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Possession to Turn

By Sean Pearson

Area Size: 36 x 42 Yards

Teams: 15 mins

Players: 6 v 6

Objectives

  • To understand when and where to improvise and be creative
  • For players to feel encouraged to try different ways of attacking to increase confidence

Set-Up

Three zones of equal area divide the field into 3 sections. There is an overload of 3v1 in the defensive zones to start with and 2v2 in the midfield section.

  Execution

Each section has degree of creativity set upon it. At the back when building possession you want your team to make high percentage decisions. Whether it be passes or bringing the ball forward but with 3v1 you do not want to take any chances. Move the ball until one of the center backs can pass or bring the ball forward out of the area into the midfield area. The other 2 players can’t follow this player into the midfield area.

Now you create a 3v2 but what you try and create is a 2v1. The spare midfielder looks to take one defender away with their movement. 1) The CB then can look to take on the midfielder with speed, especially if the midfielder positions themselves on the inside to allow more space on the outside (note the original position of the other midfielder sitting just behind the CB in case possession is lost). 2) the CB can play a pass into the space with the outside of their foot after drawing the midfielder in close to them.

As the ball is brought further forward there should be more encouragement on being creative and improvising but also making fast decisions when doing so. Forward runs will help with getting more players forward and making the defenders unsure of where the ball will go. Below the striker starts deep and makes a run towards the ball, bringing a defender with them. At the same time the two wider players in the middle zone make forward runs. Now the defenders are outnumbered 3v2 and can’t mark everybody. It is important that the striker doesn’t broadcast their intentions by changing their body shape to show their planned passing option.

  1. Hold off the defender and use the pace of the pass and the outside of their right foot to help the ball forward but also spin the ball into the path of the player. Your player could also receive the ball facing the opposite way then backheel the ball into the player’s path.
  2. Your player could do the same type of pass with the left foot for the opposite side or shape to face the left sided player only to play a pass behind them through their legs to the right sided player.

Further options going forward can be:

  1. Passes through the midfield with a little disguise on them maybe using outside of the foot. Then the receiving player can take on any defender who engages.
  2. Switch the ball across to the spare player who drives forward into the attacking area. As they are close to the goal encourage them to dribble past any defender they encounter.
  3. If they do decide to pass can the striker be aware of players around them who may be in a better opportunity to shoot/score from. As they come across they bring a defender with them and therefore away from the player on the other side. The allow the ball to go through their legs, committing the defender because if they are not close the striker would have the space to shoot.

When in the attacking area and the play breaks down continually encourage improvisation from players, whether it be backheels, no look passes, flicks etc. Because the one thing defenders don’t like is when a team is unpredictable.

Variations

  • Only allow a goal if a defender has been dribbled past
  • Set targets of each team must try 1/2/3 dummies/backheels/flicks in a certain time limit

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

When to be Creative and When to be Safe

By Sean Pearson

Area Size: 36 x 42 Yards

Teams: 15 mins

Players: 6 v 6

Objectives

  • To understand when and where to improvise and be creative
  • For players to feel encouraged to try different ways of attacking to increase confidence

Set-Up

Three zones of equal area divide the field into 3 sections. There is an overload of 3v1 in the defensive zones to start with and 2v2 in the midfield section.

  Execution

Each section has degree of creativity set upon it. At the back when building possession you want your team to make high percentage decisions. Whether it be passes or bringing the ball forward but with 3v1 you do not want to take any chances. Move the ball until one of the center backs can pass or bring the ball forward out of the area into the midfield area. The other 2 players can’t follow this player into the midfield area.

Now you create a 3v2 but what you try and create is a 2v1. The spare midfielder looks to take one defender away with their movement. 1) The CB then can look to take on the midfielder with speed, especially if the midfielder positions themselves on the inside to allow more space on the outside (note the original position of the other midfielder sitting just behind the CB in case possession is lost). 2) the CB can play a pass into the space with the outside of their foot after drawing the midfielder in close to them.

As the ball is brought further forward there should be more encouragement on being creative and improvising but also making fast decisions when doing so. Forward runs will help with getting more players forward and making the defenders unsure of where the ball will go. Below the striker starts deep and makes a run towards the ball, bringing a defender with them. At the same time the two wider players in the middle zone make forward runs. Now the defenders are outnumbered 3v2 and can’t mark everybody. It is important that the striker doesn’t broadcast their intentions by changing their body shape to show their planned passing option.

  1. Hold off the defender and use the pace of the pass and the outside of their right foot to help the ball forward but also spin the ball into the path of the player. Your player could also receive the ball facing the opposite way then backheel the ball into the player’s path.
  2. Your player could do the same type of pass with the left foot for the opposite side or shape to face the left sided player only to play a pass behind them through their legs to the right sided player.

