The best teams are those that recognise the space pressed and left by opponents, and the best players are those who know whether to play in front of, to the side of, in between or behind an opponent.
This session is therefore set up to develop good decision-making, and also helps players gain a better understanding and appreciation of spacial awareness when in possession of the ball.
We run this on a weekly basis because it showcases skills that can be improved upon by any player. These are also elements of game play that occur every time a team has the ball, both collectively and individually, which makes the practice equally relevant for all players in all positions.
What do I get the players to do?
We set up as shown (1a), and in a 30×10-yard area, with three teams of three. Players in possession aim to work the ball past the central defensive team and into the far area, either by playing through or beyond their opponents (1b). Each team can move into a neighbouring box to pass, receive or close down; and there must be a minimum of four passes before the ball can be transferred either through or over the defenders. Rotate teams regularly.
6v3 end zones
We now extend the practice to a 60×20-yard area (2a/2b). The principle remains the same, but the larger area means the central defensive team will need to split into two groups of three – one to press opponents in the top end zone, for example, and the other to screen opponents in the bottom end zone.
What are the key things to look out for?
We are looking for defenders to assess the space and drop into pockets in the middle box. From there, they press and screen.
In possession, we find a common fault is when players look around for too long before executing a pass. To correct this, we tell players to recognise quickly when to follow the ball out, and when to raise their heads and assess the space left by opponents and team mates.
How do I progress the session?
We now extend again so that we’re using the space in between the penalty boxes. There is a keeper and a full-sized goal at each end, plus three defenders who wait to the sides of each goal (3a).
When an attacking team receives the ball in the end zone, it turns and attacks the goal, though at this point defenders enter the pitch, so a 6v3 attacking situation develops (3b). To make maximum use of the overload, attackers must push forward quickly and not get left behind in the middle zone. Defenders must work together efficiently against the overload. When a move comes to an end (through a goal or turnover of possession) restart with the other keeper.