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2v2 Defending: Pressure and Cover
The 2v2 situation is the smallest form of teamwork in the game of soccer, but remains
one of the most important situations for a player to master no matter what their level of
play. A coach must recognize that defensive success is first and foremost based on
quality 1 vs. 1 defending. Getting pressure on the player with the ball is vital if the rest
of the team is to carry out their defensive responsibilities. Only when this pressure takes
place can the remainder of the players get “compact” and take away space from the
attacking team. Assuming that proper pressure to the ball is exhibited, now the role,
responsibilities and positioning of the 2nd
defender becomes important.
Considerations for the 2nd
defender:
• The 2nd
defender or “covering defender” should position himself in a way that he
can pressure the ball if the 1st
defender is beaten on the dribble, but remain in a
position that he can “close the space” on the 2nd
attacker if the player on the ball
chooses to pass.
• The 2nd
defender must communicate with the player pressuring the ball (the 1st
defender). Simple and concise instruction is vital! Force right, Force left,
Contain are all good examples of communication from the 2nd
defender.
• The distance between the 1st
and 2nd
defender is of the utmost importance. The
2nd
defender mustn’t get too close to the 1st
defender. He should never position
himself in a way that the 1st
attacker can beat both the 1st
and 2nd
defender in the
same movement. However the 2nd
defender must not be too far away from the 1st
defender. This will leave the 1st
defender isolated and actually create a 1v1
situation.
• The 1st
and 2nd
defenders must be prepared to reverse roles regularly when the ball
is passed. It is important that both players are on the same page of when to
reverse roles and don’t get caught chasing the ball.
The roles and understanding of the 1st
and 2nd
defenders responsibilities can only become
cohesive through repetition. The best way to provide these opportunities is through small
sided games where players are constantly confronted with opportunities to be the 1st
defender (pressuring) and 2nd
defender (covering).
Below we’ll look at a few visuals of incorrect and correct positioning between the 1st
and
2nd
attacker. I have chosen to keep the visuals in a 2v2 setting to simplify the concepts,
but the same principles apply all the way up to the 11 v11 game.
Incorrect positioning of the 2nd
defender:
In the picture above you see a common mistake made by the 2nd
defender. When the 2nd
defender gets too tight to the 2nd
attacker (supporting the 1st
attacker) he provides no
cover to the 1st
defender. This creates a 1v1 situation which is a favorable situation for
the attacking team. In the picture below you see a much better positioning of the 2nd
defender. By being “pinched in” and slightly deeper than the 1st
defender the 2nd
defender protects the 1st
defender if he is beaten in the 1v1 challenge, can communicate
with the 1st
defender, and remains in a position that he can pressure the 2nd
attacker if he
is to receive a pass.
Changing of defensive roles:
As stated earlier, the 1st
and 2nd
defenders must be prepared to reverse roles when the ball
is passed. It is important that both players are on the same page of when to reverse roles
and don’t get caught chasing the ball. The key to this situation is that the defenders
change roles as the ball is traveling. As the 1st
attacker passes the ball to the 2nd
attacker,
the 2nd
defender must quickly close the space on the player receiving the ball eliminating
the option to penetrate. The original 1st
defender must now “pinch in” and “drop off”
into a covering position and fulfill the role of the 2nd
defender. New proper defensive
positions pictured below.
Summary:
As you can see the cooperation between the 1st
defender and 2nd
defender is vital to the
success of team defending. If we do a poor job of applying pressure to the ball and
“cover” for the player doing so, the whole defensive system will suffer. It is very
important that we spend time teaching each player the principles of both individual
defending and small group defending. The 2v2 confrontation offers players to learn the
most basic concepts of teamwork with continuous opportunities to experience the roles of
both the 1st
and 2nd
defender. Once players are comfortable recognizing proper
positioning in this format a coach should progress to 3v3 or 4v4 games where the same
principles apply, but may be more difficult for the players to recognize.
Note: It can be helpful to apply the offside rule when teaching defensive concepts. This
will prevent the defender from unnecessarily chasing an attacker when he runs into a
deep offside position. However the concepts of pressure and cover should remain the top
priority, it shouldn’t be a time to teach an offside trap.