Further options going forward can be:

  1. Passes through the midfield with a little disguise on them maybe using outside of the foot. Then the receiving player can take on any defender who engages.
  2. Switch the ball across to the spare player who drives forward into the attacking area. As they are close to the goal encourage them to dribble past any defender they encounter.
  3. If they do decide to pass can the striker be aware of players around them who may be in a better opportunity to shoot/score from. As they come across they bring a defender with them and therefore away from the player on the other side. The allow the ball to go through their legs, committing the defender because if they are not close the striker would have the space to shoot.

When in the attacking area and the play breaks down continually encourage improvisation from players, whether it be backheels, no look passes, flicks etc. Because the one thing defenders don’t like is when a team is unpredictable.

Variations

  • Only allow a goal if a defender has been dribbled past
  • Set targets of each team must try 1/2/3 dummies/backheels/flicks in a certain time limit

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

Three Zone Game

By Sean Pearson

Area Size: 32 x 45 Yards

Teams: 15 mins

Players: 8 v 8

Objectives

  • For the deep midfielder to understand their role
  • For the attacking midfielder to understand their role

Set-Up

Three zones separate the sections of the team, defense, midfield and attack. In the defensive section it should be 4v2, midfield section 2v2 and attacking section 2v4.

Execution

When playing out the back, whenever there is an opportunity for the deeper midfielder (known as the #6) to drop down and receive a pass from the goal keeper they should move into the defensive zone to overload the area even more. They should look to do this when the defense splits and the strikers go with them. Upon receiving the ball the deeper midfielder looks to move the ball out of the area through travelling with the ball. At the same time the full backs should look to move forward to create width and to overload the middle zone against the 2 defenders.

When moving out of the defensive zone the deeper midfielder must now realize their role is to both find an option forward and be in a position to both support the attack and help screen the defense if the team lose possession.

The attacking midfielder (known as the #10)

1) looks to get behind the lines of the defending midfielders. They receive with an open body position and look to drive forwards with the ball as they enter the attacking zone they are free to shoot. If a defender comes to stop the shot, they aim to assist in one of the strikers to shoot.

2) If a striker receives the ball from another source and is unable to turn the attacking midfielder can enter the attacking zone and look to shoot after a set back to them from the striker.

If an attack slows with the attacking midfielder inside the attacking zone the deeper midfielder should look to be an option to play back to. The attacking midfielder should then drop back into the midfield zone to open up the attacking zone again and create space to attack into. The attacking midfielder’s role is to then see which option is best to attack. Below it would be to have the wide player advance further into the space on that side of the field. Other times it might be again to drive forwards and shoot or set up a striker.

Role of the #6: To help the defense playing out the back, to facilitate attacks by using their passing range and to be at supportive angles when the ball is ahead of them to recycle the ball.

Role of the #10: To get into positions behind the lines of the opposition and look to influence the attack by driving forwards with the ball or creating opportunities for others to attack and possible shoot.

Variations

  • Change the formation both teams use
  • Play with different formations for each team to challenge the player’s roles

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

Quickly and Efficiently Transitioning

By Sean Pearson

Area Size: 32 x 42 Yards

Teams: 20 mins

Players: 5 v 5 + 3 + 3

Objectives

  • To transition from defense to offense quickly and efficiently using overloads
  • To play through the striker

Set-Up

2 teams set up in a 3-1 formation with another 3 players each of to the side. The striker remains in position while the other 3 players will switch out after each attack.

Execution

The game starts by the team in possession passing to the striker. To facilitate the game to start with apply the rule that the defending team can’t intercept the pass, but once the striker receives the ball free play applies. As the team in possession advances the yellow striker stays in their position so there is an overload of 4v3. The team looks to break forward using width, mobility, speed and interchange of positions to look for ways to create goal scoring chances.

As the black team transitions forward the 3 players waiting on the side slide into position as the attacking players look to be creative with either through balls or dummies to allow players behind them to receive the ball.

After the attack, whether the team shoots, scores or gets dispossessed the attacking team curls off to the side and the defending team transition to attack by playing to the striker first and then overloading the defenders 4v3.

Variations

  • Add a neutral player who acts as a midfielder so players have an option to pass to them or the striker
  • Take the free pass to the striker away
  • Set a time limit for the attacking team to shoot on goal

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

Four Zone Game

By Sean Pearson

Area Size: 40 x 46 Yards

Teams: 20 mins

Players: 7 v 7 + 2

Objectives

  • To switch the ball early and often
  • To use the neutral to overload the fullback 2v1

Set-Up

Two teams set up in a 3-2-1 formation with 4 zones. 2 end zones for the GKs, a central zone for the CB, 2 CMs and striker and 2 wide zones for the FBs and neutrals.

