Due to the fast-paced nature of modern-day soccer, defenders are now in that position where they are thinking of ways to contain faster strikers and midfielders. The reason is that in the past, defenders rarely left their half of the field.
Therefore, speed drills were a total waste of time for them. Rather, they channeled their energies towards building strength and stamina.
Now, even the fastest defender is still slow compared to the fastest striker. As a defender, chances are that you will occasionally meet soccer players who are faster than you.
Mastering how to defend effectively is one of the numerous abilities that all defenders on a soccer field must be able to do seamlessly. In a game where your pace cannot match that of the opposition attackers, you must engineer smart techniques to effectively defend against faster players.
How to defend against faster players has recently become one of the most discussed topics in both outdoor and indoor soccer. Soccer teams are always inventing smart ways of stopping fast opponent players on their tracks—since they are usually the most dangerous set of players on the pitch.
In this article, we will teach you how to effectively defend against faster players on the pitch. We intend to accomplish this by touching on some common methods with a couple of important guidelines.
We will also discuss difficulties associated with dealing with faster players, as well as how to outplay them.
- How to defend a faster player in soccer?
- 1. Accurate positioning and stance
- 2. Get your spacing and distance right
- 3. Give faster players no time to react or respond
- 4. Get physical and use your body properly
- 5. Anticipate their next move
- 6. Use the sideline to displace faster players
- 7. Perform flawless slide tackles
- 8. Kill their morale by playing dirty
- Requirements for defending against faster players
How to defend a faster player in soccer?
Soccer games go way beyond just scoring goals and hunting down opposing players. The greatest soccer teams in history have been known for having extremely strong defensive lines.
Some of the most effective coaches or managers usually focus their game strategy on purely defense when playing against teams with very fast midfielders and strikers. By playing a defensive game against such opponents, the team will now rely on counterattacks to score goals.
Fast players will always use their speed and agility to exploit the weakness of their opponents to their advantage. Defenders that try to match the pace of their fast opponents usually end up overworking themselves, become tired, and make their flanks more vulnerable.
The most challenging task faced by both players and managers is figuring out how to defend against faster players. When inexperienced soccer players are wedged against fast players, they frequently make expensive mistakes that give their opponents a significant advantage.
How do you effectively defend against faster players? If you know the correct answer to this question, you are halfway away from winning matches.
We have compiled a list of effective strategies below to answer this question.
1. Accurate positioning and stance
It is critical for any soccer player occupying defensive positions to maintain a proper position and stance against attackers at all times. Fast attackers will always attempt to maintain a fair distance with defenders and try to outrun them rather than taking them on a one-on-one dribble.
As a defender, always closing down the space between you and a fast attacker will make it harder for them to run behind you with ease. Good positioning is critical for several reasons.
Firstly, it enables you to be ready for whatever actions faster players may try to execute. If they switch angles randomly, you will be able to respond quickly and remain well-positioned against them.
Secondly, in an attack scenario, players compel defenders to move to the side they want them to. They do this because oftentimes, they want defenders to shift to their weak foot.
As a defender, you should always maintain a stance that will force the attacker to move towards your strong foot.
Sometimes, you would be required to drive an attacker to the center of the pitch since it is usually more congested with your teammates. By positioning yourself at an angle, you can easily stop them from advancing further into your half of the pitch.
Winning loose balls shouldn’t always be your sole responsibility as a defender. If you can successfully push opponent players to where your numbers are more on the field, your teammates can complete the job from there.
Furthermore, avoid being careless by chasing after fast players directly. Charging carelessly to win balls from fast players will help them beat you easily. Maintaining your position makes it easier for you to execute a successful tackle.
If you have been a soccer fan for a year, you must have noticed that defenders don’t rush in to tackle an attacker. Rather, they will appear to guide the attacker as he/she moves towards the 18-yard box. This positioning guards the attacker so that he/she will find less space to make a bustling run or pass the ball into the box.
Finally, when positioning yourself in soccer, you must always be aware of your distance from attackers as well as the direction they might be moving. In other words, you must grow a sharp instinct.
2. Get your spacing and distance right
When younger soccer players are placed on defense, they frequently drop back and give the attacking players adequate room. When attackers are given ample time to strategize their moves, their attacks are often fatal and might even end up as goals.
