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The Art of Counterpressing

German Top Level Tactics

  • Why Counterpressing

  • Tactical Principles

  • Analysis of Game Situations

  • 25 effective Drills

Author: Steven Turek

Edited by: Peter Schreiner

Layout: Oliver Schreiner

Publisher: Institut für Jugendfußball

Pages: 69

Picture: 52


Prologue by Steven Turek

Dear Coaching-Colleagues,


what have all successful teams of the last years as Bayern Munich, FC Barcelona or Borussia Dortmund in common? They all have one functioning mechanism after they lose the ball, to regain possession as quickly as possible - the Counterpressing!

The term Counterpressing established over the last few years and is an indicator of a modern and especially complete philosophy. Many years, the tactical training dealt with the question how to attack in possession and how to defend against the ball. The way of thinking shifted over the last years increasingly into the field of the transition from own ball possession to opponent ball possession and the other way around.

In this book, I will combine strategies for a possession-game with strategies for a transition-game.

Steven Turek Counterpressing

For the simple reason that the foundation of a successful counterpressing needs to be already established in possession. Further will be described, which options arise after a successful counterpressing and what the backup plan is, if counterpressing fails.

In the practical part, I present 25 drills and go into specifics of a training emphasizing on counterpressing. I hope to give you some useful suggestions for your training routine.


Please enjoy reading this book,

Steven Turek

The Art of Counterpressing - Sample

Develop Counterpressing!

Whoever Wants to Train Counterpressing Needs to do This in Competitive-Like Exercises!

If the build-up shall be trained, different exercises with and without opponent can be found. However, if counterpressing shall be trained, solely exercises with opponents can be used. Since it relates to a competitive-like situation (namely a lost ball), it is difficult to find an appropriate exercise without any opponent. In order to still simplify or complicate counterpressing, it requires a creative coach who shapes and trains these exercises. In the following paragraphs, different suggestions are illustrated in order to train counterpressing multifaceted.


Head for a Lost Ball!

Since the explicit situation of a turnover shall be trained, all exercises need to provoke the moment of a lost ball. In order to create this situation as a coach, it requires certain elements of control.


Time Limitation for Attacks/Ball Possession!

Has a team only a certain limit of time to attack (or possess the ball), it more frequently comes to hectic or overhasty actions so that a loss of the ball is more likely to happen.


Preset Touches of the Ball!

Are the players given only a certain number of touches, it also could lead more frequently to lost balls. A greatly limited number of touches (direct play or two touches) leads, especially under increased pressure of space, to misdirected passes. This bad pass is the trigger of counterpressing.

Even an increased number of touches (for example the precept to dribble or to go into an 1 v 1) could lead to turnovers. These lost balls are created due to a lost duel and train counterpressing - for example at the wing after a failed dribbling. In this organization, already one player (namely the one who lost the ball) is situated close to the site of the turnover (difference to a misdirected pass).


Adjust Your Mindset to Counterpressing!

Not only the players need to transition quickly after turnovers, also you as a Coach need to do so. As well for you it is important to perceive a lost ball more as a chance instead of looking for a scapegoat. Furthermore, this philosophy requires a high degree of devotedness, willingness and aggressiveness. These attributes need to be lived versatilely by the coach - be it through aggressive and loud coaching or the demonstration of possible playing options - according to the principle “The player shows what the Coach demands and lives by”. If the coach adjusts his mindset to aggressively hunt the ball after turnovers, so do the players sooner or later.

Drills Counterpressing


Passing in Groups of Four

 Drill Soccer Counterpressing

Organization: 3 teams (different colors) of each 4 players. There are two goals in each colors – one passing goal at a corner or side and one build with cones in the field. The practice starts with the three teams each have one ball. They pass the ball to each other freely. By the time the coach calls out one color, that teams tries to score on their colored goals, while the other two teams try to prevent them from scoring.

Coaching Points: While in possession of the ball, every player has to orientate himself to perfectly react to the next situation. Demand a constant view over the shoulder from every player to perfectly know one’s own surroundings.

Variation: The team that is called out tries to score on the opposing goals (4 goals) – This way, Counterpressing is arranged much more difficult.

4 vs. 2 with Changing Fields

Drill 4 vs 2 counterpressing

Organization: In a field (10x10m) is being played 4 v 2. If a blue player gains the ball, he transitions from defense to offense. The red player, who lost the ball, transitions to defense. If Red plays four successive passes, they need to change into an adjacent field.

Coaching Points:Blue follows all principles of defending two by two. Moreover, the change of fields is a good possibility to create a pressing situation since a red player receives the ball in a closed position.

Variation: After a turnover, Red is allowed to regain possession. In this case, it only comes to switching tasks ifBlue reaches an adjacent field (by a dribbling or a pass).

5 vs 5 vs 5​

5 vs 5 vs 5 counterpressing drill

Organization: In the marked field plays Red against Blue 5 v 5. If Red scores, they keep in possession at their own goal. If Red loses the ball, the players sprint into the depth next to the opposing goal. Green starts into the field and Blue tries to score. With the next turnover, Blue sprints outside the field and Red comes in again while Greentries to score.

Coaching Points: Despite the possibly great distance towards the ball carrier shall pressure be applied. Specifically trained is the way of attacking the ball carrier and creating pressure.

Variation: The organization remains. As only change, players are allowed to leave the field wherever they want after a turnover. This leads when entering the field to the result that it will be easier to create pressure on the ball carrier. As a consequence, pressing of all directions is trained -  from the front, back and side. 

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