By Sean Pearson
Area Size: 40 x 46 Yards
Teams: 20 mins
Players: 7 v 7 + 2
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.
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.
By Sean Pearson
Area Size: Quarter or Half field (depending on age of players)
Teams: 15 – 20 mins
Players: 7 v 7
2 teams set up in a 2-3-1 formation in a scrimmage like scenario.
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.
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
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.
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.
By Sean Pearson
Area Size: Half Field
Teams: 20 mins
Players: 5 v 5 + 2
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.
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.