The difference between winning and losing in modern football is finer than ever. Not only are the defensive players expected to help out when attacking, they also take the blame when the opposition scores. You may have experienced your manager say something like they “expect the team to defend as a unit” or “if the opposition don’t score, they can’t win the game”. But in the real world, what does that actually mean? Basically, the better teams get at scoring goals, the better you need to be to prevent them.
Step 1 - Winning the first duel
Psychology plays a huge part in football and there’s nothing better than showing the opposition that you have them in your pocket - putting a little doubt in their mind about their own ability to beat you is key. You’ll lower their confidence a little bit every time they come near you with the ball, and this could be the difference between winning and losing.
Step 2 - Focus
“Keep your eyes on the ball!” I still hear my father screaming from the touchline ringing in my ears, long after I’ve retired from playing. The attacker will try to put you off with their footwork - the moment they think you aren’t watching the ball, will be the moment they beat you and put in the cross or shoot at goal. Keep your eyes open and stay focused, and you will be rewarded with an opportunity to take the ball.
Step 3 - Position
Body position is important. You need to be able to react quickly in any situation. In the video, you’ll see Timo bends his knees and is turned at an almost 45 degree angle to the attacker. This will lower his centre of gravity and allow him to stay balanced, as well as allowing him to react as quickly as possible to Jay’s movement. He stands at an angle to force the attacker down the wing. Timo is showing the attacking player exactly where he wants him to go - he’s in control of the opponent.
Step 4 - Play to their weaknesses
Your ability to identify the type of player you’re up against, and then react accordingly is what puts you one step ahead of the attacker. If you’re playing against someone with a lot of pace, stand a yard or two back from them and use all of the techniques above - if they try to run past you, you’re likely to reach the ball first. If the attacker is more of a skill player, again use the techniques above and stay focused - wait for them to make a mistake and then take the ball away from them.
So that was 4 steps on how to become a better defender. I hope you enjoyed reading this blog, it’s relevant no matter what position you play, so I hope you can use some of these tips in your next match.
Below you can see a video we recently posted about how to defend better, featuring our very own defensive master Timo “man mountain” and Monaco enforcer Djibril Sidibe, and I’ve taken some of the learning from the video to try to help you improve when the other team are in possession of the ball. Enjoy!
Stay tuned for more ‘How-To’ blogs in the coming weeks for more awesome #Unisportlife content.