Pressing and blocking lines

This session is about pressing, both as individuals and as a unit. Specifically, it focuses on the prevention of opposition forward passes and blocking the lines of attack.

It’s important to practise and perfect the elements and ideas shown in order to force turnovers in possession. Even if the full turnover doesn’t succeed, the principles still exist as a way of unsettling the opposition and getting players out of their comfort zones.

So, in an ideal situation, we’re looking to regain possession in good areas, taking the ball on immediately and creating genuine counter-attacking threat.

In every division, pressing to regain is a potent weapon that, when mastered by players, is extremely satisfying for a coach.


Standard pitch
Balls, cones, goals
Number of Players
Up to 16
Session time
4v4 possession, Progression and Game 15mins each

What do I get the players to do?

4v4 possession

Setting up as shown (1) we use 12-16 players in an area that’s 30×20 yards in size. We can adjust the area for different ages and skill levels, but the premise is the same, namely to play 4v4 centrally with four target players at each end.


1. Red/blues are served the ball
2. The pass is switched to the left before being threaded through to the defensive line
3. A straight pass is made to the other side

The coach serves the ball in from the side and this prompts a 4v4 possession game inside the area. Each team attempts to play forwards into their target players. If successful, target players will switch to the opposite side, and possession is then recycled back into the same team.

If unsuccessful in making the switch, or the ball goes out of play (2), the coach serves a ball in to the opposing team who now attempt the challenge. Players inside the area rotate with target players at the end of each set.


1. On this occasion, the yellow defender steps in to make an interception
2. The coach restarts the move by serving in to the yellows

How do I progress the session?

We now move into a third of a pitch, as shown (3), with a match-specific practice. Essentially we have two working units (one on each side) that, together, represent four defenders and two midfielders attempting to play out into the target goals or players. Opposition players can confront them in a preferred formation (for instance, two forwards, two wide players and two midfielders), and upon gaining possession may attack the goal.


1. The keeper serves the ball to his defenders
2. Yellow defenders are too slow to press their opponents
3. Red/blues link up well and score in the target goal

What are the key things to look out for?

For individuals, the task helps fine-tune the art of reading triggers to press, along with blocking the line of the pass into the target and pressing with intensity (4).


1. The keeper starts the move
2. Yellows press quickly, successfully intercepting the danger
3. Covering yellows also operate well – this player not only presses his man, but blocks potential passing and shooting lines also

For the units, the practice is about communication and encouragement, plus rehearsal of depth and cover behind the press.

There are a few common faults that we tend to see, namely that players don’t get close enough to opponents and allow passes to be played forwards. In contrast, players can press quickly but don’t block the line of the pass into the target player. Finally, attackers must be encouraged to switch should the need arise (5).


1. The keeper starts the move
2. Yellows press the ball well and force the ball back
3. Reds/blues are unsettled and must switch the ball to evade the attentions of their opponents

How do I put this into a game situation?

We set up as shown (6) in the space between the penalty areas, using a 6v6 plus keepers. We play as we would a normal game, though players are encouraged to use the defensive line(s) as a trigger point to press from.


1. The red/blue defender receives a pass and can bring the ball up to the ‘trigger line’
2. As soon as he advances past the trigger line the yellow attacker presses
3. The defender is forced into playing a square pass
4. Midfielders move to press the player on the ball
5. Other midfielders move across and should be aware of blocking passing lines
6. Centre-backs move across to cover the forward dropping deep

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