3v3 Defending: Communication

The principles of defending are applicable right across the pitch, but in front of our team’s own goal they must be employed in an even sharper manner. Practicing within small-sided games is the ideal way to introduce our players to the different situations of 1v1, 2v1, 2v2, 3v2 and 3v3 and the best tactics to deal with them.

3v3 In Front Of Goal

This is the 5th post in a 5-part series on Defending the Goal. You can read part one (1v1 defending) here, read part two (2v1 defending) here, read part three (2v2 defending) here and get part four (3v2 defending) here.

soccer coaching 3v3 defending (a)

Take The 3rd Attacker Out

As we saw when we looked at Man-Marking in a 3v2 situation, a defender can strongly dissuade a pass to their nearest attacker by getting tight to the player, standing goal-side and positioning himself to see the ball and player.

In a 3v3 situation these principles of man-marking still apply. However the third defender should concentrate on marking the third attacker – that is, the attacker furthest from the ball. By marking the third attacker closely the defender eliminates the passing option and the situation effectively becomes a 2v2 attack.

As a result the first defender will know to show away from goal and pressure the ball-carrier along their direct line to goal (A) and the second defender will know to take up a cover position between the first and second attackers.

The roles of each defender are muddied, however, when the ball is played to (or carried by) the attacker in the middle.

soccer coaching 3v3 Defending (b)

Stay Compact

Space is the enemy of defence. Our defender’s jobs will be made much easier when there are smaller gaps between them and therefore it is important that they try to maintain a compact shape.

When the ball-carrier has passing options on either side (C1 and C2 in the diagram above) the nearest defender must still get across the line to goal to block any shots and then pressure the attacker.

The other two defenders should then both take up cover positions, according to the ball-carrier’s direct route (A) and their closest attacker’s line to goal (B1 and B2). Because strong cover is determined by these lines to goal, the defenders will rarely move wider than the posts of their goal. If your players are unsure of their position, getting ‘inside’ the line of the goal is always a good start because this is where the ball is most dangerous.

Faced with such a compact defence the ball-carrier will usually opt to pass to a teammate, at which point the defence can quickly shuffle across and re-organise as the 1st, 2nd and 3rd defender roles will be clearly defined.

Communication, Communication, Communication

Throughout all defensive situations ‘Communication is Key’. Simple instructions from teammates such as, “Paul, close the ball”, “Ben, cover me” or “Andy, take right-winger”, can sort out most problems and give the defence the best possible chance to prevent the attack being effective. However a challenging scenario is presented when the central attacker dribbles past the first defender. We never want two defenders going for the same ball – this almost always leads to neither getting it! – so which of the covering players should challenge?

The best choice will change from second to second as it depends on the position of the supporting attackers, the proximity to goal and the defender’s distance from the ball.

The only way to effectively deal with the danger is for one of the covering defenders to take control of the situation, so as they move across to pressure the ball-carrier they must shout, “I’ve got” or explicitly state “Stay away” to his teammates. These quick instructions not only reveal that this player is going to be the one to press, but also tells the other covering defender to stay with his attacker and tells the beaten defender where to make his recovery run!

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  • Just wanted to add that there are no 'universal' commands that all footballers should know, rather you should develop a series of short and clear instructions for certain actions and then only use these. Using different terms for the same intended actions will confuse players and lead to frustration!
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