It is with great joy that every soccer fan – apart from those who play in defense – welcome the return of the winger. For two long, wide players have been wing backs who, despite their license to get forward, have, as their main duty, a defensive one. Even worse, the dull 4-4-2 soccer formation saw no specialist wide players at all, resulting in dreary, defensive soccer of attrition. Here are five soccer training drills to help make best use of wingers in our teams.
Soccer Formation Training Drill 1: The High Press Formation – 4-3-3
Here, when in possession, the two wingers pull wide so that they are hugging the touchline. This has two advantages. Firstly, if the ball is played to them then they are likely to be in a one v one match against their full back. Since they are a winger because they are both fast and a good dribbler, they have a fair chance of beating their full back and creating chances for other players. Secondly, by pulling wide they will take defenders wide with them, creating more space in the center of the park.
Soccer Formation Training Drill 2: Attackers v Defenders
Use half the pitch. The central circle is a ‘safe’ area where only attackers are allowed, so the ball can be played here and the move started again. There are six players; two wingers, a number 10, a center forward and two midfielders against three defenders and a goalkeeper.
The offensive side must create attempts on goal, in normal football except the wingers must begin each move hugging their wing. This drill will encourage wingers to get as wide as they can.
Soccer Formation Training Drill 3: Transition
This is a full eleven v eleven drill soccer formation. In the match situation, when the ball is won, the wingers immediately pull wide onto their touchline and move forward. If the ball is lost to opposing defenders, the two wingers and their center forward press the defense in an attempt to force the ball long or to regain possession.
Only if the ball is played out under control do the wingers drop back to make a five man midfield.
The coach here should stop the game regularly, to point out positional strengths and weaknesses.
It is a good idea to play the opposition in various formations so that the team can adapt quickly to the circumstances of the games they play.
Soccer Formation Training Drill 4: Getting the Ball Wide – A 3 v 1 Rondo
In this drill the aim is to get some space for a winger or an overlapping full back. In a game situation, it is not unusual to achieve an overlap in wide areas of the pitch since teams will often focus on defending the central areas.
The soccer training formation drill requires an area which is 20m by 10m, two 10m square grids are ideal as the lines of the grids are good guides for running positions. A narrow gate of two cones sits at the end of the grid which the winger aims to run through with the ball at his or her feet.
Player one starts wide and dribbles infield. Player two comes towards the ball, with their marker in tow. The pass is laid short to the Player two, who hits a short first time pass wide to the winger, who runs onto the ball, and now in space dribbles through the cones.
The drill can be developed by adding a second defender, who provides some opposition to player one dribbling the ball, and by narrowing the playing area.
Soccer Formation Training Drill 5: Getting the Ball Forward Quickly
There is a soccer playing term that is rarely used these days, and that will seem agricultural and somewhat out of date, but which is a very handy variation in play. It is not advocated to be used regularly, as the likelihood of keeping possession is less than with short, controlled passing, but this is a good alternative to relieve pressure and perhaps give defenders problems they rarely face in the modern game.
This is the ‘alehouse’, sometimes called ‘playing into the channels.’ It aims to turn defenders, pulling them out of position and making them run back towards their own goal. In the 1970s and 1980s the dominant team in European football were Liverpool. Under firstly Bill Shankly and then Bob Paisley, they adopted a fast paced pressing game which was unusual for those days. Of course, pitches were not as they were today which also played its role in the development of the long ball.
Here, the ball is laid wide from goalkeeper or central defender to a full back. This player hits a long ball over the top of the midfield behind the opposing full back. The centre forward runs into this area, dragging his central defender with him. The winger comes in off his wing for the ball inside should the centre forward win his battle.
The layout below shows how the drill can be developed, also adding a second defender to pressure the full back.
Soccer Formation Training Drill 6: End Product Rondo
This is a 4 v 3 rondo using half a pitch. The offensive team have two wide attackers, a central attacker and a midfielder. The defending side two defenders plus a goalkeeper.
The midfielder passes the ball into the central striker who comes to meet the ball. This player then chooses one of three options. He can pass to either winger, or lay the ball back to the midfielder, who then knocks it wide to a winger.
The winger drives down his wing, and pulls the ball back for the center forward, who has made a near post run, the midfielder, who has made a delayed central run or a deeper ball to the other winger, who is attacking the far post.
It is great to see wingers coming back into the game; certainly, the new generation of these players have a greater defensive responsibility than the great wingers of the past, but that same buzz of excitement as they set off on a mazy run tingles up the back much as it always did.
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