Execution

This small sided game is about how to create and use the 2v1 overload against the opposition fullback. This can be used to work on your specific style of play or for you to practice a strategy against a team that you know plays a 4-4-2 diamond system to get behind their defense.

Straight away the focus is to get the ball out wide, the central players are there to facilitate and switch the ball as often as possible to get the ball into the wide areas. The ball can be passed to either the full back or the neutral player.

Rather than just receiving the ball and making straight runs it is important to manipulate the defender’s movement. To do this diagonal runs are encouraged by the player who is running with the ball. Below we see the neutral receive the ball and drive into the space ahead of them drawing the defender to that space. At the same time the ball is moving to the neutral the full back is beginning to overlap them. Now this creates a dilemma for the defender.

The neutral player aims to commit the defender as close as possible to them to allow the overlapping fullback as much space as possible. Passing too early causes the full back to rush their decisions as it gives the defender more of a chance to stop the cross.

As the ball is played into the end zone the central players, and opposite wide player, should advance their position up the field just like a game. To start with, to increase the success just allow 1 or 2 attacking players into the end zone to finish the cross. You can add a touch limit if you wish. Eventually allow defenders to follow them in. The full back should be encouraged to pick out a teammate.

To further manipulate the defender’s position and movement, instruct the neutral to move higher and wider, away from their original position. As the ball travels to them they aim to commit the defender to them, therefore pulling them wide. The full back sees the new position of the defender and sees the space to utilize inside the neutral.

If the full back is close to the neutral, then the neutral can play the pass 1 time. If not they should hold onto the ball until the defender is committed, to again give the full back as much time as space to drive into the end zone as possible to complete the cross.

The idea behind both scenarios is to get behind the full back by drawing them away from where you want the ball to go. If they try and cheat and stay in the position the ball is going allow the neutral to take the ball forward and cross. Your 2 should then have every option covered depending on where the defender goes. But remember the neutral must move the defender to either side of the zone to help the full back have as much space and time as possible.

 

Variations

  • Allow 1 player from the central zone to help the lone defender. This forces the 2 to act quickly like in a game to create and successfully execute the 2v1
  • After the initial entrance from the full back/neutral into the end zone allow all players to enter it.
  • If you do not have any GKs finish with 1 touch into the corners to challenge your player’s finishing in an empty net.

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

Frustrating the Attack

By Sean Pearson

Area Size: Quarter or Half field (depending on age of players)

Teams: 15 – 20 mins

Players: 7 v 7

Objectives

  • To stop forward penetration
  • To force sideways and backwards passes

Set-Up

2 teams set up in a 2-3-1 formation in a scrimmage like scenario.

Execution

The aim for this session is for your team to work together defensively by stifling forward progression of the opposition and frustrating the other team into backwards and sideways passes until they become frustrated. Your team must stay close together to stop penetrating passing lines into the feet of players further up the field. They cut off angles so the only available pass is one of backwards or sideways.

The defending team does not have to sit right in front of their own goal for this tactic to work. It is more effective to perform it in the middle of the field. As the opposition pass wide, the defending wide midfielder gets across to pressure the player on the ball so they can’t move forwards, the rest of the team slides across, compacting that side of the field, leaving the opposite wing open. The striker drops down to stop any balls into the center of midfield.

As the ball travels back to the CB the striker of the defending team presses the CB to force them to make a quick decision, again not allowing forward penetration. The obvious pass is sideways to the free CB. The team again slide into the middle to compact the area directly in front of or around the ball.

Now we have a little change of shape, because we don’t want to be so compact that passes out wide can break the defensive lines. Again the focus is to stop forward penetration by cutting off forwards passing options. As the ball travels to the opposite CB, the striker drops down to stop passes into the CM. The wide midfielder stays narrow to stop passes into the striker’s feet. The FB comes across to pressure the WM when they receive the ball and the CB and opposite WM slide across to cover and keep defensive shape.

As the ball arrives to the WM the FB is close to Pressure them, the WM has dropped down to block the pass into the striker’s feet again and striker drops to stop passes into the CM again, this leaves a pass backwards to the CB as the only pass available.

Players need to understand that they are working as a team to stop forward progression and not become individual and start to run all over the field. If players can win the ball when pressing then absolutely go for it, but the aim is to frustrate the other team going forward and giving the ball away by trying passes that are not on.

When the other team wins possession the defending team aims to frustrate and stop forward progression just like they experienced.

Variations

  • Add neutrals to challenge the defending team and increase the difficulty
  • Allow only 1 or 2 players to communicate to teammates to help build leaders in defense

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

Creativity to Play Through

ThoBy Sean Pearson

Area Size: 35 x 45 yards 2 x (35 x 10) yard end zones 1x (35 x 25) yard middle zone

Teams: 15 – 20 mins

Players: 5 v 5 + 2

Objectives

  • To have multiple runners behind the defense
  • To be inventive and creative in passing into the space for the runners

Set-Up

2 GK’s, 2 teams 4v4+2 in the middle zone. 2 end zones that only players receiving the ball are allowed in. Both teams are in a diamond formation with 1 CB, 2 FB/wingers and 1 striker.

