We originally used this session to work on defending a counter-attack when playing with a back three. But it has since evolved into an attack versus defence session because it successfully creates so many situations for players to work on quick attacks and combination play with an end product.
Players find this session engaging because it is very real and focuses on counter-attacking, a part of the game that is becoming more vital to the team and more influential on results.
From a physical perspective, we find that players work in much the same way they would in a match, with high levels of intensity and extensive running for the attacking players.
We like to do this drill once a week. It takes place on a day when we want to give the players a physical hit in a very game-related manner. We usually run it three days before a match (MD-3).
What do I get the players to do?
We set up in the space between penalty areas on a full size pitch, with a goal at each end and an 18-yard zone marked out in front of each goal. We are using two sets of three defenders and three sets of four attackers. Each set of attackers has a designated centre forward. It’s a wave drill and only one set of defenders and one set of attackers are active at a time, with the rest waiting for their turns to go. We are also using two crossers, one on each side of the pitch in an unopposed channel.
We begin the drill with a pass from the server to one of the three attackers who start in the 18-yard area in front of their own goal. The receiving attacker then passes to one of the team mates on either side of him. This pass allows time for their centre forward, who starts off the pitch at the other end, to move onside by running between the opposition defenders, as shown [1a]. Once onside, the centre forward receives a long forward pass from his team mate. The three attackers then support the pass, creating a 4v3 attacking overload. The forwards must try to score as quickly as possible.
On completion of the first attack, all the players come back out of the 18-yard zone and the attackers receive another ball from the server, as shown [1b]. This time, they must play it wide to either of the crossers in the unopposed channels. The crosser must either cross first time, take the ball past the 18-yard line to cross, or check back to deliver a cross.
On completion of the second attack, all the players must again come back out of the 18-yard zone and the attackers receive a third ball from the server, as shown [1c]. This time they should attack centrally and they have a limit of seven seconds to try to score.
On completion of this third attack, the players again come back out of the 18-yard zone and the attackers receive a fourth and final ball from the server. This time they must pass to the other crosser and then attack in the same manner as before.
After the completion of the fourth and final attack, the next set of attackers must step in straightaway. They receive their first ball from the server and attack the fresh defenders guarding the opposite goal, looking for their centre forward at the other end to get onside to receive a pass. The two crossers must switch to the channels in the other half to attack that goal.
Before playing the starting pass for each attack, it is very important the server allows the attackers to retreat back past the 18-yard line.
We work on four blocks of four minutes. This achieves the physical targets that we aim for.
How do I progress the session?
We can progress the session by putting a time limit on the attackers, to make sure they attack quickly and with purpose. Another way is to introduce a defender from the other end of the pitch to put pressure on the attackers from behind.
What are the key things to look out for?
We want see a good defensive balance, with one defender engaging the ball and the other two defenders taking effective covering positions. Communication is key to this.
The speed of attack is also important and it is vital that, on transition, the counter-attack is quick and direct.