In this article, we’re going to look at some of the basic fundamental concepts that should be included within rondos. Rondos as an exercise receive a lot of criticism from coaches that I don’t believe understand what they are or how they should work. If your complaints are that rondos are not realistic, because there is no realism via direction, transition, space, distances and angles, or whatever else, then it’s your fault for not including them in there. A rondo is like pizza. The concept is the same, but the toppings are your choice. So in this video, I’m going to talk about a couple things you should be aware of and factor into your planning, regarding rondos.
We’re going to do this in a basic 4v1. Nothing too flash, just so we can look at these main ideas. The first thing to be aware of is that all players are inside the box. Often coaches will have players on the outside of their exercises. Why? Not only does this prevent the defender from being able to tackle, but it also gives them more space than the exercise design allowed. If you want them to play inside a 8x8 square, then they play inside of it. A player stepping out gives themselves extra time and space, making their life easier. We haven’t conditioned these to be easy.
Regarding support angles, consider imaginary lines like a St. George’s cross, that divide the square into quarters. You can even do this with some markers. We now have a vertical and a horizontal hemisphere. As a guideline, players on opposite sides should offer support in the other hemisphere. Take the two players at the top and the bottom, Blue 8 and Blue 4. See how they are opposite sides of that central vertical line. Offering passing lanes at different widths and depths helps to unbalance an opponent.
Next is to avoid having players hanging out in the corners. This only gives them ninety degrees to play with, limiting their space and their options, making them more predictable. Instead, have players more towards the middle of their side, giving them 180 degrees to play with. Space is a premium, and players should not inhibit themselves by limiting their own space and options. Make sure they know they can move laterally along their side to offer different support, rather than being fixed in one spot.
In a 4v1, a player should always have as a minimum, two options. One player comes short on the near side for emergency support. One player offers a pass directly opposite, which we call long, being the pass we most want to play, because it travels furthest and eliminates the defender. Then opposite the short option should be a switch option. Imagine a CB playing short to the RB, long to the CM or CF, or switching it to the left wing.
As for the defender, we want realistic defending. Try to encourage them to block certain passing lanes to make the next pass more predictable. Here, the defender is likely able to cut out passes to Blue 8 and Blue 6 because they are both within the cover shadow. Rather than being in the middle and only cutting off the pass to Blue 6, what this now does is prevents Blue 2 from making two passes, meaning the only option is Blue 4. With the next pass being predictable, it’s easier to steal. For the defender’s reference, although this particular exercise is multi-directional, the defender must always view the pass behind the as the forward pass. Good defending isn’t always winning the ball. Sometimes it’s simply keeping the ball in front of you, preventing it from going past you.
Back to attacking. The three players nearest the ball should attempt to triangulate around the defender. Can they create clear passing lanes to each other? Within real games, we look to create situations of superiority. A 3v1 triangulated around the opponent is brilliant. We can go in either direction, and any of the players can connect with each other. If we don’t triangulate properly, we allow the defender to cut off one of the passing lanes, and potentially they leave an attacker in their cover shadow, isolating into a 2v1 or even a 1v1, depending upon positioning and the pass choice.
Next to look at is the tackle radius. Similar to the cover shadow, it’s a circumference around the defender in which they can likely block, steal, or dispossess an attacker. The proximity of the defender, and therefore their tackle radius, can influence the passing choice attackers make.
The ball, the space, the teammates, the opponent all influence passing choices. A pass is a form of communication. How or where the pass is played tells the teammate what to do next. Passing to the left foot here makes the ball go back into pressure, or at least has the receiver take a touch or play a swivel pass. Both lose vital time and space currency. By playing to the right foot, the ball is bounced immediately with one touch to the teammate on the open side. This exploits the space and gives much more time to the receiver, because the defender is further away.
Taking it one step further is disguising the pass. By shaping up one way and passing the other, we send the wrong information to the defender. The defender reads those signals and predicts a pass that isn’t coming. This buys more time and space for the receiver, because the defender now has to readjust and recover.
The 4v1 ends up looking like this. Players moving around, changing angles, coming closer and staying away, based on what the game tells them to do. Playing the ball all around the defender, with all four players receiving it in a circle, like in a washing machine, is called a spin cycle. If the positioning is good and the decision making quick, the defender can feel lost and helpless.
In order to encourage realistic defending, we need to give them something to do. If a defender’s only job is to steal the ball, they’ll put in less effort. Without realistic intensity, transfer to the game is less likely to occur. Too many coaches don’t give their defenders a job, and as such, teams don’t learn to react well to transitions. How could they, if they haven’t done it in practice?
Instead, give the defender something to achieve, like dribbling out of the area if they steal it. It also gives the attacking team a chance to make up for bad passes, like they would do in the game, by immediately trying to recover possession after losing it.
Another incentive for the defenders could be playing the pass into small goals. It gives the attackers something to be aware of when they lose the ball, factoring in the “what if?” associated with risk and reward with each pass.
If you’d like to create exercises like these, get yourself to Sport Session Planner. You can purchase joint membership with BFCN, and any current BFCN members already on Sport Session Planner can join our session planning club.