The art of defending deep

It takes courage, but sit back to nullify the threat of pace, says Notts County boss Martin Allen

“It’s a brave thing to do and the key is to have players that are completely comfortable on the ball.

Often you’ll defend deep when you’re playing against a side packed with pace because, purely and simply, you don’t want huge amounts of space behind you for the attacking side to run into.

More after the break

Every player is essential for this to work. The forwards need to be able to retain possession upfront and potentially slow the tempo of the game down.

You need wide players with pace who can travel quickly, take the ball down the pitch and be comfortable in possession.

The wide players are key, too, when it comes to defending. When we played Juventus in Turin to open their new stadium we pushed our wingers onto their full-backs to force them to pass it back rather than coming forward. That meant our wingers relieved the pressure on our full-backs.

Your central midfielders are also important because they need to make sure they pick up anyone dropping back in the spaces so that the back four can keep its shape.

This was definitely the case against Juve when Alessandro Del Piero was constantly dropping off. When you do get the ball the essential thing is not to give it away cheaply.

Even around your own box, you need players who are comfortable on the ball. Discipline is the key – defenders can’t jump in because you’re just inviting trouble.”

Allen’s guide to top man-management

How to get the most from your charges
1 Be consistent
As a manager you’re obviously dealing with a range of characters in the squad, but the most important thing is that you’re consistent in your approach with every single one of them. You’re can’t do one thing one week and another the next – that creates uncertainty.
2 Enjoy it
Let’s face it: the reason we all started playing football in the first place is because we love the sport. That’s just as true for professional players as it is for Sunday league players. As a manager it’s your responsibility to create an environment where your players enjoy coming to work.

3 Offer support
You’ll only get the best out of players if you make them feel wanted. Players need to be encouraged and supported in training to make sure you get the best out of them in a match environment. A positive mental attitude from the manager and coaches can make a real difference.

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