Coaches often instruct players to mark their opponents closely, especially when such opponents are very fast.
The less breathing space an attacker has, the less time they will have to think through their next move. This is the reason why defenders often drag opponents on their shirts or shorts when contesting for a ball.
When playing defensive games against faster players, you must understand that maintaining the right distance from them is crucial. They can easily get past you if you are too close to them, same as when you are too far off.
You must maintain an accurate position to avoid either of both possible eventualities.
3. Give faster players no time to react or respond
“Suffocating” is a perfect term used in describing a good defensive move. To effectively execute this move, you must be a player who leaves no room or chance for faster players to exploit.
When faster players possess the ball, you must be intense and close to them, so that they don’t find any room or time to react. Great defenders are relentless, and they display this in every defensive situation.
By being an aggressive defender, you may become the player that a fast player would always want to avoid. Out of fear and personal safety, fast players wouldn’t oppress your defensive line as much as they would have wanted.
You must, however, defend with caution because a careless tackle on a fast soccer player while he or she is running with the ball can result in very nasty injuries, which can get you a serious punishment.
Defend sensibly by obeying the rules of the game. The closer you get to an opponent, the more careful you must become.
It is not always necessary to get too close to your opponent before you can effectively defend against them. You must make decisions based on the diversity of circumstances.
For example, if you are the last defender and up against two attackers, you have to be mindful of your positioning knowing that the attacker with the ball can easily pass to the supporting attacker if you try to get too close.
4. Get physical and use your body properly
Try to be physically engaged on the pitch as a defender. The faster you are, the less balance you will have.
Learn how to use your shoulders and other legal parts of your body properly to push so that you can easily outmuscle the attacker before they run beyond your reach.
Some defenders are scared of properly engaging attackers because soccer is often considered a low-contact sport with a limited degree of legal physical contact.
Among the Spanish professional soccer players, Sergio Ramos has gotten more red cards than he ever bargained for. Tactically, getting physical with his body in most of the games he featured often paid off—although he sometimes goes too far.
When playing against faster soccer players, physical engagement is often necessary. Most fast and skilled players are smaller in stature to compensate for their agility and speed.
Be firm and fair in your challenge and make it clear to the attacker that you are prepared to go shoulder-to-shoulder with them. Fast soccer players in general are not usually good at playing physically, they prefer avoiding physical contact by all means.
If you and your opponent are both rushing to possess the ball but unfortunately you are slower than him or her, consider opening your arms to decelerate your opponent and prevent them from getting to the ball first.
5. Anticipate their next move
In a foot race, you cannot beat a faster player unless you gain a major head start over them. The first thing to consider when facing a faster soccer player is your ability to correctly predict their style of play.
Some defenders miss out on a lot of important details by focusing on the soccer ball or the opponent’s feet instead of keeping a keen eye on the opponent’s hip area when they attack.
If you mostly focus on your opponent’s feet, you may become too sluggish while responding to their fast movements. However, focusing on their hips can alert you sooner about their intention.
As a defender, you must properly understand your opponents, how they move, their most powerful foot, which sides they prefer playing on, etc.
Remember to be patient always, being patient will further help you in observing and understanding your opponent better. Keep in mind that being able to properly predict an opponent will enable you to make the right counter moves.
6. Use the sideline to displace faster players
Whenever you are defending a faster player, you must employ all of the techniques at your disposal as a defender. Using the sideline to displace fast players is a very smart and effective technique.
You can use the sideline to limit their attacking space. Forcing them to go to their weaker side or a less supportive location on the field reduces their capacity to attack efficiently.
Faster players need larger spaces to operate adequately. Operating in smaller spaces will cost them lots of blunders like bad touches, stumbling, bad dribbles, etc.
7. Perform flawless slide tackles
One of the most significant defensive strategies in soccer is the slide tackle. Nothing beats a well-executed and clean slide tackle done to retrieve balls from faster opponents. This is the “defensive rocket” of soccer teams and it increases the confidence level of players when they do it successfully.
Make the most of rainy days. When the surface of soccer fields has a low concentration of grass or is wet, sliding tackles are easier to execute.
