All posts by Tom Mura

Small-Sided Game for Crossing and Finishing

By Sean Pearson

Area: 40 x 30 yards

Time: 20 mins

Players: 6 v 6

Objectives

  • To understand the different types of cross
  • To understand when to use a certain cross

Set Up
Three areas, 2 end zones 10 x 30 yards and a middle zone 20 x 30 yards. 3v3 in the middle with 2 players for each team on the outside. 2 goals with a GK in each one.

Execution
The aim for each team is to get the ball out wide to either wide player and for the wide player to cross the ball into the end zone and have runners meet the ball and attempt to score. The first cross we will look at is a low cross behind the defense.

The cross is played early and on the ground because there is space to play the ball on the ground to the striker and the opposite winger who is allowed to come off their line and attack the cross. The cross is played with the inside of the foot with pace into the space ahead of the runners so they can attempt to score with a one-time shot.

If the team scores, then the next ball starts with their GK. If they miss or the GK catches the ball, then an immediate attack on the other goal can start. First do not allow defenders into the end zone to allow success at crossing but after some success allow 1 or 2 defenders in. No-one is allowed in the end zone before the winger receives the ball.

The next cross is a cut back. Encourage the wingers if they do not see the space available for an early cross to drive to the touch line. The striker should make a run to the near post dragging a defender with them (if not the winger can play the striker) thereby allowing the deeper player at the top of the end zone to be free. The winger then cuts the ball back on the ground for the attempted shot.

The last cross is a deep cross. This should happen when there is no space to play in behind the defense and the winger does not drive to the touch line. Because of the positions of all the players, a high deep cross to the back post and the opposite winger is what is needed.

If no cross is an option due to pressure, then players can pass backwards to a team mate but then all players must reset to their original areas.

Throughout this game, you are looking for understanding from your players to recognize the different scenarios and to execute the cross that best fits the scenario. If they recognize the scenario but fail in their technique, encourage their decision and help with their specific technical miscues to help them in the same scenario next time. Try not to discourage them from not trying when they understood the type of cross they were supposed to put in but they could not execute.

Variations

  • Add a neutral to overload the players able to receive the cross
  • Apply more pressure to the wingers from the beginning
  • Take the end zones out to see if the information was taken on board in a normal game situation

By Sean Pearson. Sean is also the author Coaching Team Shape in the 3-3-1, Coaching Team Shape in the 4-2-3-1 and Coaching Team Shape in the 4-3-3

Pressing to Win the Ball in the Midfield

By Sean Pearson

Area: 40 x 32 yards (2 x {8×32} 1 x {24×32})

Time: 15 mins

Players: 6 v 6 + 2

Objectives

  • To recognize where to pressure in the middle third
  • To win the ball in the middle third and maintain possession

Set Up
3 areas, two end zones and 1 large middle area. In each end zone, there is a 2v1 in favor of the defenders in the middle zone there is a 3v3+2 neutrals to become a 5v3. The aim of the team in possession is to cross the end line of the opposite side. The aim of the defending team is to win the ball in the middle third then advance the ball past the end line they are attacking.

Execution
When beginning play the striker in the end zone should look to cut the pass off between the 2 players and force the ball into the middle on one side or another. The defender in the opposite end zone reads the body shape and direction that the striker is sending the play. At this point they enter the middle zone and press the neutral on that side. The 3 players in the middle lock on to a player and man mark them all on the ball side. Lastly the defender left in the opposite end zone slides across to maintain compactness on that side. Now players are in position to win the ball in the middle third of the field.

Depending on the decision of the player on the ball and the distance of the defender from the receiving player, (1) players can stop the player from turning either forcing the ball backwards or win the ball if they try to turn. Or (2) anticipate the interception. The aim is to get the ball past the end line so when a player wins the ball in the middle third the player with the ball is allowed in the end zone with 1 other player. Adding the striker this makes a 3v2.

If the team in possession is able to switch the ball to the other side of the field then the two players who start in the end zone need to switch rapidly as soon as the pass is played backwards.

If the ball is able to be played to the center of the field as opposed to either side, it is important you players are able to get themselves back behind the ball to deny penetration and the two players in the defending end zone step up to keep the distance compact. They should look at the body shape and try to read the direction of the next pass. If it is backwards then the midfielders should step up again but if it is across the field then this is a time they could either (1) intercept or (2) pressure the neutral to stop forward progress.

It is important for your players to understand how to deny penetration and force the opposition into compact areas where there is a high risk of turnover. Then what is the best way to move the ball forward. If the forward direction is not initially on, going backwards is allowed as that is the game of soccer.

Variations

  • Add goals and GK’s
  • Allow the 2 defenders to enter the middle zone if they have the ball
  • Only allow the player with the ball to enter the attacking end zone with the ball

By Sean Pearson. Sean is also the author Coaching Team Shape in the 3-3-1, Coaching Team Shape in the 4-2-3-1 and Coaching Team Shape in the 4-3-3