From the looks of other threads on this board, this may open a huge can of worms but I’ll give it a go.
What I am looking for is a good formation to use for the 7v7 team of U10 boys that I coach. I realize that some out there are very passionate about this subject and I may get so many different views that I may be no better off than before, but maybe I’ll at least get some ideas to use.
First some background. As I stated this is a boys U10 7v7 league. It is the in-house league so it can be assumed that most of the kids with decent soccer skills are playing in the other league on the travelling team and my kids are somewhat less talented or are beginners. Also, my players were the ‘leftovers’, meaning that most of the other teams had played together before but my team was those that signed up without a team preference and therefore had never played together. My goal is to get them good enough to play on the travelling team some day.
The problem is that in my day, we always played 11v11 on a ‘normal’ sized pitch. Even the younger players. I don’t have any real experience with 7v7 on the smaller field. (note: while the field is smaller, it sure seems to me that the area-per-player seems to actually be larger! This really opens the game up but also means that those few players with very good ball handling skill can (and do) dominate). Last fall was my 1st time coaching and lets just say it was a learning experience. I started off with a basic 3-3 since #1 - this seemed the simplest and #2 the width of the field compared to the length lends itself to at least 3 players on a line if not 4). It was an abysmal failure. The kids played way too flat, especially the defense, and I struggled mightily to teach the concept of positioning ones self to cover in case a fellow defender was beat. But once an opponent dribbled past a defender, too often he could take it straight to the box for a shot on goal. It wasn’t like my defenders stood around and watched but they always seemed to be chasing the play because they couldn’t anticipate and compensate.
After a couple of lopsided losses, we tried a 2-2-2 which was slightly better but what ended up happening was my midfielders would get sucked into the attack and did not get back on defense which lead to even more trouble than before as I now only had 2 defenders back (usually my weakest players) and you can imagine the outcome. Then I moved to a 1-2-2-1. I rotated my ‘thunder-foot’ big kickers in at sweeper and my quickest dribbler at forward. This at least showed some promise and we were usually competitive. We had the lead in several games but inevitably would have a breakdown in coverage and give up an easy goal or two. One problem seemed to be that the new formation has a big hole in the center and while we were able to stop an attack or two, the inability to control the middle of the field, and therefore, switch from defense to attack, meant that my defense was subjected to several waves of attacks. I considered another change to a 1-2-1-2 but I already switched formations and I was reluctant to do so again. I did not to confuse the kids. Maybe I was a little too quick to pull the trigger on switching formations in the first place and they eventually might have picked up the concepts but they were getting discouraged and I could see the huge flaws that presented themselves for each set up.
Now here is my disclaimer. I realize that the problem is not the formation. We need to work on defensive techniques, tackling, positioning, anticipation, and aggressiveness. However, I do not want whatever formation I choose to compound the problem. I need a system that is easy and yet will get the kids in the general area where they should be on the field. Is this possible?
Take a look at the following discussion from the bettersoccermorefun web site:
You've got a Keeper and six field players. I believe the reasonable options are fairly limited, for I believe in meeting certain criteria.
1) It's important to have two players level with each other in the back. If you have one player, a sweeper, in the rear, he'll get pulled to one side and the other side will be open space. Goooaaalll! If you have three players level with each other in the rear, you've committed half of your players there. That's too many. So far, we've ruled out anything that starts with a 1 or a 3. Remaining candidates? 2-3-1, 2-2-2, and 2-1-3.
2) It's important to have as many centrally located players as possible, for they can more easily have an impact on both ends of the field. Rule out the 2-2-2, also known as the spaghetti formation, for this reason. The players inevitably get spread too far apart, like a spaghetti noodle. Rule out a 2-1-3, because the three forwards will occasionally forget to play defense. Goooaalll!
3) It's important to always, always, have unambiguous control of the center. That's another problem with a 2-2-2. It's unclear which of the two halfbacks is to control the middle, and often neither one will. Gooooaaalll!
4) That leaves a 2-3-1 as my personal favorite. Two players level with each other in the back, so they can back each other up. One player smack dab in the middle defensively, creating a nice triangle with the two fullbacks. That player must always be able to slow down the counterattack. The two outside halfbacks can join the attack freely. The defensive triangle will usually slow down the counterattack until those halfbacks get back.
I'd only go to a 1-3-2 if my team was behind in the second half and desperately needed a goal.
