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Body Shape for Effective Defending

What is effective body shape or body orientation?

Body shape, or body orientation, in soccer is a term used to describe the way a player faces, and how they use their body to their advantage. Body shape or orientation is important in both attack and defense.

Taking up the most effective body shape is a skill that is often said to come “naturally” to a player. It is seen as an almost inherent quality that is simply part of a player’s talent. But that is far from the truth. Correct or optimal body shape will be improved with work at practice. The earlier it is learned, the more “natural” it becomes as part of a player’s game.

What are the different types of body orientation?

The different phases of play require different body orientations. In attack, players need to use their body to protect the ball from opponents when they control it, and also to help them play away from pressure play quickly with their first touch. Receiving on the half-turn – facing across the field rather than towards either goal – will allow players to do this. It is also important that players can shift and modify their body position depending on the situation and how they receive the ball.

When defending, players need to do their best to have an open body shape whenever they can. This allows them to see as many of the opposition’s attackers as possible – and also note where the ball is. Defenders also need to be careful not to be caught ‘square on’ – or facing straight up the field – when a ball gets played in behind them. In this situation, they might struggle to turn quickly to dela with that through ball.

What is the best body shape to use in defense?

Correct body shape is very important in many defensive situations. It might be most important in one-on-one situations, but correct body orientation is also integral to a team as a whole, as we work to force our opponents in a certain direction. Meaning, several players with the correct body shape can help direct opponent play towards the touchline, where it is easier to win the ball back.

When it comes to individual 1 vs 1 battles, correct body shape makes it easier to adjust and react to an opponent’s actions. For example, being side-on will make it more difficult for an attacker to wrong-foot the defender and beat that player.

Who is the best player in the world right now in using effective body shape when defending?

Virgil van Dijk!

The Liverpool center-back is extremely composed both with and without the ball, in part because he always seems to be perfectly sure of where every opponent is. This is in large part due to the fact he usually has correct body orientation, as well as how he constantly adjusts his body shape. As a defender, it is almost impossible to always keep an open body shape. When defending, being dragged out of position, into wide areas for example, will happen and often leads to that player turning their back on the rest of the field at some point.

Van Dijk is so good in these moments at adjusting his body shape when running to make sure he can still see the play, while also aiming to guide opponents in a favorable direction for his defensing. See picture below:

This first video is of Van Dijk talking and showing 1 vs 1 defending skills.
This video further breaks down effective body positioning when defending.
Key Points:

1. Close down space and be 1-2 steps away from the attacker.  This is what we mean when coaches say ‘touch tight.’ Get close to force their head down.

2. Jockey, delay and be patient. Avoid diving in. The best attackers want you to dive in on them because they will just touch it around you and go. So, we want to be patient.

3. Force the attacker onto their weak foot.

4. Be on your toes!

5. Keep your feet moving.

6. Keep your eye primarily on the ball!  Secondly look at their hips. Focus on the ball first and hips second give you all the info you need to know how to cut them off

7. Win the ball with confidence when the attacker plays a heavy touch.  Just after they play the heavy touch. Work to get your body between the attacker and the ball.

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