for a shot/header. For example if the three attackers are spread out across the top of the box and the cross seems to be coming to the near post side of the target area, then the attacker on that side breaks into the box.

The goalkeeper needs to anticipate the pass into the box or the cross and make some key decisions (see below).

The defenders need to anticipate every pass so they can react and intercept.

Decision Making

The attacker with the ball needs to decide if they should pass within the grid, pass into the penalty box, or play to the wide neutral player. The attackers without the ball need to decide which one breaks into the box for a shot. The neutral player decides whether the cross is high/low, near post/far post or around penalty spot. The goalkeeper decides whether or not to come off the line to intercept the cross. If the ball is passed into the box the keeper needs to decide whether they can get to the ball before the player running in, or whether they should come out, cut the angle, and set to save the shot.

Reaction

The key players who need to react are the one going into the box for the shot and the goalkeeper. They have been anticipating the play and made a decision to act, and in the case of the attacker communicated that decision to team mates. They need to react to the actual pass/cross and time their runs accordingly.

Movement With Ball

Given this is a one/two touch drill there isn’t much dribbling, 1 v. 1 or other movement of players with the ball. The movement that is critical is setting up a good second touch (shot, header, pass) with an excellent first touch.

Movement Without Ball

This is a critical element of this drill. Attackers in the grid must move into space to receive a pass and also to have an option to pass into the penalty box with their next touch. Thus the recognition of space and anticipation of defenders’ positions are important. The neutral players must move up and down the side to be available for an easy pass into the space in front of them. Finally, the attacker wanting to break into the box must sprint to the anticipated point of contact with the ball.

Game Action

This soccer drill is all about game action speed in the center of the attacking third to set up and finish scoring chances.

Coaching Tips:

This soccer drill, as is the case with all of our over 500 soccer drills, has coaching points and progression suggestions.

In addition to those you can vary the numbers of attackers in the grid. If 3 v. 3 doesn’t generate many scoring changes, go to 4 v 2 or 4 v 1 even. In that case you cannot transition between offense and defense after change of possession, but that wouldn’t likely be successful anyways. Just change the players’ roles after a few minutes.

If the attackers are executing well, you can challenge them by allowing defenders to follow them into the penalty box.

You can also allow more than one attacker to enter the box for a shot.

As always, set up a grid at each end of the field to have all players busy.

At this age the perception of the opportunity to pass into the box may be weak. Stop the drill a few times initially and point out where the space and opportunity was if the team missed it.

This drill is also an excellent opportunity to evaluate players. You may be surprised and find a strong “finisher” amongst your regular defenders. Players are still young and need not be assigned positions for the rest of their playing careers.

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European Soccer Ticket Prices

Living in North America makes it very expensive to watch just about any professional sport live. NHL, NFL, NBA tickets can easily run in the $ 100 plus range. Add to that the fairly expensive food and drink, travel and parking, and an outing for a family of four can easily add up to $ 500. Play-off games demand premium pricing even above this.

Which limits attendance to a special family occasion, to the wealthy, or to businesses. The fact that games are mostly sold out suggests that the model is working for the clubs.

In contrast ticket prices in top European soccer leagues are much lower. Here are the average prices for the top leagues:

  • Spain $ 45 US
  • England $ 40
  • Italy $ 35
  • France $ 31
  • Germany $ 28

Stadiums still offer standing room spots and tickets can be had for as little as $ 12 in Germany.

In addition food prices are reasonable. A sandwich or sausage on a bun can be had for as little as $ 5 and a beer in Germany for $ 4. Quite often the ticket price includes public transportation to the stadium. This means that fans can park outside the congested stadium area, which often is near a city center, and avoid delays in exiting the parking lot after the game is over. In larger cities trains or trams are used at higher than normal frequency, in smaller centers buses.

Why are the prices relatively low? For the most part because there are so many teams, not just in any particular country, but including neighbouring countries, that games still don’t sell out. The low ticket prices mean less revenue for the teams but make games affordable for anyone. As discussed in a previous post European soccer teams generate revenue through club sponsoring and media, much more so than teams in North America. Imagine the Dallas Cowboys having “AT &T” plastered all over their jerseys.

