Whether you’re just not as young as you used to be, or you just prefer it to traditional 11-a-side, small sided football is as popular as it ever has been. If you play, you know how important it is to have a well balanced team, otherwise you end up on the wrong side of a 23-0 thrashing. We’ve accumulated some of the very best tips to creating an absolute force of a team on the 5-a-side court.
Find the right goalkeeper
This is essential in order to create or become a successful small sided team. As the pitches are smaller, the play is tighter and the goals are closer to each other, having the right man between the sticks is important. A good team and player will find spaces behind or between your defensive line on a smaller space, and your goalie is your last line of defence, and last hope to keep the ball out of the net. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that because the nets are smaller, that the best goalie is the biggest guy with gloves on, this is not always the case and in fact smaller keepers are usually the most effective at protecting the goal from low, drilled shots into the bottom corners.
Don’t go for the ‘draw straws’ or ‘take it in turns’ approach, get yourself a good goalie.
Play the right formation
In small sided football, you don’t have the freedom to play a number of players on the pitch in elaborate formations like you would in 11-a-side. Some of the best formations are the 1-2-1 formation and 2-1-1.
Those that are lucky enough to have a very good defender may be confident to play the 1-2-1 formation, using the two midfield players as box to box and contributing massively to both defensive and attacking plays. With this formation, with your midfield players dropping back into defence when necessary, you can be strong in both defence and attack. A very good defender here can often dictate the play of the game.
If you like to feel a little safer at the back, 2-1-1 is also a decent option. Giving you a more protected back line, it can allow you to minimise goals conceded however, unless you have a class striker up front, can often leave you lacking a real threat up front. With his formation, don’t be scared to allow one of your back line to push forward when attacking and be an option. Some of the best teams in this formation often play a wing back style player next to a main strong defender, in order to get that balance between attack and defence with the defender that is assigned to push forward.
Get the right players!
This seems common sense but so often are teams seen to forget that small sided teams also need tactics and people that are willing, as well as able to play in their designated roles.
This guy is the powerhouse in your team. Strong, brave and powerful this guy will dominate the area he plays in, tackling and shrugging off other players with ease. Usually deployed in the defensive line, this guy will tackle, block and defend his back side off in order to stop them scoring against you, distributing the ball to the forward players quickly upon retrieving possession.
THE ‘HE’S EVERYWHERE’ ENGINE
These guys are who you definitely need in your midfield roles. These guys will run, run, run, and run some more until they are nothing but jelly. These guys will be there to help out and tuck in defence when you need them, but a few seconds later are up alongside the striker in order to offer an option. Fitness is essential for this role.
THE ‘JUST BLOODIE TACKLE HIM’ THREAT
This player will find an inch of space where they looked to be not any space at all. These players can contribute massively in terms of goals, managing to weave their way into dangerous areas, or get themselves that little bit of extra space in order to get off a shot or play a pass. With small sided pitches being much smaller than large sided, it is important to try and find space to cause problems for the opposition. Do not mistake this role for the guy that knows the most tricks, or the greedy one who calls himself ‘Jonny Neymar Skillster Smith’ on Facebook, this breed we want are smart players and more importantly are also ‘team players’. Finding space doesn’t need to be about step overs roulettes, and the best players can often get that space with a little drop of the shoulder, or a quick foot taking the ball away from the defender at the last moment.
THE RELIABLE GOALSCORER
Small sided games are very different to large sided, and so your reliable goal-scorers may be completely different players to who you would choose to lead your line on an 11-a-side pitch. These are not just the fastest players on the pitch, or the tallest target man.
What we want here is a powerful, and more importantly, ‘hungry’ player up top. We want someone who has the desire to score, and the hunger to see that ball in the back of the net. However, we also want someone that is reliable, these players have a great foot and a great shot, who will hit the target more often than not, and consistently cause problems for the defence and keeper. Get the guy that can hold off a defender and find space to get a shot off, but also someone who is hungry to have the ball, and hungry to move and find dangerous spaces near their goalmouth.
Small sided football is as much about tactics and intelligence as 11-a-side. Marking is essential, and marking players well can be the difference between winning and losing. Keep your eyes on your player you are marking and stay switched on at all times. Every player on that pitch is a threat at all times and with smaller pitches, it can take two passes to get behind you and they’ve scored before you even know that your man has eluded you. Always communicate, and make sure you are heard on the pitch, keep your team mates on their toes and help them in picking up their men. Train and develop yourselves in marking and watching what is going on around you at all times, on a large pitch you can often go idle for periods of time if the ball is not near you or there is no immediate threat, this is something you will not experience in 5-a-side.
DON’T OVER FOCUS ON POSSESSION
Counter-attack in small-sided football is and can be just as effective as possession play. You’ll find that most goals scored are quick bursts up field. By letting teams pass it around aimlessly in non-dangerous areas you will frustrate them and make them start to lose their shape in attempts to draw you out of your own. Eventually a loose pass or touch will allow you to burst quickly and can leave them in your dust, scoring on a quick counter attacking play. This will frustrate them even more, especially as they will have originally h that fake confidence in that they are dominating the game. On pitches such as the ones you will be playing on, 1 or 2 passes before shooting can be all it takes to create that opportunity for you.
However, play what suits your team and your abilities, if you are a team that is able to dominate possession and the game, tiring out opposition players and drawing them out of position with intelligent passing play, then do it! You may never know what style suits you best until you have experimented and seen what works for you.