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Play 5-a-side like Arsene Wenger's Invincibles

Read Arsene's Wenger's top tips for 5-a-side football and learn how to play the beautiful game like some of the great Arsenal teams of his reign.

Arsene Wenger’s time at Arsenal may have ended in disappointment but with a managerial record which boasts 1x French League, 1x Coupe de France, 7x FA Cups, 3x Premier League Titles and the only unbeaten season in Premier League history, there’s no denying that he’s been a fantastic manager. His teams have always played attractive, free flowing attacking football so there’s arguably no-one better placed than ‘Le Professeur’ to give his advice on how to improve your 5-a-side team’s performance.

Arsene’s first recommendation is get your formation sorted, something which many teams neglect,

“Like the 11-a-side game, you do have options when it comes to picking the right formation,” says Arsene. “You can play two at the back, one in midfield and one up front, or you can have one attacker and three defenders, but I would suggest a formation that nicely marries defence with attack. On the face of it, my recommended formation is 1-2-1. One defender, one attacker, with two what I would call offensive full-backs. These two players should fall back and defend when you don’t have the ball but be ready to get forward and attack when necessary. This is a formation that I feel will allow you to play the best and most effective five-a-side. You’ll be strong in defence, and dangerous in attack.”

Once you have your formation sorted, it’s time to focus on your style of play. Given football pundits obsession for possession stats you’d be forgiven for thinking that keeping the ball is the be all and end all of being successful in 5-a-side, but not according to Arsene…

“If you watch five-a-side, most goals will come from a quick burst upfield. One or two passes and then shoot. It is the teams that have too much of the ball and are playing too many passes amongst themselves that have the least success. Be quick, be ruthless and you’ll be successful.”

So it seems being effective on the counter attack could be the key to success in small sided football, “Playing on the break with quick passes from defence can be a hugely effective and entertaining tactic in 11-a-side and the same can be said for the smaller version of the game. By sitting back and defending you are tempting your opposition to lose their shape, frustrating them, before winning the ball and scoring on the break. But to do it well, the two full-back/midfield players are vital. They must support the defender and nullify the other team, but in a flash, break out and get among the goals.” Unlike 11-a-side where you can hide your worst player on the left wing and hope they don’t do too much damage, there’s no hiding place in 5-a-side, you need a strong, balanced team to be successful. However, Arsene argues that there’s one position in the team that is particularly important,

“Your striker needs to have a lot to his or her game. They must be eager to get in behind and to score goals, of course, but in five-aside they must also be very unselfish. They must be able to play with their back to goal, bring in the attacking full-backs with little passes. You are always susceptible to a goal on the break and should guard against it. So, the attacking player also needs to help in defence when you don’t have the ball.”

There’s no better feeling than winning, but most of play 5-a-side for fitness and a bit of fun, so remember to enjoy it win, lose or draw – there’s always another game next week. A point which Arsene echoes,

“The last bit of advice I can give is to go out and enjoy yourself,” he smiles. “There’s nothing better than playing the game with your mates, giving it your all, hopefully winning and then going for a drink afterwards."

“That doesn’t have to be alcoholic drink, by the way,” he adds, “but if you must, go on – you deserve it.”

*Quotes taken from an article on

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