This is a fast and frantic session aimed at encouraging quick finishing in the context of a small-sided game. Playing in such a small area will help players to get the knack for shooting on sight from anywhere in the playing area, particularly if they can take advantage of the overload available to the attacking team by using the support of the players on the outside.
However, it is vital that players understand and differentiate between shooting and finishing. We want players to be taking quick and accurate shots on goal, using their team’s possession of the ball to create the openings, rather than just hitting the ball and hoping.
This game can also be used as a fitness session if you get the players working at a high tempo. I would run it weekly, probably two days before a game.
What do I get the players to do?
Set up an area of 20×30 yards with a full-size goal and a six-yard box at each end, as shown [1a]. Position one server next to each goal and split the balls between the two servers. Divide your players into four teams of three, starting with two teams on the pitch in a 3v3. The other two teams are positioned on the outside as shown and can assist the team in possession, ideally using just one touch.
Play begins with a throw from a server to the goalkeeper, who looks to throw or roll the ball to one of his team-mates. The team in possession then go 3v3 against their opponents and try to score past the opposition keeper.
The keepers or the servers can also throw the ball directly to the outside players, while to keep it interesting the keeper is allowed to come out of goal and play as a sweeper but cannot score.
If the ball goes out of play or if the attacking team scores, the attackers retain possession and play starts again from the server to their keeper; otherwise, if the defending team gain the ball and score, they then become the attacking team with play restarting from the server at their end of the pitch.
Play two-minute games, quickly swapping the two outside teams with the two inside teams after each game, as shown [1b]. This session is for 12 players and two goalkeepers, but it’s perfect if you have 24 outfield players and four goalkeepers because you can get teams to work for one game and rest for the next.
How do I progress the session?
You can progress the session by reducing the number of touches that the inside players can make. The game starts with the players all in (unlimited touches of the ball) but you could reduce this in stages, first restricting players to three touches, then making it two-touch and finally one-touch.
You could also make it a condition that goals only count if they are scored with a first-touch finish. Finally, encourage the intensity of the game by making it a condition that the winners stay on the pitch each time to face fresh opponents, or by setting teams a target number of goals to become winner.
What are the key things to look out for?
You really want players to realise there are opportunities to take a strike on goal from anywhere in the area. You also want the team in possession to understand they should use support from the players on the outside to help create the space to shoot, as shown .
Look for a level of defensive intensity from the team out of possession – they should be quickly closing down opponents and blocking shots.
What are the typical mistakes that players might make, and how do you avoid them?
If the team in possession are not shooting on sight at every opportunity, stop the play and demonstrate to them. It is also easy for the attacking team to forget to use the support of the players on the outside of the pitch. If this happens, stop the game and re-explain the purpose of the outside player.