1V1 is a key part of player development, emphasized by the best and most successful academies in the World and by Federations including Belgium. It is often an after thought or just thrown in every now and then. I argue it should be a key part of every coach and clubs planning and curriculum. When breaking down 1v1 we can look at two main areas, 1. Dribbling at players and 2. receiving or dealing with the ball with back or under pressure. I think the majority of 1v1 practices will focus on the 1st. Whilst this is very important i believe the the 2nd, receiving and dealing with the ball is the much harder aspect of 1v1 to deal with, so we should not only spend more time on it, but also use it as a starting point. I’ve been lucky enough to work at 2 of the biggest clubs in the Premier League and seeing those top players up close regularly you get appreciate their qualities. I player particularly recently has stood out for me in this area of 1v1, Eden Hazard. He has a tremendous ability to not only receive the ball whilst under pressure, but to twist and turn to shake off the attention of a defender or defenders. If we want to develop players with similar qualities like Hazard we must give them the opportunity to practice, hone and make mistakes continually in these sorts of instances through thoughtful practice design.
The next session is modeled completely around individual development, specifically 1v1 under pressure. As always I have several other prerequisites to my sessions that will promote best practice in young player development. Firstly, ball to player ratios. Keep these low, if we want to create players who can get and stay on the ball give them as much time as possible on the ball! This starts with a ball mastery warm up. You also have to get comfortable with the concept of several small groups working at the same time in 3s’4s’6s and so on. This takes time and experience. Give your players freedom to manage themselves and their spaces, they will respond to this. Secondly Make sure the majority of your session is opposed, Unopposed work is vitally important but should only take up a small part of your team session. Use homework activities or online portals like mine MyPersonalFootballCoach.com to support technical development away from the sessions. Thirdly SSG’s are in my opinion the best way to support and develop creativity, lots of playground football type outcomes. Within the younger age groups 7-11 I don’t like seeing too much larger play formats i.e 7v7 onwards. Leave this for game day, remember the game is just another development opportunity, the only win or 3 points that really counts is the 1st teams. I hope you enjoy the session!
Practice 1: Ball Mastery
As always, in my opinion each session should be started with 1 ball each, Ball Mastery is another key element of player development, this may not ‘look like a game’ but ask your self, would you rather see a players ball at their feet, learning how to manipulate it with all surfaces, or running up and down doing a warm up with out a ball? Ball Mastery done correctly can also have excellent physical outcomes, don’t underestimate the importance of developing weaker side play in players. supporting players so that they can turn and be explosive on both sides is key, players balance and stabilization will also improve. The emphasis of this ball mastery warm up should be turning explosively, in preparation for the session.
Practice 2: Door Bell game (Rodeo)
This practice is simple but very effective and an important stepping stone in supporting players in developing the ability to shake players off like Hazard. The practice starts off with 30 seconds of 1 player trying to shake off their marker and get the ball to touch either cone. The defender tries to get their foot there first to stop the point. Key coaching points here is to encourage players to continually change direction, faking one way and then the other. Big disguise and exploding out. Talk about the core turns covered in the initial ball mastery warm up. Step over turns, Cruyffs, cuts and rolls. Of course encourage players to be creative and discover their own ways of ‘shaking off the defender’. I would recommend at least 1/2 minutes active recovery time between each set. I often use this time for simple passing in pairs, from static position, different surfaces of the foot. Maybe football tennis. Then go back in and let the other player have a go. This is physically very demanding and the players need a recovery.
Progression An excellent way to progress this is to introduce another rule, if the ball isn’t safe side (the opposite side of the body of the defender/attacker protecting ball with 1 foot) the defender can steal it. This is a great way of taking it to the next level, making players aware off the need to protect the ball.
Practice 3: 1v1 to a target
A simple but effective practice, one of my favorites. Two players play 1v1 in the rectangle. The attacking player receives the ball from a target player, to get a point they must get the ball to the opposite target player. The player in possession in not allowed to pass back to the target player that passed to them. The player has to try and receive the ball and get that pass off.
Key coaching points here. 1. You don’t have to dribble past the player here to get success. Shake them off to create half a yard of space. 2. Unbalance the defender and create space with your movement. avoid straight lines and making the pitch small. If the defender is moving its gong to be easier to unbalance them. 3. Protect the ball, can you keep to safe side? 4. Rodeo time, shake the defender off, find that pass or beat them. Progression. Players n possession can now play a 1/2 with the opposite target player and receive 1 touch into the scoring zone for a finish. This allows players to challenge
Practice 4: 2v2 to a target
Set up as before. Coaching points 1.encourage attackers to play off different lines. 2. Movement in relation to others. Don’t just run/move. Make different options for the target, have we got balance, high and low/width…stretch the pitch. 3. supporting movement. Underlaps, overlaps. Create peace for your team mate with your movement, you don’t have to receive the ball to have made a successful run. Progression. As above in the 1v1 practice. Additional progression could be a third man run to receive into scoring zone. 1 touch finish.
Practice 5: 4v4 Balance game
Excellent way to incorporate the 1v1 work in the session. Whilst also underlining key themes of balance and shape. We now have the opportunity to add rotation. Encourage players to drive with the ball into each half, other players dropping in to make sure the team always has balance (at least 1 layer in each half). Here is the players challenge to ensure they recognize the 1v1’s in a SSG If you have keepers you can include them, if not as here I have a scoring zone with offside line where players must dribble over the line or pass to a team mate for a first time finish.
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Saul has coached in America, England and Spain and worked with some of the best football coaches & players in the modern game. He has been a Personal Football Coach for over 10 years with pdafootball.co.uk in London. He also has 9 years of experience of working in Premier League Academy Football coaching some of the brightest prospects in elite football.
Saul has passion for technical football and believes it is the number one foundation a football player must have. He has coached hundreds of players to take their game to the next level using his unique philosophy of creating dynamic and explosive technical players. His vision is to see every player master the technical aspects of the game and has created the “Dynamic Ball Mastery” programme which incorporates the philosophy and is a proven individual online technical programme that a player can benefit from in their own time to supplement their normal training routine.
Saul is currently a coach at Chelsea FC’s Academy, he previously spent 6 years coaching at Tottenham Hotspur FC’s Academy.