I taught recreational u10's last year, and I used a 1-2-1-2 formation. In the beginning I saw alot of huge gaps in the defense, and had to focus alot of our practices on that. I explained to the kids that the stopper was to play the line, that anything that looked like it was going to cross midfield was their responsibility. I had a LB and RB, who played up a little, and depending on where the stopper met the ball, then either the LB or RB would cover. The sweeper was the absolute last line of defense, they were to stay back (mostly) and delay delay delay. I put one of my quickest kids there. I also had my goalie(s) learn that it was ok to come out of the box to defend, to not stand there and wait for the ball. I taught the whole team that when the other team had the ball we were ALL defense, even the forwards, who had gotten the notion before they started my team that their only responsibility was to make goals. The result (though I hadn't planned it that way) is that we were always numbers up defensively, with a quick transition by the forwards who would pursue (pressure) the opponent, zonal defenders, who developed pride in their "spot" and their ability to protect it. Yes, I had to yell out at them sometimes to "cover", but after a few weeks they did it on their own. Alot of praise and encouragement, alot of hard work, alot of coaching on my part till we got it right. It worked for us, we ended the season
10-0, and our last four games were shut outs.
As is often mentioned in similar discussions, I think it depends somewhat on the qualities of your individual players. For example, if I had a great striker or a great CD/Sweeper, I would play them centrally - therefore 1 up front or 1 at the back and take the formation from there.
Last season my team played a U10 7v7 tournament; eventually recognized I had two special players both comfortable as DCM/CM or strikers (well, really good players are good anywhere at this age) and it was soon obvious that the standard formation of a flat 2-2-2 lacked width. We played 2 at the back, our 2 midfielders as wingers who would drop back into defence when the ball was on the opposite side of the field. THe two CM's moved between DCM/CM and striker with the assistance of the wide mids; lots of space for them, midfield dominance, the oppositions 2 defenders couldn't handle these two mids attacking from depth. Unstoppable. So adjust the system to the players.
I like to play with a diamond defense and 2 strikers. You might call this a 1-2-1-2. I call it a 4-2. However what this gives you is 4 layers of players on the field and it also naturally sets up triangles all over the field within this formation. So it would look like this;
left striker right striker
defensive mid / stopper
left fullback right fullback
I tend to put a very good player at the defensive mid / stopper position. Someone who can get up in the play to help the offense but also get back on defense and someone who can do this often. I feel that learning how to play the diamond formation is important for future years whether employed in the back or in the mid (especially in the mid).
doublerunner, do you find that the sweeper sometimes has difficulty covering the width of the field in the back? Aren't there many moments where he's pulled to one side and the other is open? That's why I avoid having one player in the back, although it certainly frees up more players to attack.
Russ, we all have different systems that work for us. I was just offering my opinion to a new coach who was looking for different options. This is why I avoided asking you questions about your system and just let you offer your advice.
But to answer your question the answer is no. That is not the responsibility of the sweeper. The sweeper needs to get wide sometimes to help a back that has been beaten but then again when that happens usually the opponent is going to goal and is not way out near the touch line. Also, my players know how to cover and switch so if the sweeper does get pulled out wide to help we know the far side fullback needs to cover for the sweeper thereby forcing the opponent to have to cross to the far side of the field to find an open player and thereby giving us time to recover. But also all the players can read the play and if we need to get someone else back to help cover the kids usually do a pretty good job of that.
Now I'm getting off topic cause we are supposed to be talking about 7v7 and not 11v11. Still the same principles apply. The hard part with lesser skilled players is getting them to mark space and not drift towards the ball no matter where it is. You can play any formation you want but if your players are not aware of the vulnerable space then they'll get caught every time against the good players.
My suggestion for this team would be to play lots of keepaway in tight spaces. 2v2 and progress to 3v3 and 4v4. Also some 5v2 to diagonal goals and 4 corners
no disrespect intended, doublerunner.
1-2-1-2 is my first vote.
I have played this before YEARS ago when I started coaching rec. It worked well.
I had a sweeper which was taught to "cover" the outside defenders. The outside defenders were allowed to move up to receive passes from the wings.
The center mid moved everywhere.
The two forwards were labeled left and right. I concentrated on teaching them diagnol movements.
my second vote would be 3-2-1 with a zonal back line. If I had to play 7v7 with my existing U10 team, this is my vote.
the defense would be zonal, so the "pressure-cover" aspect of defense is important (outside defenders pressure, center defender cover). Two mids, which I would suggest one plays behind the other to the middle (so if one mid goes wide, second mid plays off the first mid, behind, to the middle).
Getting U10's to play off each other defensively I have found to be easy.
