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Marcelo Bielsa: Coaching Defensive Interceptions

I recently saw a video on Julius Riemann's Twitter page (which I highly recommend following) around Marcelo Bielsa and defensive interceptions. It's well known that Bielsa is very specific in his training methodology, so when you get access to watch any footage, I think it's interesting to question where exactly he is looking to implement it and why. The action itself is quite a simple but perhaps underestimated one. The passer is facing the receiver, who has defensive pressure behind them, and just as the pass is played, the defender steps in and wins the ball.

Below is an example of this happening in a game. You can see that the timing for the defender is perfect. They anticipate the pass and use correct spacing to allow them to step in front of the attacker and intercept the ball.

Why does Bielsa stress the importance of this particular type of defending? Below I put together a short video of perhaps why an aggressive, high pressing team may still require interceptions throughout the game. This video was part of a special series of videos to launch my new book, Modern Soccer Coach: Detail. If you enjoy the video, please subscribe to my YouTube page for more bonus content by clicking here.

Another example of a screening exercise is this one below with Manchester United and Kieran McKenna. It's similar to the game in the video where the hexagon shape of the pitch allows the players to get expansive when they are in possession and challenges the defensive team to close down the spaces, but then also opens up the passing lanes in transition. Sometimes in traditional 'fussball' type games, the space is quite compact and as a result, the players are not exposed to the benefits in transition. You can watch the exercise below.

That's not to say the traditional 'Fussball' games are not useful. The coach may simply have a different objective. Below we can see Diego Simeone using that format with passing lanes and the spaces in transition are extremely small. This constraint maybe used to challenge players to execute passes when the spaces are gone within 2-3 seconds, or could also be used to increase the intensity of the game. Without understanding exactly what the coach is looking for, we are always guessing. However, the level of these coaches and the way that they work often leads us to potential clues.

This article was written by Gary Curneen as part of a promotion for the new book 'Detail'. If you would like to support the free content at Modern Soccer Coach, 'Detail' is a collection of takeaways from the interviews we have done on podcasts and webinars throughout the past four years. It is also a personal perspective of how Gary views the game, experiences on why he has changed, as well as an insight into what lies ahead for the coaching community. CLICK HERE TO ORDER YOUR COPY.

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