However, do not use this approach on a dry field or an artificial grass pitch or you may end up with severe turf burn. To execute the perfect slide tackle, artificial grass is not the best playing surface.
Slide tackles necessitate bravery, being aware that you are putting your body in danger by going all in. If you do not do it smartly and carefully, it will most likely fail and you might even get injured.
Never throw yourself on the ground if you are unsure of getting the ball. If you miss, it makes it easier for the attacker to pass through. Make sure you keep your legs close to the ground during a slide tackle to avoid attracting a foul.
8. Kill their morale by playing dirty
Nothing kills the morale of an attacker like a dirty defender. Dirty in this case does not mean having stinking soccer jerseys or boots. No! Dirty here refers to a pattern of play.
Glue to the fast attacker all the time. Whisper discouragements in their ears and tell them how awful they are playing. Make it harder for them to execute a clean move so that they lose their temper and make more mistakes.
If you can’t beat a fast player physically, you should try the mental game. Soccer is a game of wits and any action that doesn’t harm your player physically will rarely be penalized by the referee.
Requirements for defending against faster players
Practicing the abilities listed here will not only grant you an advantage over faster players, but it will also make you a better player in general. Every top professional player today went through a gradual growth process and they are still improving to date.
Your attitude towards developing your technical, physical, mental, and tactical abilities as a soccer player is what distinguishes great soccer players from amateurs.
Improve your technical skills
The technical aspect of soccer comprises everything unique to the sport. Technical components of the game include passing, shooting, dribbling, and heading.
This seems to be a very prevalent technique amongst all soccer players. During training, all teams will typically begin with some fitness training exercises before moving on to technical drills like shooting, passing, ball handling, dribbling, and so on.
To successfully defend a faster player in soccer, you must acquire a strong blend of technical and physical abilities. Having excellent physical fitness is useless if your techniques are poor and vice versa.
To learn more about the technical aspect of soccer, read our previous article on how to be a better defender in soccer.
Improve your physical abilities
Every day, go to soccer practice and visit the gym to increase your fitness level, stamina, and strength. This will bring you closer to your objective of successfully defending faster players on the pitch.
The issue with most players is that they often focus solely on physical development, ignoring their mental, tactical, and technical development. Training physically alone will not do you a lot of good besides having ripped abs that will make you more appealing for brand endorsements.
Improve your mental abilities
The majority of soccer teams frequently overlook the mental component of the game. These players are often not properly psychologically equipped to perform at their peak.
When a team loses a game, it is not uncommon to see some of its players lose their minds and look discouraged on the field. Some dirty players may develop a nasty attitude and even start a fight.
Mental conditioning is practiced by elite soccer teams. Developing characteristics like calmness, confidence, preparedness, leadership, and collaboration are just as crucial for great players as any other quality in the game.
Improve your tactical abilities
Here is where exceptional soccer players begin to set themselves apart from the throng. Whenever we talk about the tactical side of soccer, we are referring to all the broad plans that the team has meticulously prearranged for the game.
One of the qualities that a good defender needs to possess to be effective in defending faster players is tactical intelligence. Reading where the game is going, understanding what to do with the ball, and knowing how to manage time throughout a game are all characteristics of a very tactical player.
When a team is pressing high, the defenders should always be on alert on the possibility of a counterattack. Cultivating these qualities will assist you and your team in winning games even when you are not technically or physically superior to your opponents.
On the field of play, most soccer players can be faster than you. Defending against these faster players is not only a challenge for you alone but also a source of concern for soccer managers and fans alike.
When it comes to defending against a faster soccer player, there is no one-cap-fits-all approach. You have to do it on a case-by-case basis.
For some, being physical will be enough while for others you have to tune up your aggressive play as well as play dirty. However, practicing and mastering all of the tactics and approaches described in this article will give you a head start.
Defending is a great deal of work, but it doesn’t mean you can’t succeed in it if you remain dedicated. Take a hue from the globally acknowledged champion and defender Becky Sauerbrunn who famously said, “I enjoy defending. It is quite essential to me”.
Hi there, I’m Jay.
Soccer is everything in my life! My friends and I have created this blog with all our enthusiasm, passion, and understanding after years of playing pro soccer. Hope you will enjoy it!