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2v2 defending pressure cover

  • 1. 2v2 Defending: Pressure and Cover The 2v2 situation is the smallest form of teamwork in the game of soccer, but remains one of the most important situations for a player to master no matter what their level of play. A coach must recognize that defensive success is first and foremost based on quality 1 vs. 1 defending. Getting pressure on the player with the ball is vital if the rest of the team is to carry out their defensive responsibilities. Only when this pressure takes place can the remainder of the players get “compact” and take away space from the attacking team. Assuming that proper pressure to the ball is exhibited, now the role, responsibilities and positioning of the 2nd defender becomes important. Considerations for the 2nd defender: • The 2nd defender or “covering defender” should position himself in a way that he can pressure the ball if the 1st defender is beaten on the dribble, but remain in a position that he can “close the space” on the 2nd attacker if the player on the ball chooses to pass. • The 2nd defender must communicate with the player pressuring the ball (the 1st defender). Simple and concise instruction is vital! Force right, Force left, Contain are all good examples of communication from the 2nd defender. • The distance between the 1st and 2nd defender is of the utmost importance. The 2nd defender mustn’t get too close to the 1st defender. He should never position himself in a way that the 1st attacker can beat both the 1st and 2nd defender in the same movement. However the 2nd defender must not be too far away from the 1st defender. This will leave the 1st defender isolated and actually create a 1v1 situation. • The 1st and 2nd defenders must be prepared to reverse roles regularly when the ball is passed. It is important that both players are on the same page of when to reverse roles and don’t get caught chasing the ball. The roles and understanding of the 1st and 2nd defenders responsibilities can only become cohesive through repetition. The best way to provide these opportunities is through small sided games where players are constantly confronted with opportunities to be the 1st defender (pressuring) and 2nd defender (covering). Below we’ll look at a few visuals of incorrect and correct positioning between the 1st and 2nd attacker. I have chosen to keep the visuals in a 2v2 setting to simplify the concepts, but the same principles apply all the way up to the 11 v11 game.
  • 2. Incorrect positioning of the 2nd defender: In the picture above you see a common mistake made by the 2nd defender. When the 2nd defender gets too tight to the 2nd attacker (supporting the 1st attacker) he provides no cover to the 1st defender. This creates a 1v1 situation which is a favorable situation for the attacking team. In the picture below you see a much better positioning of the 2nd defender. By being “pinched in” and slightly deeper than the 1st defender the 2nd defender protects the 1st defender if he is beaten in the 1v1 challenge, can communicate with the 1st defender, and remains in a position that he can pressure the 2nd attacker if he is to receive a pass.
  • 3. Changing of defensive roles: As stated earlier, the 1st and 2nd defenders must be prepared to reverse roles when the ball is passed. It is important that both players are on the same page of when to reverse roles and don’t get caught chasing the ball. The key to this situation is that the defenders change roles as the ball is traveling. As the 1st attacker passes the ball to the 2nd attacker, the 2nd defender must quickly close the space on the player receiving the ball eliminating the option to penetrate. The original 1st defender must now “pinch in” and “drop off” into a covering position and fulfill the role of the 2nd defender. New proper defensive positions pictured below.
  • 4. Summary: As you can see the cooperation between the 1st defender and 2nd defender is vital to the success of team defending. If we do a poor job of applying pressure to the ball and “cover” for the player doing so, the whole defensive system will suffer. It is very important that we spend time teaching each player the principles of both individual defending and small group defending. The 2v2 confrontation offers players to learn the most basic concepts of teamwork with continuous opportunities to experience the roles of both the 1st and 2nd defender. Once players are comfortable recognizing proper positioning in this format a coach should progress to 3v3 or 4v4 games where the same principles apply, but may be more difficult for the players to recognize. Note: It can be helpful to apply the offside rule when teaching defensive concepts. This will prevent the defender from unnecessarily chasing an attacker when he runs into a deep offside position. However the concepts of pressure and cover should remain the top priority, it shouldn’t be a time to teach an offside trap.