Defending in 9-a-Side Football

Defending is our topic of discussion today. It’s a very brief and technical topic. But before we get to the technicalities of defending in 9-a-side, we will discuss its importance and its role in a successful and functioning football team.

When kids reach the level of 9-a-side football, usually there is a sense of maturity about football’s basic concepts in them. But still, there is a dire need to keep shedding light on these concepts so important aspects like defence are not ignored.

Defending is Not Just for the Defenders!

You would have read this before; but we will say it again! The defence is not the responsibility of defenders only, it’s a complete way of playing the beautiful game and every player on the field should have a mentality of defending their team’s goal. Players in every position in football can play some role in the defence. You would be thinking; what can a striker do for defending?

invovling attacker into defending:

There are several things that offensive players can also do to assist in defending in a 9-a-side. Things like pressing, keeping the possession, disrupting the opponent’s team shape by the off-ball and intelligent runs, and many, many more.

That’s not it, in some of the footballing ideologies, defenders are not only there to protect the goal, they are also part of the attacking dynamics and many famous teams like FC Barcelona and Bayern Munich start the attacking build-ups from their defensive lines.

Now when you know the importance of defending in a 9-a-side or any other format of the beautiful game, we can proceed towards the very basics of defending.

What are the Basics of Defending?

Since you have made it this far, we are about to teach you the basic elements of defending in 9-a-side. Of course, these basics will be suitable to the football version we are talking about here, but they will also help you in the later stages of competitive football.

Whether you’re playing a 9-a-side or a standard 11-a-side, the basics remain the same. More than the tactical commands, defending is about the mindset. As we said above, all 9 players on the pitch are somehow defenders. No matter their position, they somehow contribute to the defence.

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To talk about the defensive mindset, we will divide this concept in a few points. Here they are;

Stay in Shape

Staying in shape is really important for your whole formation, not just the defenders. When your team’s formation is disturbed and out of shape, there are spaces created between your lines, and there are huge chances that your opponents will exploit these spaces and create defensive problems for your team.

So, first and foremost, your whole team, all 9 players, need to have the positional awareness and the compactness between the lines. Now coming to the defence, don’t let the opponents disrupt the shape and formation of your defence, your defence should be compact enough to look like a wall with no spaces for your opponents to go through.

Target the Weaknesses of Your Opponent

Having your defence solid and compact is a great idea, but knowing your opponents’ strengths and weaknesses is an even greater idea. When you know the strengths and weaknesses of your opponents, you can devise a game plan accordingly.

For example, if you know your opponent are good in attack from the wider areas and vulnerable in the central attacking areas, you will give a tactical demand to your full-backs to steer your opponent’s attack to the wider areas of the pitch.

Your centre-backs will then do the necessary pressing. You don’t need a world class defence to execute solid defending on the pitch, some smart work and opponent’s analysis will do the work.


Defending is More than Just a Tactic

Defending is not just a tactic. By this we mean it’s more a mindset than a tactic. Your whole team should have defensive attributes, as all of them are defenders of the ball somewhere. Even if it’s a mere off-ball run from the attacker to destabilize the opponent’s line, it’s defending.

Similarly, your whole team takes part in the pressing. Prior to giving a lengthy tactical talk in the dressing room before the match starts, make sure you’ve prepared all of your players to be defenders of the ball in their minds and then execute on the pitch accordingly. As we said, defending is more than just a tactic, it’s a complete mindset which any team member should have irrespective of the position they have in the line-up.

Avoid Being Impulsive

It has been witnessed a lot of times that defenders make impulsive and aggressive decisions! This ultimately gets them red-carded or affects their game negatively. Instead of reacting logically, many defenders react to the situation rationally and impulsively. Which costs the whole team a lot.

Here’s an exemplary scenario, if your defender is tackled harshly, or gets involved in the heated moment with the opponent, it doesn’t mean he has to risk his fitness and take revenge in the remaining minutes. Instead your defender should use such events to boost their motivation and perform even better. Being impulsive isn’t the right call!

Defending in a 9-a-Side, Against a Stronger Team

The beauty of football is that there is always a stronger team than the other. So, the question which arises is: how to defend against such better sides? How to keep up defensively with such teams?

We’re here to help you out. Here are a few ways which you can opt for when facing a side which is superior to yours. There’s nothing to worry about, you just need to play smartly;

know who you’re up against:

Get to know your opponents, because when you know about your competition, you make smart choices. If you know your opponent is strong and you don’t have much-attacking ammunition, you can opt for a defensive approach to the game. You can choose defensive formations like 4-3-1, 4-1-2-1, etc. It is relative to the situation, examine your opponent and then you can opt for the right defensive formation.

stick to the plan:

Now when you have decided the formation, make sure you stick to the plan. Make sure there aren’t any loops between your defences. Your defenders should have excellent coordination as well as the positioning sense of each other. Remember your whole game plan depends on your defence.

minimize their attacking threat:

The main goal of the defensive approach of the game is to disorganize the opponent’s game plan. Hence, minimizing their attacking threat. For this, you will need excellent ball distributors who can handle the pressure in the midfield.

attacking while defending:

If you’ve got all your defensive ingredients right, it’s time to formulate a winning plan. The main question is; how can you score goals by playing in a defensive mode? You can opt for strategies like counter-attacking and possession-based football. Making the defence line the starting point of your attacking build-up and look for the gaps and spaces in the opponent’s tactical lines.


Defending in a 9-a-side might be very similar to the standard version of the game, that’s why you need to understand all the concepts very clearly. Later, these concepts will help you in 11-a-side as well.

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