Quick counter-attacking


Up to two thirds of pitch


Balls, bibs, cones, 2 full size goals

No. of players

20 players + 2 goalkeeper

Session time

Total: 60mins, Counter-attack: 10mins, Quick attacks: 25mins, Fast transition:25mins

The object of this session is to achieve a fast transition from defence to attack. Players tend to enjoy it because it’s performed at a high tempo, and with its fast transitions and its focus on encouraging counter-attacks, it’s very much related to the modern game. It covers all aspects of high tempo training – defenders not only have to defend overloads, but the session is also about winning possession and fast forward passing.

While this is a counter-attacking session, it is also a good workout for defenders. As players have to defend as a four in the final part, they’ve got to defend well too.

What do I get the players to do?

Counter-attack practice

Set up an area of 26×13 yards split into two 13×13 boxes. If you’re using 20 players, set up two adjacent areas and run this practice in each, as shown [1]. This is a possession activity with a counter-attack, so place two teams of five in each area, with five possession players and three defenders in one half and two defenders in the other half. The five possession players must keep hold of the ball using two-touch, while the defenders press hard to get hold of the ball.


1. Play starts and restarts with the coach playing a ball into the area
2. Play 5v3 in one half. The team of five must keep the ball using two-touch under pressure from the three defenders
3. If the three defenders win the ball, they play it to the other half and join their two team mates, becoming the new possession team of five
4. After losing the ball, the original possession team send three players into the other half to win the ball back in a new 5v3
5. The first player to receive the ball in transition has unlimited touches until he passes

If the three defending players turnover possession, they play the ball into the other box and all three follow the ball to join their two team mates. They now become the new possession team, with the other team sending three players into that box to try to win the ball back, creating a new 5v3. Until he passes, the first player to receive the ball in transition can be all in and take as many touches as he wants.

If the possession team knock the ball out of play, the coach plays a ball in to the three defending players, and they can play the ball to their team mates in the other half.

Quick attacks

Set up on half a pitch plus 10 yards, and mark out a possession zone of 25×44 yards over the halfway line, as shown [2]. Place a goal and a goalkeeper at one end. Play 7v7 in the possession zone, with four neutral attackers outside the zone ready to receive a pass from either team. There are two defenders in front of the keeper ready to face any fast breaking attack on the goal.


1. The coach plays the ball into the 7v7 possession zone. The team receiving must make six passes before playing into the attackers
2. If the red pressing team win the ball, they only need to make one pass before counter-attacking
3. The four green attackers are neutral and play for the team who pass the ball out
4. One player from the team that passed out can join the attack, making it a 5v2 attacking overload
5. The two yellow defenders must try to stop the quick attack

Play starts with the coach playing the ball into the possession zone. The team receiving the ball must string six passes together before playing to the attackers outside the zone – one player from the team that passed the ball out of the zone can then join the attack, creating a 5v2 in the attacking area of the pitch.

It’s three-touch inside the zone and either team can win the ball or steal possession and pass to the attackers. If the other team intercept the ball or turnover possession, they just need to make one pass before being able to play the ball to the forwards, making it a quick counter-attack.

When in the attacking phase, make sure players don’t overplay, as the practice is about creating quick attacks. Everything should be as fast and as direct as possible, to encourage high tempo forward play.

Fast transition from defence to attack

Set up two 30×44-yard boxes separated by a five-yard zone. Place a full size goal and a goalkeeper at each end, and mark an offside line in each box, as shown [3a/3b]. Play this end-to-end wave game with three teams of six players, plus two strikers who stay in position after each turnover of the ball. Players are limited to three-touch.


1. Play starts with a ball from the coach to the attacking team of six. Players are three-touch
2. Two players from the defending team always drop into the central zone
3. A neutral striker helps each attacking team, making it 7v4
4. If the attackers score, play starts again from the coach with the same teams attacking and defending the same end


1. If the defenders win the ball, they combine with their two team mates in the centre zone to attack the opposite end with help from the neutral striker
2. The blue team are now defenders, so two of them drop into the central zone
3. The red neutral striker receives the forward pass from the centre zone and should look to lay it off to a team-mate on the attack or work the ball wide quickly

One team of six plus the striker are attacking the goal against four defenders (two of the six players from the defending team drop to the central zone). If the attackers score a goal, play starts again with a ball from the coach and the same seven will attack against the same four. However, if the defenders win the ball, they combine with their two team mates in the central zone and attack the opposite end, working with the striker at that end. Two players from the new defending team at that end drop out and go into the middle zone to make it 7v4 again.

What are the key things to look out for?

The session is about counter-attacking, so look for defenders to get in good positions to defend and intercept. Players need to show good awareness of space and demonstrate effective forward passing, plus the ability to identify forward runs from team mates. Make sure players don’t overplay and slow the attack, and look for strikers to seize quick opportunities to score.

Communication between players at the point of transition is key to making quick, potent attacks that flood threadbare defences. Attackers should strike before defenders can recover and get back into defensive positions – it is important that the attackers are hitting key points in the forward areas, so midfield players can pass into them. Look for good link up play with attackers laying the ball back to the passer and changing the angle of attack


  • Ball movementBall movement
  • Player movementPlayer movement
  • DribbleDribble
  • Optional movementOptional movement