Execution

The reason there are 2 neutrals within the 4v4 is to massively overload the team in possession. The reason for this is with young players through balls is a notoriously hard topic for them to understand let alone perform well. So although this seems like it would be easy this session you will need intelligent and technically gifted players to perform it.

Both teams are in the middle zone, the aim is to pass the ball into the end zone for a runner. The off side line is the cone line and passes must be played before players cross over this line. When in the end zone players are 1v1 with the GK’s but have a time limit of 5 seconds to score to keep similar game pressure on them.

The purpose of this session is to disguise what you are planning to do by using your body shape and different surfaces of your feet than what you may usually use. Players need to have awareness of runners off the ball and not just focus on the ball itself.

Below we have a neutral with the ball that plays a ball into the striker. At the same time both wingers make runs around the opposition FBs. The striker uses his peripheral vision to see both runs and can either 1) Use the pace of the pass from the neutral and use the outside of his right foot so the ball spins around the corner into the path of the winger. Or 2) receive the ball and face to the right. The opposite winger pulls away dragging the FB with him, the other neutral makes a run between the two defenders. The striker, seeing this run, but still has his body facing right, back heels the ball into the space for the run of the neutral. Whichever option the striker chooses that player attempts to score 1v1 with the GK.

Another option would be for the winger to receive the ball and drive inwards at this moment the striker makes an opposite run and curl into the end zone. The winger, whilst driving and pulling the FB with them,

1) body shape facing forwards, slides a pass into the end zone with the outside of his left foot. Or

2) play across to a neutral who faces the direction of the pass to draw the FB across the field. They then play a pass with the outside of the foot to curve around the FB into the space for the winger.

Here a neutral is higher and occupies a FB. The winger passes the ball in to the feet of the neutral and runs around the FB. The neutral’s body shape is that of still facing the direction of where the pass came from. The neutral then roles the ball back with their left foot and passes behind the FB with the inside of his left foot. So passes with the skill known as the ‘L’ turn.

Eventually, when you are getting success from your players, you can tell one defender to enter the end zone to pressure the attacker.

Variations

  • Increase the difficulty by decreasing the number of neutrals
  • Move the off side line to the last defender
  • Encourage creativity and other disguises to pass the ball behind the defense

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

Defending Deep to Win the Ball

By Sean Pearson

Area Size: Half Field

Teams: 20 mins

Players: 5 v 5 + 2

Objectives

  • For players understand where to use the 2v1 overloads
  • To use the movements of defenders against them and have multiple options to attack

Set-Up

Use half a 9v9 field with 5 defenders set up as GK-3-1 and 5 attackers in a 4-1 or a 1-3-1. Have 3 gates of which the 2 wide gates are occupied by a neutral. If you have an extra player use as a neutral in the middle gate.

Execution

Use the middle of the field with the natural 2v1 overload. Draw the lone defensive midfielder towards the ball by moving forward. When then defensive midfielder comes across, use an angled pass forwards to the other midfielder. Encourage this midfielder to take the space and drive forwards.

When the midfielder gets close to the penalty area the central defender has to make a decision. The striker moves away from the ball and (1) if the defender comes across to stop the forward momentum of the midfielder, this opens up the pass for the striker.

(2) if the defender is drawn to the striker or does not close down the midfielder well enough then the midfielder can either continue to drive forwards or dribble past the defender.

When the central midfielders pass out wide the neutral then becomes involved in the play. To set up the scenario, the wide midfielder must be as wide as possible with space in front of them. If the full back steps up to mark the wide midfielder, then a pass behind them is the option. As the ball is travelling towards the wide midfielder the neutral begins their overlapping run. The wide midfielder then drives inward whilst the striker runs behind the central defender and the opposite wide midfielder runs behind the opposite fullback.

Use the movement of the full back and central defender to determine what pass is best. As the wide midfielder is driving inside, this should bring the full back in with them, which allows more space for the overlapping full back for the 2v1 overload. 1) slide the full back in and they can cross early to the players attacking the goal. 2) If the full back aims to stop that pass by not coming in field with the driving wide midfielder, slide the striker in behind the defense with a split pass between the central defender and full back. Now you are manipulating the movement of the full back with the 2v1.

If the defense wins possession they look to dribble through an empty gate or pass to a neutral behind a gate to score.

Variations

  • Use other formations to create 2v1 overloads at different areas of the field.
  • Add another defender is possible to make it more challenging for the offense.
  • If you end up with 6v5, if the defense scores have them switch with the offense

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