Using P.A.T. to Defend
Updated: Oct 10, 2019
P - Patience
A - Angled
T - Toes
The P.A.T. acronym above is a quick and easy way for trainees to remember several of the keys when defending.
First, patience is critical as a defender. Paolo Maldini, one of the greatest defenders of all-time who played for A.C. Milan and the Italian National team has stated that “if I have to make a tackle, then I have already made a mistake.” His quote reveals that patience and appropriate positioning on the field will make a defender’s job 10X easier. Obviously, with experience comes knowledge on when to be patient in soccer. However, the general rule of thumb is that when an opposing player has the ball and their back is facing you and the goal they need to score in, then you want to be aggressive. You do not want to give that player space to turn with the ball. A soccer player dribbling the ball backwards is significantly slower than a soccer player dribbling the ball forwards, so keep your advantage by preventing the attacking player from turning with the ball. Patience comes into play when the opposing player with the ball is attacking you head on. Here, keeping the opposition in front of you is 3/4ths of the battle. It is such a large portion of defending because staying in front of the opposing player enables you to be in a quality position to dispossess them, force them to pass, or even block/deflect their shot.
Furthermore, the number of supporting teammates you have also determines your level of patience. Specifically, if there is one attacking player and you have two additional supporting defenders with you, then you better be very aggressive because even if you get dribbled past, you have two more teammates to stop the opposing player. Whereas, if you are the only defender and there are three attacking players, then your goal is to be patient, keep the play in front of you, and slow the opposing team down as much as possible so that your supporting teammates will have time to come back to help.
Next, as a defender, you want your body positioning to be angled. You never want to have your hips pointed (“squared”) at the attacker completely because then it makes it so that the attacker can go to the right of you, to the left of you, and between your legs. You want to be angled, but not entirely turned to the side. Position one of your sides so it is facing the attacker, but still at a diagonal. If it were hands on a clock, you would want your feet positioning just like the hands on the clock at either “10 and 4,” as shown in the first image or “8 and 2,” as shown in the second image.
This body positioning will allow you to push them either to the left or the right.
Standing at “10 and 4” would push them to their left foot and standing at “8 and 2” would push the attacking player to their right foot. Keep in mind that just standing directly in front of them and turning your hips will not force them in the direction you want them to go. You must be slightly off-centered with your hips set at either “10 and 4” or “8 and 2,” to push them in the direction you want them to go. If you just turn your hips directly in front of a good dribbler, they will attack the side that you are not facing, all other things being equal, to make it easier for themselves.
As a defender, it is essential you are active by being on your toes. You do not want to be standing still. You want to be bent at the knees, bent at the hips, and lower in your stance. Being on your toes will allow you to accelerate faster when the attacker does a skill and tries to sprint away.
Boosting your defending knowledge allows you to advance your game quickly. Consider the Understand Soccer Series book, Soccer Defending, to learn the tips, tricks, tweaks, and techniques to be the best defender on your team and an all-star in your league. To grab a copy for $9.97, click here: Soccer Defending Book.