When you are working with younger and beginner soccer players, introducing the attacking principle of Cover can be done in a fun and engaging way. Here’s how you can simplify, explain and teach the principle of Cover to your players:
What is it?
- The Defensive Principle of Cover in soccer refers to the practice of providing backup to the first defender (the player directly challenging the opponent with the ball), with the aim of covering any potential breakthroughs or aiding in regaining possession.
- It means positioning oneself in a way that they are ready to intervene if the first defender is beaten, thereby reducing the risk of the opponent progressing towards the goal.
- In simple terms, it’s about ensuring that no defender is left isolated in a one-on-one situation. There should always be a second defender ready to step in if the first defender is beaten.
Why is it important?
- Cover is crucial because it reduces the risk of the opponent successfully bypassing our defence. Even if the first defender is beaten, the supporting defender can step in to challenge.
- It promotes teamwork and collective responsibility in defence. All players understand that they have a role to play in preventing the opponent from scoring, not just the first defender.
- It adds an extra layer of security to our defence, making it more difficult for the opponent to create scoring opportunities.
When do we use it?
- We need to use Cover whenever the opponent has the ball and is looking to attack. It’s particularly important when the ball is in our defensive third, as this is where the opponent can create scoring opportunities.
- Cover is crucial when our first defender is about to engage in a one-on-one situation with an attacker. The supporting defender should be ready to step in if the first defender is beaten.
- Cover is also needed during transitions from attack to defence, when we need to reorganize quickly to prevent the opponent from exploiting spaces in our defence.
Where do we use it?
- Cover should be utilized all over the field. From the defenders who are the last line of defence, to the midfielders who play a key role in both attack and defence, to the forwards who initiate the defensive action – all players should be ready to provide support when necessary.
- Although it’s particularly crucial in the defensive third, where the risk of conceding a goal is highest, the principle of defensive support should be applied whenever and wherever the opponent has the ball.
- Cover is also important in wide areas, where wingers or fullbacks may be isolated in one-on-one situations. The nearest defender should always be ready to provide support.
Who does it?
- All players have a role to play in providing Cover. It’s a collective responsibility, and everyone should be ready to back up their teammates when necessary.
- Although it’s often the defenders and defensive midfielders who find themselves in supporting roles, attacking players should also be prepared to provide Cover, particularly during defensive transitions.
- It’s crucial for players to communicate effectively and work together to ensure that there’s always Cover for the first defender.
How do we do it?
- We provide Cover by positioning ourselves in a way that we’re ready to intervene if the first defender is beaten. This requires good spatial awareness and an understanding of the game situation.
- Players off the ball need to anticipate the opponent’s moves and adjust their positioning accordingly. If the opponent is looking to attack down the left, for example, the nearest defender should be ready to move over and provide Cover.
- Communication is crucial in providing Cover. Players need to talk to each other, letting their teammates know when they’re in a position to provide Cover.
Moments In The Game To Coach
- When the opponent is in possession and looking to attack, I would remind players of the importance of providing Cover to the first defender. I’d also point out any situations where better support could have prevented an opponent’s breakthrough.
- During defensive transitions, I’d emphasize the need for players to reorganize quickly and provide Cover to each other. I’d use breaks in play to highlight good and bad examples from the game.
- If we’re defending a lead late in the game, I’d remind players to stay disciplined and continue providing Cover to each other. It’s particularly important to maintain good defensive support in these high-pressure situations.
Guided Discovery Questions
- Q: What should you do if your teammate is about to engage in a one-on-one situation with an attacker?
A: I should position myself to provide support in case my teammate is beaten.
- Q: Why is Cover important when we’re defending a lead late in the game?
A: It adds an extra layer of security to our defence, reducing the risk of the opponent creating a scoring opportunity.
- Q: How can you anticipate the opponent’s moves and adjust your positioning to provide better Cover?
A: By watching the opponent’s body language and the movement of the ball, and communicating with my teammates.
- Q: How does communication help in providing Cover?
A: It helps players coordinate their movements and ensure that there’s always Cover for the first defender.
- Q: What should you do if you see that your teammate is in a position to provide Cover?
A: I should focus on my own defensive responsibilities, knowing that my teammate has the Cover role covered.
- Q: Can attacking players provide Cover
A: Yes, all players should be ready to provide Cover in defence, including attackers.
- “Today, I want us to focus on providing Cover to each other in defence. Remember, no one should be left isolated in a one-on-one situation. Let’s work together, communicate, and ensure that there’s always a second defender ready to step in. We defend as a team, and every single one of you has a crucial role to play in that.”
- “Our focus today is Cover. It’s about backing each other up, about never letting a teammate face an attacker alone. It’s about understanding that we all have a role in preventing the opponent from scoring, not just the first defender. So let’s get out there, let’s communicate, let’s work for each other, and let’s get that clean sheet!”