This session is about players demonstrating that they can perform different types of attacking runs: runs in behind, diagonal runs, runs from deep or overlapping runs. It enables players to take decisions independently and to look for the right opportunities to be creative in the types of forward runs they make.
The session demands players constantly make decisions that will affect their physical, technical, tactical and psychological state in a match specific situation.
I like to deliver this session every week as it gives me the opportunity to make players understand my philosophy and the key principles of the way we play. The session structure is also flexible and can be easily transferred from an attacking session to a defending session without having to change the set-up.
To make it relevant to match day, I can also have one of the teams set up in a specific formation or playing style and create a scenario that replicates our forthcoming opponents.
What do I get the players to do?
4v4 + targets
We set up in an area of 40×20 yards with a five-yard zone at each end. We’re using groups of 10 outfield players split into two teams of four, plus two neutral target players. One target player starts in each end zone.
We play a 4v4 directional game in the main area starting with a pass from one of the target players. Teams must try to score points by getting the ball into the end zone that they are attacking – only the target player can stand in the end zone but players can make a forward run into the zone with the ball or make an attacking off the ball run into the zone to receive a pass from a team mate.
The possession team scores one point for dribbling the ball into the end zone and two points for a pass into the end zone that is received by a team mate, as shown [1a]. Three points can be scored for a pass to the target player, who plays out to the same team and they make a through pass into the end zone that is received by a team mate running in, as shown [1b].
If the ball goes out of play or if one team scores, the target players restart the game with a pass to the other team to replicate a transition.
10v10 + goalkeepers
We set up between the penalty areas of a full size pitch, plus we add two end zones that each contain a goal and a goalkeeper. We’re using 20 outfield players, playing 10v10 in the main area. Teams are in formation and play starts with a pass out from the keeper.
As in the first activity, the possession team scores one point for dribbling the ball into the end zone and two points for a pass into the end zone that is received by a team mate, as shown [2a]. The attacking team can also score two points by passing into the hands of the opposition goalkeeper, as shown [2b].
The team in possession can also recycle the ball back to their goalkeeper to change the point of attack.
We play two matches of nine minutes each, allowing us to make some key points between matches.
How would you put this in a game situation?
This is where we will observe the players to see what learning has taken place and if they are transferring their knowledge and understanding from the previous practices into a game situation.
We set up on a full pitch to play an 11v11 game with no added conditions or rules. The diagrams show two examples of the kind of play we want to see in the game.
As shown [3a], number 5 passes into number 7 who links with 8. Number 2 makes a third man run to receive from 8 and crosses into the box.
As shown [3b], number 3 plays the ball to 8, who is breaking the line. Number 9 drags defenders out of position with a run towards number 8, allowing number 7 to fool the defenders with a run to receive in the penalty area, setting up a goal scoring opportunity.
What are the key things to look out for?
Technically, we want to see players making forward or curved runs. They should really commit to the run and attack the space. Players should angle their bodies and watch the ball the whole way. The timing and angle of the run is also important.
Tactically, we want to see players showing an ability to recognise the space to attack and spot if the opposition are playing a high line. They should also create space for team mates to exploit and be able to break lines and disrupt the opposition’s block. Above all, we want players to be able to recognise when the opportunity to attack arises and make the transition from defence to attack successfully.