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Scanning informs decision-making, and it's something players must do throughout the game. Getting your head up and taking in your surroundings is essential to pressing in football. Your players need to look for:  

  • where opponents are 

  • where teammates are 

  • where the ball might go

  • any triggers that could initiate a press, like a loose pass or touch.  

After taking this information in, players can anticipate when to press – and position themselves accordingly. They can also encourage teammates to do the same.  

To develop scanning skills, challenge your players to look around before setting off to close someone down. You can also encourage them to play 'like meerkats'. Using this playful prompt is effective, especially for young players. It promotes the idea of raising your head and looking around without stopping the activity to go into more detail.  


The timing of a press is vital. Ultimately players will be unsuccessful if they press at the wrong time.  

If possible, the best approach is to press quickly after losing possession. This prevents the opposition from initiating their own attack. But if a player sets off too early, the team could be exposed at the back, allowing the opponent to skip past. If they're too late, the opposition will have time to decide exactly where to move the ball.  

To ensure players get their timing right, simply allow them lots of opportunities to try the activity you're working on. By having more attempts at the practice – rather than swiftly moving on or trying it just once – they'll deepen their understanding of the task and improve their timing.  

To succeed in football, you must master a wide range of fundamental movements. In terms of pressing, it's essential to accelerate, decelerate and change direction quickly. These movements allow players to press with varying speed and intensity. They also help players to reposition themselves if they decide to drop off, or their opponent has passed the ball to someone else.  

Unsure how to help players develop these movements? Try using tag games in your sessions. They're fun and will improve players' agility, balance and coordination – essential skills for pressing in football.  


This is very important. A player's position determines whether there's an opportunity for them to engage with their opponent – or support a teammate. It also influences how their opponent reacts.  

For example, if a player is the nearest to the ball and presses, they force their opponent to respond quickly – which could prompt a mistake. On the flip side, if the defender's not close enough – or decides not to press – they allow their opponent plenty of space and time to move the ball forward.  

When pressing in football, ideally the whole team need strong positioning skills. Support from surrounding teammates helps to ensure attempts to press are not made in isolation. As a result, maintaining a compact shape behind the ball is crucial.  

To help players work on their positioning, split your pitch into five zones. Once the game begins, ask your team to look around and think about how they can help their teammates to press by occupying certain zones. After a while, if players need a little help, encourage them to go into a particular zone. Then, get them to try to move together as a unit.  

It's important to be able to press in different ways. A lack of variety can make your presses predictable, making it easier for the other side to react effectively.  

This is where deception comes in. If your players can disguise their intentions or mix up their pressing approach, they can engage with their opponent when they're least expecting it.  

To do this, play games where there are a lot of problem-solving opportunities and where there's more than one way to complete the challenge. Games like tag and Wembley singles or doubles are great as there's lots of transition and turnover. This will encourage players to develop their deception skills on and off the ball. It will also allow them to start predicting the actions of their opponents.  


Last but not least: developing good techniques. It's the final piece of the puzzle.  

When pressing in football, players need to quickly adjust their position as they get closer to the ball. Tweaking the angle of their body – and how tight they get – can limit their opponents' options and dictate play. This could result in the other side having to play the ball backwards or kick it long. It could even force them into a certain area of the pitch, such as out wide and away from goal.  

Just like with timing, you can develop your players' technique through repetition of the task. The more opportunity they get to explore pressing, the more chance they have of developing their technique. If you also make your activities reflect the actual game (I.e. realistic and relatable), then you're on to a winner. 


Putting it together

To master the skill of pressing, players need to be efficient in each of the six areas. If you haven't already, take a look at the video above to see what this looks like in a real game. 


Do you have what it takes to coach pressing in football? Take the quiz:

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