How to be a good defender

In most cases, defenders are big and strong, but they can also be very slow and less nimble than midfielders and attackers.

football defender

As a defender with the typical defender's build, how can you successfully stop a small, quick, explosive attacker with good footwork? By avoiding risky moves, like the infamous throat or carotid tackle, as they say in the sport.

How to be a good defender

Watch your opponent

The key to defending is understanding the attacker's strong points: speed and explosiveness.

It's very important to watch your opponent. You need to target their kicking foot and find their weak points, like their non-dominant foot for example.

Get into position

The biggest challenge as a defender is getting positioned to prevent attackers from comfortably moving down the field, like forcing them to play with their non-dominant foot (include photo).

How? With a three-quarter stance to the side, so that you can force them in whichever direction you decide, and not the opposite. That's the key for defending effectively.

A three-quarter stance lets you anticipate their next sprint in the event that they do get past you. You're already in position to accelerate in the other direction without wasting time.

One thing you want to absolutely avoid: defending face to face and on your heels. This is the easiest way for the attacker to leave you in the dust.

How to be a good defender
How to be a good defender

Prevent the attacker from reaching the goal

Defending requires a certain level of sacrifice. Whether you're defending down the centre, on the wings or even on the midfield, you're often your team's last line of defence. You are therefore the only person (except for the goalkeeper of course) standing between the other team and your goal.

Along the same lines, you need to get in the right position to force the attacker towards the closed side. The goal: block as many angles for your goalkeeper and yourself. To prevent attackers from facing the goal, you'll have to work your hardest. There aren't many other solutions, other than a miracle.

The tackle, a (deadly) weapon

The tackle is a very difficult skill to do and isn't suitable for everyone.

For a successful tackle, you have to force your opponent in the right direction and, at the exact moment when they are going to pass or dribble, you have to hit the ball while sliding to the side, either to counter their kick or recover the ball.

Good to know: the tackle is the defender's last resort since a defender on the ground has been defeated and is out of the picture. Staying upright while defending is the mission of a good defender!

How to be a good defender
How to be a good defender

Become a good header

The defender often goes head to head with attackers in the air. The secret to good heading is to keep your eyes open and not let the ball take you down. The timing is more important than your jump, you have to go at the right moment.

Then you have to remember to protect yourself. Keep a safe distance by holding your arms high enough to maintain distance between yourself and your opponent, which will destabilize them as well.

Throw in well

Defenders are not just brainless oafs that tackle and shove players around willy nilly. It's very important to have a very good short and long throw-in, and, ideally, with both feet.

The long throw-in, often called the diagonal, enables you to move the game from right to left or left to right because long throws from the front in a straight line are very difficult for attackers to play.

It's often said that the first attacker is the defender because a good throw-in can help break lines and take opposing players out of play.

How to be a good defender
david duquesnoy

This article was co-written with:

David DUQUESNOY, KIPSTADIUM instructor and head of the KIPSTA ACADEMY:

I was five when I started playing football at Stade Béthunois. When I was ten I joined RC Lens and climbed up through the age categories there until I was 22. I won a French league title with Lens at the age of 14 and I played for France at U-15 and U-16 level.

I left Lens when I was 22 to go and play in the National, France's third tier. In the meantime, I got my coaching badges. I worked as a coach with Lens' U-12s team and then I coached the Elite U-15s in Belgium. I played for six years in Belgium's first and second divisions.

I ended my playing career with Tourcoing in CFA 2 (France's fifth tier), while continuing to validate my coaching certificates and experience: state football licence, state sport for all licence, degree in mental preparation, master's in sophrology and relaxation, and validation of specialist coaching experience. I've been coaching now for the last ten years.