Flat Back - Individual - Recovery
Adequate pressure on the ball and recovery of supporting defenders is a key to any defensive system, especially in a flat back. It is important that the recovery is with urgency and situation awareness. A recovering defender must get back to stop the ball, support the defender on ball,mark attackers in dangerous positions or support another supporting defender.
In the following description, assume the scenario of the ball penetration being down the side. Later, penetration down the middle will be discussed briefly.
The initial steps of a recovery run in many cases should be towards to the goal post nearest the player. As the defender recovers near post, he assesses the situation and starts to curve his run out when he feels he can get between the attacker and the goal. If he starts his run towards the attacker, the attacker may be able to angle towards the near post before the defender can get there. By starting towards the near post first, the defender should be able to keep the attacker wide of the goal (assuming the attacker is breaking down the center). The key time where a defender can start moving out off the near post run is when the defender is even or past the attacker. Here, speed of the attacker plays a role. A slower defender will want to continue recovering towards the near post until he is sure he can get between the attacker and the goal.
Central defenders that are not recovering to ball want to recover towards the middle of the goal. They want to move out towards the ball and the first defender as they go past the first defender. It is important the recovering second defender look for other attackers that are moving into dangerous positions. The second defender should look for a position that will give support to the first attacker and a marking presence on the other attacker(s).
The third recovering defender moves into support position to support the
second defender. At this point the third defender could take on the marking responsibilities of the second defender and allow the second defender to be in better (closer) position to support the first defender. This third defender may have recovered to the middle of the goal or to the far post, depending upon how quickly the second defender recovered or where the off-ball attackers were going.
In a flat back, the third and fourth back defenders shift towards the ball align themselves with the depth of the second attacker. Their key roles are to keep the defense compressed by not getting deeper than the second defender, provide near ball coverage by shifting over towards ball, stopping any balls played behind the second defender and marking or staying aware of any off ball attackers.
Attackers that penetrate down the middle require the defenders to recover towards the center of the goal. It is very important for second defenders (one on each side of the ball) to stay fairly compact (3-5 yards wide of and behind the first defender). Again, this compactness may have to compromised to mark a near attacker. The defenders wide of the second defenders need to be compact as well and to pick up the marking responsibilities on attackers. The defense wants to provide a barrier across the danger zone in front of the goal, not allowing the ball to penetrate any gaps and force the ball to be played square and wide.
Recovery of the first defender can be practiced by setting up a 10 yard channel near a touch line from the goalline out. A ball is played down the touchline for a wide attacker to run onto. A defender is positioned near but inside the attacker. The defender must recover and keep the attacker wide as the attacker tries to take the ball across the inside channel line. The defender's initial recovery angle and then the angle of closing down the ball are watched. If the defender does not recover to the inside, the attacker may be able to get in front. If the defender does not close down at a good angle or is still running, the attacker may be able to cut back behind the defender. The defender should be in a balanced close down position (see prior post on close down) to contain the attacker.
A gate near the goalline can be created on the inner channel line for attackers that can get the goalline and cross the ball. The defender now must stop the attacker from cutting to the center, but stop the cross of any attacker that can get to the goalline. The starting position of the defender can be changed to get the desired results. Defenders with great speed will need to be shown the need to recover to the inside first, as their tendency is to run down the ball.
The exercise can then be changed by removing the channel and letting the first attacker try to go on goal against a recovering defender, starting from the halfway. A second defender is added near the center circle to provide recovering support. A second attacker is added for the second defender to mark. A third defender is added and later a third attacker. A fourth defender could be added if the exercise is allowed to progress this far. When the third defender is added, the coach may want to start developing at this time the positioning of the defenders in the flat back system.
Flat Back - Individual - Double Team
Without question, the double team is one of the least trained of the defensive techniques; however, it can easily be incorporated into warm-up or individual defensive exercises. The double team is a key element that takes a defensive system, especially zone or a flat back to the next level. The problem with the double team is that to do it correctly requires teamwork and timing.
There are a couple of ways to effect a double team. One is for a defender to close down and pressure the ball, as the second defender comes in late, usually from behind. In this method, the first defender usually dictates the opportunity by stopping and containing the ball. The second defender moves in and is often the aggressor in trying to strip the ball from the attacker as the first defender continues to contain.
The second method is the timed concurrent close down of both defenders. Often, this type of double team occurs close to the touch line where the attacker can be lured into a false sense of space and time as the defenders are some distance away. The close down is performed quickly and at the same time by both defenders. Almost always the other defender comes from the side or "square" of the attacker.
The first order of business in the timed double team is to make sure the attacker cannot split the defenders or go forward. The "downfield" defender must take away the touchline drive as the "square" defender ensures the attacker cannot go between the defenders. The defenders should be less concerned about winning the ball and focus on their defensive positioning.
When next to the touchline (or goalline), the defenders should "allow" the attacker to lose the ball instead of the defender taking the ball. It does no good to kick the ball out of play and give the possession back to the attacker.
Communication is important, but with training and experience, defenders can recognize and react without verbal or visual signals. In the delayed double team, once the defender feels he has the attacker under control, he can raise a hand or say "Double!" This would be a signal for the closest square of trailing defender to move in for the double team.
In the case of a timed double team, the "in charge" defender should be the one that controls the penetration paths the attacker can take. He is the one that dictates when the close down takes places. Generally, he is the one that calls for his partner to get closer. Communication talk could be something like this, "Take square! With me! With me! Close! Close!"
As added defensive protection, especially in a timed double team, a third defender should move into the path between the double teaming defenders. A good support distance would be 10-15 yards depending upon the positioning of the support attackers. The third defender should look to intercept any passes played between the double team.
The timed double team can be trained in the warm-up dribbling game of Knock-out. The setup is a rectangle marked area such as 20x12, depending upon number of players, age and skill level. 8 to 15 players could work in this area. Two defensive players are identified and the other players dribble. Have the dribblers score points by dribbling from one goalline to the other. The defenders are to identify a dribbler, force the dribbler to a side line and "steal" the ball via a double team. Attackers can retrieve balls knocked out of play by the defense and start again. The defenders can compete for the quickest "knock-out" of all players or for the lowest attacker score.
The coach should watch for and discourage "individual" defensive play, as the defenders should work together to "lock" an attacker in. Identify the players that take a lead role or work well together--this could help in establishing player positions in games.
A good exercise to develop the delayed double team is a 1v1+1 setup. Practice along and close to a touchline. D1 plays a ball to A1 and closes down. D2 who starts 10 yards behind A1 and doesn't move until A1 touches the ball or until D1 communicates control.
The coach should look for a good recovery angle to come in from the side to keep A1 from cutting into the middle.
Often, the defense will have the extra numbers around the ball to make double teaming a possibility and can provide their team with the opportunity for great counter attack situations.