Defending is an art form and easily overlooked when the focus in youth development can often be around exciting, attacking play. PDP Technical Advisor & UEFA A licensed coach, Dan Wright shares a session on defending around the box.

The main aims of this session are:

– Lots of repetition of the key principles of delay, deny and deflect
– Progressing from defending 1 v 1 to defending as a unit
– Repetition of blocks, headers and clearances
– Developing the decision-making of the key principles to link to the game



To start I marked three corridors, approximately 3m wide. One either side of the box (YELLOWS) and one across the edge of the box (ORANGE).

The practice is very simple, the feeder (F) feeds the ball to the attacker in the corridor, the attack must receive and play in the corridor and look to beat the defender. In wide areas the YELLOW player looks to twist and jink to deliver a cross and in central areas the ORANGE players tries to find space to shift and shoot at goal.

Its a much better practice when the attacker is RECEIVING the ball and not just starting with the ball. Part of great defending is positioning, if the winger or striker starts with the ball you remove the skill of reading and anticipating, you may never get to ‘delay’ as the attacker is gone! Have a feeder pass the ball into the attacker and the defender has to move his feet and adjust to what the attacker does quickly.


The full back must get into line and deny a cross

The defenders can not tackle here nor can they enter the corridor, the aim is to practice getting into line with the ball. I found this really useful and actually developed better defending, players couldn’t dive in they had to think about how they would stop the attacker. This will lead to less fouls and penalties being conceded and will be of great benefit as the session progresses.

You can then discuss the key principles;

DELAY – can you get up to the ball / in line with the ball and slow the attacker down. Stop them achieving their aim (shot or cross).

DEFLECT – encourage defenders to block attempts from the attacker and praise bravery. Good attackers will fake and shift the ball as defenders turn their backs or over commit.

THINK – what are the attributes of the player? Left/ right foot? Pace? trickery? How will that alter your decision?

In central areas the Central defender must be cautious of showing inside.




To increase the realism I moved to a back four, so now all the PINK players defend together. The two strikers (ORANGE 9 and 10) come in to the box and the other player play as wingers (YELLOW).

The practice still starts in a similar way, players receiving the ball in the corridor but now all players can play free.


Attacker receives centrally. Who engages? Who covers? Show him where?


Winger receives and crosses. How do we defend?


Attacker receives in the box. How do you defend? Who covers?


Winger beats the full back, who covers? How?


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