Getting U10's to play off each other offensively I have found to be one of the biggest challenges of coaching this age.
my third vote would be a 2-3-1. This puts lots of pressure on outside mids to play offense and defense. I would start with 3-2-1 and migrate this to a 2-3-1. Change the reponsbilities of positions without suggesting to players their positions changed. If the outside player is "a defender" they will know to get back on instinct. If they are a mid, experience tells me they will not get back as much.
Coach Doublerunner and coachrox have it right, that is the formation I'm using indoor and with that formation you have every space covered.
If in the back you set up a 1-2, you've creating a triangle pointing toward your own goal. According to the triangle theory to which I prescribe, that's the worst case scenario. An opponent can often dribble right up the middle, for it's unclear which of the two defenders of the 2 are to control the middle. When an opponent dribbles in on the player in the back, nobody can back that player up. And if the player in the back is pulled to one side, the other side is open for a moment.
Why does your theory leave out the other players on the team thoughtsoc? If you are referring to the 1-2-1-2, you are missing the central midfielder entirely in your argument. I would prefer my players think of this as a diamond plus 2. Which means, the central midfielder is usually the closest defender in the middle of the field in your example. If the central mid happens to make a run and get caught up on attack, then the nearest player to the ball becomes the pressuring defender. There are times where attacking teams do get caught with numbers down on the counterattack. Here is where you teach your sweeper or the furthest player back to either commit the early foul, or delay the attack until teammates can help.
5v3 in hockey or soccer has more common issues:
if the ball/puck can be forced away from center, then the defense has an advantage.
if the ball/puck is forced to the "corner" always easier to defend as well.
what makes soccer different than hockey (IMO) is more hockey goals will be scored from impossible angles than in soccer. For a 5v3 in soccer we want teams to try a long crossing pass- the keeper becomes a 5th defender and a soccer ball is tougher to control and slower to move than a hockey puck (my opinions). So defense in soccer has time to react to the long pass. In hockey this is tougher on defense (puck is moving faster, smaller and easier to one time before defense arrives)
I agree to point a triangle towards the ball when it is "up top". But the goal in soccer would be to force the ball into a situation where ball is in corner (in hockey, a player can cross behind the net, so even the corners must be guarded, in soccer this is not the case). If a soccer team in a 5v3 played the ball into the corner, I think marking players is more important than the triangle defense- provided player with ball could not have infinite time.
and the most obvious difference between soccer and hockey. In hockey, if the puck is kicked into the goal intentionally it does not count. in soccer I thought that was the whole point?!
Russ- Of course it looks like a triangle with the point toward the ball. It should! But it has nothing to do with the shape of the triangle as it does just playing good team defense. Look at those 3 players and why they are in that shape in a 5v3 counterattack. The first player closest to the ball pressures and directs the player with the ball. The next player closest to the ball is providing support to the pressuring player. I don't want to see and 1v1's on the field! The last player on defense provides balance and is marking the next most dangerous player (or space). These 3 naturally form this triangle you mentioned... but not because it is a triangle, but because it is good defense in that situation.
Now before we get all hung up on the triangle shape, under different conditions these same 3 players may have a different shape. Add more players on defense and perhaps they play in more of a flat 3 zonal arrangement. Here it would look more like a straight line than a triangle. And it can still be considered good defense.
The most important thing here Russ is that we are teaching our players the fundamentals of defense. Teaching them a shape to play on the field does not do this. If they happen to end up in a triangle as a result of playing good defense in certain situations, great.
As many years as you and I have been posting on this forum Russ, I will admit I am at a bit of a disadvantage here. I have not followed your triangle 3 theory or been involved in the discussions. Hopefully I am not misunderstanding what you are saying as this seems too obvious to me.
an example of a bad triangle: O1 has ball, O2 are teammates, D are defenders
an example of a non triangle shape which is much better
I agree that in a 5 v 3 soccer situation, forcing the ball into a corner isn't a bad thing--if there is a defender there to get in the way of a crossing pass. However, you don't want to let the ball get down the touchline and into the corner unopposed. That creates a high percentage chance for the attacking team.
As for the importance of a triangle shape as opposed to "the principles of defending", that's been the item that has led me to different viewpoints than others here (see triangle three discussion). Yes, players can apply the three principles as a way to react to any situation. However, to translate from my language to yours, a triangle is a useful shape defensively because one player is pressuring the ball and two are providing cover on either side of the ball. I'm suggesting that having cover on both sides of the ball is very useful, and when that is done you have a triangle shape that's very difficult to crack. It's also strictly a zone concept, which is important when discussing a 5 v 3 situation. So the idea of "marking the next most dangerous defender" wouldn't be something I would say.
Supported videos include: