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#020 Developing a Pressing Mentality

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I’ve continued adding printable show notes for each episode to So you’ll find printable notes for this episode at the bottom of this page.
I’m also working through the previous episodes as well so keep checking back if there’s one your looking for or you can email me at and let me know if there’s a particular episode you’d like to have printable show notes for. I’ll prioritize episodes with the most requests.
This week I look at the benefits of training your team to press as a team. I’ve always preferred to have my teams play a high pressure defense. It puts us on the front foot and creates an aggressive mentality that carries over to every area of the game.
We saw this during the recent Women’s World Cup. There were a number of changes that contributed to the US Women’s improved play as they entered the elimination rounds but I think a one of the most important was the fact that we pressed much more than we did in group play.
The training session at the end of the episode will help you train your players to do a better job of pressing their opponents. This will allow them to win the ball higher up the field but more importantly, it will increase their confidence and speed of play across every phase of play.
Women’s World Cup
During the group games the US Women didn’t really press very often. But this changed in the elimination rounds. Two players would not be available for the game against China Lauren Holiday and Megan Rapinoe where out with yellow card suspensions so Amy Rodriguez and Kelly O’Hara would take their places.
The team also changed formations. Some commentators called it a 4-3-3, some a 4-5-1 but I looked at it as a 4-2-3-1 with Morgan Brian and Kelly O’Hara playing as Holding Midfielders which allowed Carli Lloyd to play much higher than in previous games. Amy Rodriguez and Health played on the wings which left Alex Morgan playing up top alone.
These players and this formation allow the US Women to press the China defense and force them into making mistakes and losing the ball close to their own goa.
This totally changed not just the tactics but the team’s mentality. Pressing changes not only your defense but also your attacking mentality. Your speed of play increases because you’re playing hard and fast to win the ball so it’s more likely that you’ll keep this rhythm when attacking. By winning the ball closer to the opponent’s goal there are more opportunities to create goalscoring chances. All of this fosters a, ‘Go for it!’ attitude in the players.
The Keys to Effective Pressing
The first defender, the one closest to the ball, has to make it difficult on the opponent with the ball and make their play predictable. Forcing the player inside, toward their weak foot, into pressure to against the sideline with limit their options. Then the other defenders must be ready to ‘Step On the Next Pass’. Anticipating where the ball will be passed allows you to pressure the next player more quickly and limit their options.
If we hunt in packs then we can force them into a mistake and regain possession. If only one players pressures, they can find a pass, break our pressure and play wherever they want.
I love the energy this type of defending encourages. The players all have to be on the front foot and ready to pressure the ball or step on the next pass.
This is a very effective tactic with youth teams because young players are prone to make mistakes anyway. This puts more pressure on them and puts your team in position to take advantage of their mistakes. It also boosts the confidence of your players which will improve their play.
Training Session

I found this pressing warm up on, ‘The Coaching Manual’ YouTube page. Here is a link to it.
The player across from the ball presses it. The player with the ball passes right and runs left and the pattern continues with the player across from the ball pressing it.
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