Two different systems, my preference is the European one as it opens sports up to families.

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Soccer Drill Unpacked – Kids Coordination #6

This article presents a soccer drill from one of our soccer practice books and unpacks the player and team development principles embedded in the drill. All drills in each of our books are assembled into practice plans to ensure that each practice offers the proper balance between the four pillars of soccer:

Technical Skills – Tactics – Physical Fitness – Mental Fitness

It is this balance, practiced over a season, that has led the tens of thousands of coaches who own our books to improve the performance and social environment of their teams.

We will give you a download link to the soccer drill PDF page, a link to the book that contains the drill, and then explain the four pillars of soccer using a soccer drill player development profile chart.

Kids (U4 – U8) Soccer Drill

Download the drill here: Kids Coordination Drill-6

From our book: Kids Basic Skills

Soccer Drill Profile:

 

kids-coord-6-profile

The profile indicates that the emphasis of this soccer drill is on mental training and physical fitness.

Set Up:

 

Players with a ball in hand are in a 10m x 10m grid. Two players from outside the grid enter and then players with the ball try to “tag” the two by throwing the ball at their legs.

The goal is to improve coordination and awareness in a fun game, which doesn’t involve kicking the ball.

Technical Skills:

It is important to vary the content of practices for young children and inject some non-technical exercises that provide some fun and laughter. This soccer drill is not intended to develop any particular foot based skill. However, throwing the ball at a particular target can be viewed as introduction to throw-ins and goalkeeping.

Tactics:

This drill, as most drills in our Kids Soccer Basics book is not intended to develop tactical understanding. However, the concept of two players inside the grid running into space is an early introduction to movement without the ball. Also the concept of a target player is introduced.

Fitness Training:

In our Kids Soccer Basics book fitness training focuses mostly on agility, coordination, and flexibility. Endurance and speed comes from practice small sided games. This drill is designed to develop coordination and agility. The players with the ball need to move closely to their targets without dropping the ball. They need to work out the body mechanics to throw the ball at a moving player and learn to aim the throw below the waist. You will be surprised at the difficulty young kids may have initially and you may have to adjust the drill to foster success. The players entering the grid as targets need to be able to recognize their attackers and avoid being hit by the thrown ball. This requires changes of direction and if the ball is aimed at them a last second jump or side step to avoid being hit.

Mental Fitness:

By the very nature of this soccer drill all seven speeds of soccer come into play.

Perception

The players with the ball need to perceive the movement and position of the target players. The target players need to perceive the movement of 6 attackers. The players waiting outside the grid need to be aware of when their turn to enter the grid comes up. So they should stay focused on what is going on. The nature of this drill makes it fairly easy for them to be engaged.

Anticipation

The players with the ball need to anticipate new players entering the grid and the space they are likely to occupy so that they will throw the ball to the spot the target will be in, not necessarily where the target is at the moment. The target players need to anticipate the opposite – which player will throw the ball and to which location so that they can avoid it.

Decision Making

The players with the ball need to decide which target to go for. They can decide individually or communicate and work as a group of 6 going after one target or split into two groups each going after a target. The target players need to decide where the space is that makes it most difficult for the attackers to hit them.

Reaction

The target players need to react to the position of the attackers and more importantly to the ball thrown at them. If the ball is on target they need to react to avoid being hit. A quick side step or jump might do the trick. The attackers need to react to the movement of the targets.

Movement Without Ball

All players are moving without the ball at their feet and it is obvious how this is the key speed of soccer being trained in this drill.

Movement With Ball

Does not apply since players are carrying the ball in their hands.

Game Action

The application to game action is the recognition of space and movement and delivering the ball to a target player.

Coaching Tips:

This soccer drill, as is the case with all of our over 500 soccer drills, has coaching points and progression suggestions. It is important to keep players of this age engaged. Generally we don’t like players not being active in a drill, such as those waiting outside the grid. If it turns out that they are bored and are losing interest then modify the drill to set up two grids, each with more attackers than targets and rotate targets and attackers within each grid.

