How to defend like England: space in wide areas
How do your players handle open space on the pitch? This article is part of a series on the defensive tactics of our national teams. This time, we explain how their approach can help you prepare your players to defend the space in wide areas.
You’re pressing the opposition. Suddenly, they find space to switch play to the other side of the pitch. They've got room to run.
Do you remain compact at the back? This limits the space in behind your defence but gives them more freedom out wide. Or do you close them down? That risks you being open at the back.
It’s a tough choice.
Pressing, which is key to England’s philosophy, always includes a level of risk. No matter how you do it, when your team moves up the pitch, space will be created somewhere. If your response is to stay compact, these pockets often appear in wide areas.
What’s the best defensive tactic when space opens up?
Don’t stay narrow and let the opposition do exactly what they want on the wings.
Instead, in the moment they break, you want to force them wide to delay and deny them the chance to play through your defence. A recovering player can then apply some pressure out wide.
That’s what the England teams do when out of possession.
The defensive skills required
To make the most of this tactic, players need the skills to:
- defend central and wide areas
- defend 1v1
- deal with large spaces in behind their defensive line.
As a coach, you can’t click your fingers and expect your players to know what to do. Whatever their age, they need lots of practice and experience in game-related activities.