Breaking lines

This session is designed to break lines with an end product, building up to a 1v1 situation and a close range shot on goal. 

Primarily it helps players to understand the importance of using the correct weight and angle of pass. The timing of their off the ball runs is an important feature of the session and it should also develop an awareness of how to receive a pass. 

We find that players really engage with this activity as it becomes a finishing session, however my coaching points are all based around the pass and the timing and movement of the players. 

During the session, players will learn to appreciate the quality of each pass they make to a team mate. It will teach them to make the best pass possible. As the session progresses, the addition of goals makes the weight and angle of the pass even more important, as a quick goalkeeper can now come out and collect through balls that aren’t played just right.

The second half of the session becomes more position specific, with defenders playing out from the back and attackers counter-attacking in 3v2 scenarios.

We would run this session every few weeks, depending on the opposition and whether they play with a high line.


Up to two thirds of pitch
Balls, cones, mannequins, 2 goals
Number of Players
Up to 12 players + 2 goalkeepers
Session time
Playing around: 10mins
Playing through 1 & 2: 10mins each
Function 3v2: 12mins
Transition: 12mins

What do I get the players to do?

Playing around

We set up an area of 30×30 yards around the centre circle, with four mannequins representing defenders, positioned as shown [1]. We’re using 10 outfield players. Four players start tight on the mannequins, one on each, and the remaining players form queues above and below the centre circle.

Players pass and then make a run to follow their pass in the sequence shown. Both ends work at the same time, with play starting simultaneously from the first players in each of the two queues. We want to see the correct weight and angle of pass used, with players spinning off the mannequins to receive on the correct foot. Play for blocks of three minutes before reversing the direction of the passing sequence.


1. Play starts simultaneously at both ends, with the first waiting player passing into the centre. Each player follows his pass to the next station
2. The central player spins off the mannequin and passes to the player on the widest mannequin
3. The widest player comes off his mannequin to receive, turn and dribble before passing to the first waiting player at the top
4. The waiting player receives and starts the sequence again, continuing in a clockwise direction

How do I progress the session?

Playing through 1

To add an end product to the passing sequence, we now take the same basic set-up and increase the size of area by adding a goal on the edge of each penalty box, as shown [2]. We’re using 10 outfield players and two goalkeepers.

This time the starting player passes to the player in the circle, who moves off his mannequin to receive and plays back to the starting player. At the same time the player on the left of the circle spins off his mannequin and runs away from the goal before suddenly changing direction, as if shaking off a marker or making a run to stay onside with the mannequin as the last defender. He then sprints onto a through ball played by the starting player, dribbles towards the goal and tries to beat the keeper with a shot. 

All players move on to the next station and the player who shoots joins the back of the starting queue at the end he has just attacked. Run this drill in blocks of three minutes, with both sides running simultaneously. Then move the goals to the opposite wings and re-run the drill.


1. We’re showing just one side of the drill but play runs on both sides at the same time. The starting player passes into the centre and moves forward to receive a return ball
2. The widest player spins off his mannequin before changing direction. He then sprints onto a through ball played by the starting player
3. The attacking player dribbles towards the goal and tries to beat the goalkeeper. All players move onto the next station after releasing the ball

Playing through 2

We next run a different passing sequence using the same set-up. This time the starter plays directly to the widest attacker. He knocks the ball to the central player, who has come off his mannequin to receive. The central player then threads a through ball into the path of the wide attacker, who dribbles towards goal and tries to beat the keeper, as shown [3].


1. We’re showing just one side of the drill but play runs on both sides simultaneously. Start with a pass to the attacker on the widest mannequin
2. The widest attacker then passes to the central player and makes a forward run
3. The central player comes off his mannequin and knocks a through ball into the path of the widest attacker
4. The attacker runs onto the through ball and goes 1v1 with the keeper. All players move onto the next station

What do I get the players to do next?

Function 3v2

We set up an area of 30×18 yards, with a goal and a goalkeeper at one end. We’re using 12 outfield players split into six reds, four blues and two servers. Three reds start in the half of the playing area with the goal, while two others are positioned in corner boxes at the other end and the final player waits off pitch to rotate in. Two blues start in the half without the goal, while their team mates wait at the bottom to rotate in, as shown [4].

A server starts play with a pass to the deepest red defender. The two higher defenders split, as they would in a game. The deepest defender then has an option to play to either of his team mates, depending on what the blue pair do. 

The red players must try to get the ball to their team mates in the boxes at the opposite end of the area. If the blue team of two wins the ball, they attack the goal. We want to see players attacking with pace, looking to either play through or around defenders. Play two blocks of six minutes, rotating fresh players in regularly.


1. A server starts play from the side with a pass into deepest red defender
2. Both higher red defenders split, as they would in a game
3. Reds combine and create an opening to pass to a target player at the other end
4. If the blues win the ball, they should quickly attack the goal

How do I progress the session?


We use the same set up for the progression but we change the overload, so the team attacking the goal now has the advantage. To do this, one red player leaves the pitch and one of the waiting blues enters, giving the blues a 3v2 attacking advantage in the main area.

Now play starts with a pass out from one of the boxed players to the deepest blue player, who must combine with his team mates to attack the goal at the other end by playing through or around the red defenders, as shown [5]. If the reds win the ball, they should try to pass to the boxed target players. Play two blocks of six minutes


1. Using the same set-up, now give the blues an overload. A waiting blue enters the area
2. The deepest red defender also leaves the area, giving the blues a 3v2 advantage
3. A boxed player starts by passing out to the deepest blue player
4. The blues must combine to play through or around the red defenders to attack the goal

What are the key things to look out for?

In the Transition activity, look at the reaction of both defenders and attackers. Out of possession, the attackers can stop passes being played between them by protecting central areas. Once in transition, they can create width or movement, depending on the decisions made by the defenders.

What are the typical mistakes that players might make, and how do I avoid them?

The timing of runs beyond the last defender will be poor at the start. Address this by showing that the players will have to make two movements – one to come short and then one to run in behind, enabling them to be on the move as the pass is being played.

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