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Soccer Player Development – Then and Now

It could be argued that soccer follows society or that soccer is a trendsetter for society. After reading this article you can judge which comes first as we examine how young soccer players developed traditionally and how they become professionals today.

THEN

When I say then I mean the time up to the end of the 2oth century, to the late 1990s. It was a transition time for children in how they spent their leisure time. Until then sports was a key activity and in Europe, South America, and Africa that meant soccer. Electronic and internet entertainment was gaining popularity and competing for children’s time.

Soccer was played on the street, in parks, in school yard on make shift fields. Often the goals were made using bags, hats, cans as goalposts. Soccer was also played in organized teams and clubs. I would suggest most of the hours were spent outside clubs. In these hours there was no coaching, skills and tactics were learned through necessity, leading to individual creativity. If you wanted to beat someone in a 1 v 1 situation you invented a move, a fake, and creative use of the body. Passing and shooting techniques were acquired through hours of play and fun competitions. I remember spending hours competing with some friends trying to hit the cross bar from various distances. We were fit because we ran for hours every day.

At the club level teams practiced once or twice a week and played a game on the weekend. Coaches were volunteers with no formal coaching training or certification, just knowledge of the sport. The main job was to figure out which youngster to put in which position and what formation to use. Then practice revolved around honing specific skills and team play.

Players who were particularly talented were noticed by their coaches who might suggest to try out for the youth team of the nearest professional or semi-professional club. If accepted you worked your way up through the ranks until you were offered a professional contract, somewhere between the age of 18 and 22.

In this environment individuality, toughness, leadership, and creativity was developed in young athletes. What was missing was an overarching concept at the national, regional, local, and team level.

This led to countries with the most all around talented players dominating the world of soccer – Brazil, Italy, Germany, England, Holland, and Argentina.

NOW

As more options became available for youngsters, the street soccer concept began to fade away. Participating in organized team sports through joining clubs often remained as the only pathway to playing soccer.

This meant that much less time was spent with the ball each day and each week. Consequently all the benefits of this eroded – less skills, less creativity, less individuality, less toughness.

The leading soccer nations started to lose their player advantage and the dominance of the leading countries waned. It is no coincidence that the wealthier countries suffered most and the not so wealthy countries, whose families couldn’t afford technology, started to rise. Their children stilled played street soccer. And so African, Eastern European, Asian, and generally smaller nations started to become competitive.

This did not go unnoticed by the likes of Italy, Germany, Holland, etc. So they developed new visions and strategies. This gave birth to so called centres of excellence or academies, often mandated to be associated with professional clubs.

Today it often looks like this:

  • Nations have an overarching soccer vision and philosophy
  • Training books, coaching courses, practice plans are developed to implement the vision
  • Coaches are trained and paid to deliver the programs
  • Large soccer centers are built including:
    • Residences for players
    • Schools
    • Indoor/Outdoor fields
    • Rehabilitation Centers
    • Transportation
    • Full time employees
  • National/regional scouting programs scout suitable candidates to entice them to join a center, often at the ages of 10 and up.

This means that children are recipients of a huge service machinery. Everything they need to develop soccer skills, tactics, fitness is planned for them, standardized across a nation. Schooling is looked after until graduation and career development options for the post professional years are offered. No surprise, player agents have an easier time as they know where to find talent. Kids are signed to management contracts with agents at ever earlier ages and professional contracts are offered in parallel. Players transfer between teams at ever younger ages for ever larger sums, they become investments in addition to means of building competitive teams.

It is a valid response in the competition for children’s time, it is a way of engaging them.

The positive results are that the pendulum is swinging back and sufficient young soccer players are spending lots of time with the ball. The leading countries are producing talent again and are slowly regaining their dominance on the world stage. Emerging soccer powers such as the United States, Canada (women), Iceland, Belgium have adopted the academy concept and are starting to catch up. Also it is a good thing to have an overarching national vision for how to best play the sport in a particular country. An analogy from business. Decades ago companies competed against each other, now global supply chains compete against each other. Decades ago soccer players competed against each other in club and national competitions. Now soccer philosophies compete.

