At  most  times  the ball must be put under some kind of pressure. Low  pressure is  where  the  defender is a short but definitive distance from the ball. In low pressure situations, the defender and the defensive system wants to guide the ball into  preferred areas  or  the  defense just wants to prevent penetration by the attack. Low  pressure defenses only want to give up low percentage chances  to  the attack, putting many  players  around  the  ball  and  staying compact in the central defensive end.
  With  high  pressure  defenses, the  ball  is  closed  down  quickly  and  tightly. This  requires a  high work rate by the defender, but the pressure is likely to cause mistakes and loss of possession by the attack.
  In either case, the first  defender or the one most  responsible  for  the  man  with  the ball must know  how to close down  on  the  ball. The  close  down  is  a  method  that  brings  the  defender  to  proper  distance  from  the attacker, be it 5 yards or one foot.
  The  close  down  starts  when  a  ball is passed to an attacker. When the ball is in flight, the defender uses this time to sprint towards the receiving attacker. This  is  the  critical  time  in a close down as it is the best time to gobble up ground between  the  defender  and  the  attacker.  All too often, the defender does not react soon enough and gives the attacker great space to receive and decide what the next play will be.
  Just before  the  receiver  is to touch the ball, the  defender  must  stop the  sprint and go into a balanced state, being ready  to react in any direction. The closer to the attacker, the more critical being on balance becomes. It is when the defender is in motion that the attacker can use the defender's momentum to beat him. The  defender must first stop, then  change  directions. Often in a directional change, the  player  is  again  off  balance  and  can  be beat again. An on balanced  player  can  react quickly the first time in such a manner that he is still on balance for the next reaction.
  To go on balance requires the player to  suspend  movement, with  feet a comfortable distance apart. The body may be turned slightly facing the ball and the direction the player wants the attacker to go.
   After the touch is made, the defender  uses  the  time  before  the  next  touch to close down more space. If the touch stays close to the attacker, the defender  should  go  into a sideways-on (or side-on) stance and take short steps or hops to get closer to the attacker. The defender should stay as balanced as  possible  with  any  leanings away from attacker back towards  the  defended  goal. The defender  must  not  allow  the  attacker  to  get past or behind him, and that is why the defender should be ready to react quickly going backwards as he shuffles forward towards the ball. The reason he  needs to be side-on is to be in a better position to go back.
  1v1 exercises are best for teaching close down. Either the defender serves the ball to an attacker and  closes down or a third player serves the ball. It is critical that the ball is served from different angles and from  different  distances to train the defender properly. The defender should start from different distances from the attacker as well.
  Defenders  that  are  beat  by  the attacker on the first or second touch are not on balance. Defenders that are not tight enough  initially  may  not  be  working  hard  enough  on  the  initial  pass. Defenders  that  stay wel off the attacker after reception are not closing down properly.


One  of  the  first  mandates  of  a  coach  to  his  players  in  a  flat  back  defense
( any defense really )  is  to  " get behind the ball."

Defensive support has three main functions: 
                     support the first defender on ball
                    * mark or be able to close down the support attacker(s)
                    * stop the through ball behind the defense
  The  supporting  position on the ball  should be the first priority. The defender  must  be  positioned  to  take  over  as the  first  defender if the attacker  gets  past the initial defender. This positioning  should not be too close, as  the attacker will probably be moving at speed if he beat the first defender. On the otherhand, the  support defender should not be too far from the ball and give  the attacker  too  much  space and time before he comes under pressure again. The closer the ball  is  to  the  goal, the closer  the  defender  should  be in support; however, the more angled  the  ball  is  to  the  goal (i.e., wide of the goal, but close to the goalline), the  more  distance (vertical) and  the  flatter (horizontal) the  supporting defender can be in relation to the ball.
  3-7 yards  can  be used as a base vertical distance  (also called depth). If  the  skill  and  speed  of  attacking  players is  considered  greater  than  that of the  defenders, the more depth a supporting defender may need. The depth could be extended  to  as  much  as  10 yards, the  closer  the  ball is to the halfway. If  the  ball  is  being  marked and  supported by  the  midfielders, the backs may want to be 10-15 yards in support of the supporting defenders. This is another element in support defense that we will skip over for the time being.
  A  good  starting  point  rule  of  thumb on support angle and depth for the closest support defender may be to draw a line from the far post to the ball. The support defender should be somewhere along this line. This  line  puts the defender in good position to deter or prevent through balls. The problem with this method is when the ball  is  in  the  center of the field. The horizontal support angle of the far post line may be a little too vertical for a supporting defender.
  The support  position  is  next  dictated  by  the support  attacker. The wider  the  attacker, the  further away laterally, the support  defender may want to play. The further away from the ball the attacker is, the further away from the  support attacker  the  supporting  defender can play  (if the attacker is outside of the penalty area). The more  dangerous position an attacker is in  (such as a run on goal), the support defender must provide more attention,  both visually and physically.
  A distance  halfway  between  the  two  attackers  is  a  good  starting  point  if the attackers are square. If the second attacker is forward, the defender must give him attention and play tighter. Here  the  through ball between the defenders is a real concern  as  the  defender  will  not  have  a  distance  advantage  on  the  attacker  if  there  is  a  run  on  goal.

© 2005-2008. Barrie Spirit Soccer
Flat  Back  Four  -  Support
We would like to thank Ken and for allowing us to publish this article by Gary Rue on the Barrie Spirit 'Soccer website..