How to become the best CB
In the previous chapters we discussed the most important fundamentals for center-backs. After identifying these and being able to understand them, you can now try to improve them. But how can you develop a center-back on these fundamentals? It’s important that a player is aware of what game situation he’s in because then he knows what he has to do in situations. So creating recognition is the first step, at Tactalyse we do this through video. Through online sessions, we show the player the situation and we teach them what he has to do. We also train with players on the pitch, when doing this we at Tactalyse believe in a three-level approach, the first level of practice is isolation of the execution without resistance, you train the fundamental without resistance, the second level is isolation of the game situation with resistance, what we mean by this is that there’s no complexity, there’s not a lot of decision making that has to be done. The only decisions that have to be made are directly related to the fundamental, and the last level is with a lot of resistance, think about full practice possession games or position-related games.
I will not write out all the fundamentals and how to train them, but I can give our framework for designing your own exercises. So like I said, at Tactalyse we work with three different levels of resistance. In the first level, you isolate the game situation and the execution of the fundamental.
The way to do this is to identify all the steps in a fundamental on how to execute a game situation. Let’s say you want to defend a cross. Then you simply isolate a crossing situation, by letting the player run to the desired spot, after this, you can take it a step further and let him make a decision on if he has to mark or occupy a zone. This is how to train a fundamental in isolation, you simply train the pattern. A lot of people will say this is useless without resistance, but what we’ve experienced at Tactalyse is that the more things you can do automatically, the less the player has to think about these and the more brain capacity he can use in the complex stuff. In case of a crossing, this can for example be, crossing attackers that switch players and deciding which one of them to mark.
The next level is adding resistance, but not adding the complexity of different game situations. So what we mean by this is that we will only train a crossing situation. In this way the player doesn’t have to think about different things, he knows there’s a crossing situation and that he has to focus on executing the right way to defend a cross. The way to set this up is simple. One player on the side who’s going to make a cross and one attacker. The player on the side and the attacker communicate before the cross, where the cross will come (1st or 2nd post). The job of the center-back is to mark the attacker or when he doesn’t run into the box to occupy a zone. Within this 1v1 exercise, you can make several adjustments to make it harder for the center-back, for example, the attackers can wait just as long as they want to cross the ball. In this way, you ensure that the center-back has to keep his marking all the time.
In this level, you can also make it a step harder by making it two attackers vs. one center-back or three attackers against two center-backs exercise. This will still make it an isolated game situation training, but the level of complexity is going up because the center-back(s) have to think about more players at the same time.
The third level is real games in training or a real match. This is of course the ultimate training because then the game is flowing and a lot is happening. The center-back then has to recognize that he is in a crossing situation and that he has to execute this fundamental.
This is how to design a defensive fundamental. Ultimately you can do this with all defensive fundamentals. I will now show you an offensive fundamental for a center-back as well. I will write out all the levels according to our three-level framework. Let’s say you want to train support for a center-back, the positioning before receiving the ball, and when receiving the ball to have good body positioning and a good first touch to make a progressive action.
So the first level is again to isolate the situation without resistance, the way to do this is to play against zero opponents and for example put down two pylons that represent an opponent. The center-back then has to choose the right position in relation to the pylons, a ball gets passed to him either by the coach or another teammate, and he then has to make a progressive action. To make this a little harder you could change the pylons without him seeing it, and he has a couple of seconds to choose a position before the ball gets played to him. In this way, he has to adjust his position every time. In theory, all other passing drills without opponents are isolating this as well, because in every passing exercise, you train body position and first touch, most passing exercises don’t have a component of choosing position though.
The second level is the isolation of the game situation but with opponents. What you could do here, is to play a defense against attackers, but the defense always has one player more. The goal for the defenders is to play through or dribble through the attackers. You can either let them play it in a goal or midfielders behind the line of attackers. In this exercise, you can also make variations on which part of the pitch you are, deep in your own half, around midfield, or on the half of the opponent. In this way, the center-back gets used to this on every part of the pitch.
The last level is the level with the most resistance, all normal games and positional games in training are of course training this fundamental. But you can also do this in a 4 defenders against 3 attackers situation, but that the attackers always start with the ball. In this way, the defenders have to first do their defensive job, but then make the transition to attack. In this way, you train them to recognize when they have to be ready to receive the ball after winning it back. This is important to keep the ball in matches right after you’ve won it, and if your center-backs are able to make progressive actions right after winning the ball, there’s the biggest chance of scoring, because teams are often still disorganized.
So this is how we train fundamentals the Tactalyse way. If you have questions about this please send a message. We’ve now talked about everything that involves a center-back, what defensive fundamentals are most important, what offensive fundamentals are most important, and how to train these.