On the down side this system leaves a lot of disillusioned young adults behind  – most of the academy residents do not become professionals, yet their expectations were higher than those of the street soccer kids of days past. Individualism has been replaced by standardization leading to a certain lack of individual leaders and characters on the field. Like in the rest of society, the ability to use elbows has been replaced by a certain degree of pampering.

WHERE TO?

I believe in the current system of soccer centers and academies driven by overarching visions, philosophies, and implemented by trained coaches. What is needed is to build elements of street soccer into these centers and into clubs to foster, encourage, and promote individuality. Not everything has to come via the cookie cutter method and strict application of prescribed programs and codes of conduct. The clubs and nations that will succeed in the next decades will be the ones that learn how to integrate the concepts of standardization and individualism.

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Soccer Drill Unpacked – Transition Play #1

This article presents a soccer drill from one of our soccer practice books and unpacks the player and team development principles embedded in the drill. All drills in each of our books are assembled into practice plans to ensure that each practice offers the proper balance between the four pillars of soccer:

Technical Skills – Tactics – Physical Fitness – Mental Fitness

It is this balance, practiced over a season, that has led the tens of thousands of coaches who own our books to improve the performance and social environment of their teams.

We will give you a download link to the soccer drill PDF page, a link to the book that contains the drill, and then explain the four pillars of soccer using a soccer drill player development profile chart.

Competitive Pro Soccer Drill

Download the drill here: Competitive Pro Transition Drill #1

From our book: Competitive Pro – Fast Break

Soccer Drill Profile:

comp-pro-tr1-profile

The profile indicates that the emphasis of this soccer drill is on tactics,mental training and physical fitness.

Set Up:

Three groups of four are on a field twice the size of the penalty box, playing a 4 v 4 small sided game. One team is on the attack, one defends a goal, and the third is ready to defend the opposite goal.

Possession changes to the defending team if they win the ball (including goalkeeper) or the ball goes out of play. Plenty of balls should be distributed around the field for quick restarts. Restarts from the sideline are quick throw ins. If the ball goes out of bounds over the goal line the keeper rolls or throws the ball in quickly. No goal kicks.

The off-side rule does not apply.

The goal is to transition from defense to attack as quickly as possible once possession of the ball is obtained. At the same time getting ready quickly to defend after losing possession is critical.

Technical Skills:

Since this drill is geared towards competitive or professional teams it is assumed that the players possess all skills required to execute the drill. Two touch passing (i.e. touch 1 receiving – turning – touch 2 passing), ball receiving, shooting, etc. will be required and reinforced at high speeds. The small size of the field adds complexity and challenges ball control abilities. This drill is not intended to teach or train basic skills.

Tactics:

Due to the small field this soccer drill offers many opportunities to practice transitioning from defense to offense and vice versa. Also, a shot on goal is possible from virtually anywhere on the field.

Attacking Team:

Playing a possession game to set up the perfect scoring chance near the goal is not desirable. Rather, after gaining possession, the following plays should occur with no more than three passes/plays. This adds tremendous speed to this exercise and reduces the idle time for the third team waiting on the opposite goal line :

  1. Quick passes to a player moving into position with a direct path for a shot on target.
  2. A quick pass to a player running down a wing followed by a one touch cross to the front of the goal. The goal will be attacked by ALL three remaining players.
  3. A give and go to set up a shot or a cross.
  4. A quick overlapping run down the wing followed by a quick cross.

There is no need to switch the point of attack or pass backwards. The space is too limited for these plays and is designed to force quick ball movement.

The attack is over when the defending team gains possession, i.e. they win the ball, the keeper saves it, or it goes out of bounds. The attacking team must immediately sprint off the field and position themselves on the goal line of the goal they just attacked. They need to realize that the team that defended them now attacks the opposite goal and they must not interfere with their transition.

