In soccer a game can be won or lost based on the qualitative superiority of a single individual.

How many times have players such as Hazard, Messi or Ronaldo produced moments of genius which have been the decisive factor in a match? Now imagine a whole team of players who are technically superior, who can out-think, out-play, and out-fight their direct opponent; players who are willing to receive the ball in any situation and are capable of finding a solution to the problem they face – lots of exposure to 1v1 practices will help make this a reality.

Dembele Rock n Roll
This week’s 1v1 practice is inspired by Moussa Dembele of Tottenham Hotspur, a master at playing with a player on his back and rolling into the space behind. Many players can receive a ball with a player on their back and bounce the ball back the way they are facing, but the special players can maintain possession and break the line of their opponent on their own, and as such create numerical superiority in the moments immediately afterwards.
Set Up
  • Rectangular pitch 15-20y x 8-10y
  • Two mini-goals at opposing ends (age appropriate goals can be used)
  • Marked halfway line using mannequins, cones, flat discs, pitch marking
  • Marker 2/3 yards inside the left-hand side of the pitch
  • Two lines of players at opposite ends of the pitch starting at the same side of their goal (e.g. both to the right hand side)
  • Every player in the line at the right-hand side of the pitch needs a ball, only the first player in the line at the left-hand side of the pitch needs a ball
  • Coach/server in front of the goal on the right-hand side of the pitch
How to play
  1. Red 1 and Blue 1 start at the same time, dribbling at speed to the halfway line.
  2. After crossing the halfway Blue 1 pass the ball to the coach/server, Red 1 continue to marker and pass to Blue 2
  3. After the pass Red 1 turn and actively mark Blue 1 (touch tight, make contact)
  4. Coach/server pass to Blue 1’s feet
  5. Blue 1 shield the ball, try to rock ‘n’ roll opponent to break into opposite half and score (if Red one wins the ball transition to attack the opposite goal)
Player Outcomes/Coaching Points
  • Dribbling
  • Passing on the move (both feet)
  • Shielding and protecting the ball
  • Using your body to roll around an opponent
  • Turning (take the ball backwards)
  • 1v1 attacking principles (going around opponent)
  • 1v1 defending principles (pressure from behind, delay, deflect, tackle/block)
  • Goal-scoring/finishing techniques
  • Transitions
  • Physical development (aerobic and anaerobic endurance, acceleration and deceleration, speed and explosive power, agility, resistance <via body contact>)
The Video
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Dembele Rock N Roll
  • Use age appropriate goals with a goalkeeper to add more goal-scoring.
  • The coach/server can be replaced by another player who can step in to create a 2v1 once Blue 1 is shielding the ball.

The ability to hold off your marker, maintain possession and rock ‘n’ roll around your opponent can add another dimension not only to an individual’s game but also to the dynamic of a team. Encourage your players to experiment with the ball, to never fear the situation, and to take risks with the ball – at times it will cost you goals but a true player developer will take the hit to develop their players.

Master the ball master the game!

Ryan Hall
Ryan Hall spent 8 years working at Tottenham Hotspur’s Academy, starting as a Development Centre and Pre-Academy Coach before progressing to an Academy Age Group Coach and the Pre-Academy & Development Centre Coordinator.
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