Assess the threat
“How do you tackle a player who’s shielding the ball in front of you? Tackle him in the knee! And before you do that, punch him in the stomach! But seriously, you have to decide what to do, and that depends on what position you are in. It depends on how far ahead of you they are, how good they are on the ball, and sometimes on whether they have a reputation for falling over easily. If there is cover, you can go and get the ball. If not, you should stay behind him. Don’t dive in because if you miss the ball, he’s through on goal.”
Stop either man or ball
“When making a block tackle, there is a simple rule: it is OK for the ball to go past the defender, or for the player to go past the defender. But it is when both go past together that you have a problem. You must stop either the ball or the player – you must never let both go through. It changes for every situation, but as a rule the best position to take is maybe half a step behind a player when he turns, because then you have the choice of what to do. Don’t get too tight.”
Stay on your feet
“When you are standing up with a player, it is best to stay slightly to the side, because that gives you the time and the space to make a choice as to what you are going to do next. It lets you see what he is going to do. These sorts of tackles, where you block or hook the ball away while still on your feet, are better than sliding tackles. That is always a last resort that you should only do if you are certain you can get the ball. If not, you should always stay standing.”
Sliding: the last resort
“If you have to slide in, make sure you can definitely get the ball. The secret of the sliding tackle is all in the timing: it has to be absolutely perfect to make sure you get the ball first, not the player. It does not matter whether you tip it with your toe or hook it away – just get to the ball first. But as I say, this should always be a last resort for a defender.”
Tackling on the wings
“It depends on the team what the manager will expect you to do. If they have good crossers of the ball and forwards who are good in the air, you must block the cross first and foremost. But it’s not always essential that you cut out the cross. If they have small forwards, let them cross as you’re probably going to clear the cross in the air. Opponents are more dangerous if you show them inside and let them cut the ball back. That’s when you must tackle the player.”
“Whenever you go in for a tackle you must always be completely mentally focused on getting the ball. You always have to be aggressive when you go into every tackle, determined that you are going to get the ball. Combining this focus and aggression is the key – not only to good, clean tackling, but good defending in general. A couple of good clean tackles early on can be enough to get on top of a forward and put him off his game. This should be the aim right from the kick-off.”
For more football tips see:
Sylvain Distin: Dominate your opponent
Franco Baresi: How to defend like a master
Chris Smalling: How to be the complete defender
Rio Ferdinand: The thinking man's guide to defending
Ashley Cole: How to handle every opponent
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