Let's pick apart that clip to really highlight England’s strategy with defending space in wide areas.
How do England attempt to delay the opposition’s attack?
As England lose possession of the ball on one side of the pitch, the nearest player immediately presses the opposition, in a concept known as counter pressing. This forces the ball to be played backwards – delaying the speed of the attack and allowing time for the Lionesses to recover their shape.
Why would England encourage the ball into wide areas?
In this situation, Germany work the ball out of tight areas and bypass the immediate counter press. For England, the focus switches to assessing how to deal with the switch of play and how to defend the space in wide areas. For instance, who will press the ball? Who will deny the space in behind? Who is responsible for covering areas away from the ball?
How do the players respond to the ball into wide areas?
As the ball goes out wide, England’s left back drops off to protect the space in behind their defensive line. This, along with having a recovering wide player tracking back, forces Germany to carry the ball down the wing – rather than threading it through the defence.
As a result, the attack is slowed, England recover their shape and force a mistake, allowing them to launch a counter attack of their own.
What this means for you
So that’s how our England teams do it, but how could this help your team?
Using this exact strategy might not suit the context you coach in. But you can use parts of it to help develop your players and get them used to counter pressing and defending space in wide areas.
Here are three examples:
- Reward players for winning the ball back as quickly as they can if they lose possession. Transition will naturally happen, so players need to be aware of how a positive mindset can delay opposition attacks.
- Experiment with different pitch shapes and sizes. To encourage switching play, use a pitch that’s short and wide. Space naturally exists within wide areas, so players are more likely to try and exploit this to their advantage. Remember, the pitch needs to be long enough for defenders to practice defending the space in behind as well.
- Use conditions that reward players for displaying the behaviours you want to see. For example, if your team defend using a compact shape, push the opposition into a wide area and then regain possession, award a point. By doing this – what gets rewarded gets repeated.
These tips will help your players develop valuable skills that can be sharpened on the next stage of their journey.
For more defending content like this, take a look at how to defend like England: space in behind.