Defending Deep to Counter Attack

By Sean Pearson

Area Size: 30 x 45 yards

Teams: 6 v 6

Time: 15 Minutes


  • To transition from defending to attacking with speed
  • Use the overload of 3v2 to manipulate the defense

After defending deep and stopping penetrations it is important for the team to capitalize on the space in front of them via a counter attack. Due to the opposition being spread out to beat the compactness out wide, when you win possession your front 3 have to spring into life and transition with speed to attack.

When the ball is won in the center of the field the players need to look at the positioning of the CB’s. Usually they will be spread out. Both wide midfielders need to sprint into space ahead of them, one will be to the outside the other will be through the gap between the CB’s. At the same time the striker drives towards the closest CB to draw them in.


A) As the CB commits, the ball is played into the space ahead of the midfielder in the center to run on to, they then have the chance to finish 1v1 against the GK. The other midfielder runs towards the goal in case of a rebound.Defending Deep to Counter (1)

B) Instead of using the center this time the pass is made to the outside. The midfielder drives towards the goal, drawing the GK towards the front post. The midfielder passes across the goal to the other midfielder who has carried on their run.

Defending Deep to Counter (2)

If the defending team win the ball out wide there is a large amount of space already in front of them. If the wide midfielder is fast and can look to beat the CB round the outside then encourage them to do so, especially if the CB they are against is not able to match their speed. Again after they beat the CB look to draw the GK over to the front post and slide the ball across for a tap in.

Defending Deep to Counter (3)

Alternatively, if the CB gets across quickly, is as fast as the midfielder or is a tough opponent, use the 3v2 to your advantage.

  1. Play a give and go around the CB, because there is now space behind them.
  2. Depending on the positioning of the second CB, especially if you have played the give and go before, the striker should play a one-time pass into the space for the other wide midfielder.

Defending Deep to Counter (4)

Coaching Points

  • Transition with speed into the space ahead of you
  • Draw defenders into positions that exploit your 3v2 advantage
  • Make quick decisions


  • Say 3, 4 or all 5 outfield players must be in opponent’s half for a goal to be allowed
  • To work on 1v1 dribbling force players to take on a defender in order to shoot

By Sean Pearson.  Sean is also the author Coaching Team Shape in the 3-3-1, Coaching Team Shape in the 4-2-3-1  and Coaching Team Shape in the 4-3-3

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