Defending Team

The defending team springs into action from their own goal line as soon as the the team that defended the opposite goal gains possession and attacks. Defenders need to sprint off the goal line and put pressure on the attackers quickly. Remember that the attackers are trying to get to a clear shot on goal with two or three passes. If the defenders are not pressuring quickly then there will be easy shooting opportunities for the attackers.

Basic defending tactics apply. One defender has to challenge the player with the ball while a second defender provides cover, positioned behind the challenger and angled towards the goal. The other two defenders cover the other three attackers in space and close down passing lanes. Once the ball is passed they try to intercept it or at least put pressure on the receiver. As a variation the coach can ask teams to switch between zonal defending and man marking.

Transition

The tricky part of this drill occurs when possession changes. The attacking team that lost possession must retreat to the goal line they just attacked. The team that gained possession must quickly change mindset and switch to attack mode, the team that is waiting on the goal line must sprint out. There should only be a couple of seconds when all three groups are on the field. The team getting off the field should leave the field at the closest exit point and sprint around the outside to the goal line they will defend. Ideally by the time they get there they will be required to break out and pressure the attackers. It might be a bit chaotic at the beginning but usually teams figure out the rhythm of the drill and adjust.

Fitness Training:

This drill has a high component of anaerobic training. Two out of the three teams will have short to medium distance sprints (the team leaving the field and the defending team). The team in possession is also moving constantly but not everyone is sprinting at the same time. This is likely the only period for recovery since they need to sprint off the field and shortly thereafter off the goal line to challenge. If the drill flows well then players will be breathing hard. The coach can stop play every five minutes to give quick feedback and corrections thus providing some additional recovery times. It is up to the coach to determine the speed of the drill and the work/rest ratio.

Mental Fitness:

By the very nature of this soccer drill all seven speeds of soccer come into play.

Perception

The team waiting on the goal line must perceive a change of possession at the other end of the field. The sooner they do, the sooner they will be able to pressure the attackers. The defending team must perceive when one of their players wins the ball or when the ball goes out of bounds so they can attack quickly (including restart plays). The attacking team must perceive when they lose possession so they can get off the field quickly.

Anticipation

The attacking players without the ball must anticipate passes to their feet or into space. The defenders must anticipate the same plays and get ready to react. The team waiting to defend anticipates the exact moment they can leave their positions and challenge.

Decision Making

The obvious but not so simple decisions are for all twelve players to determine when to switch roles – attackers get off the field, defenders to start an attack, and the waiting team to defend. Then regular decision making kicks in. Do I play one or two touches? To whom do I pass? Do I pass to feet or into space (into a run)? Do I shoot (path to goal is available)? Who challenges the ball? Who provides cover? Where do the other defenders position themselves? Who takes the restart play? And so on.

Reaction

Once the decision is made by each and every player they need to react to the actual play that happens. For example an attacker might decide to run down the left wing to receive a pass and cross it. In actual fact the play goes down the opposite wing. The left “winger” now needs to react and curl in towards the net to be able to receive the cross from the other side.

Movement Without Ball

This is critical since the field is small. Attackers can be closed down fairly quickly and hence they must move constantly into open space. For example if an attacker wants to receive the ball down a wing they might first “check in” (this is a fake run) towards the center drawing defenders with them. This might open up space on the wing into which the ball is played and the player checking towards the middle now “checks out” towards the side, receives the ball and crosses it in.

Movement With Ball

These will be very quick and short lived. Most of it should be two touch soccer. Only by exception would there be an occasion to play a 1 v 1, most likely to get by the last defender in the way of a shot or a cross.

Game Action

The entire drill is at game action speed or faster. There won’t even be much time for communication, players will mostly work off visual cues and their own perceptions.

Coaching Tips:

This soccer drill, as is the case with all of our over 500 soccer drills, has coaching points and progression suggestions. The coach might want to think about how to put together the teams. If there are more than 14 players available (12 plus 2 goalies) run the drills on two separate fields, but never less than three players on a team and never more than six. If the math works out to more than four players per team then increase the size of the field. Or consider running the drill as is with 14 players and have additional players working a different drill and rotate them in every five minutes. This might provide another opportunity for resting players.