Reduced squad training


Up to 52x34 yards


Balls, cones, goals

No. of players

Up to 6v6 plus keepers

Session time

6v6 square 15mins, Two Boxes 4x4mins, Formation game 2x8mins

We all have times when we’re left to train with a depleted squad. At the top level, this is usually because of international call-ups but it’s nonetheless important that we make the most of these training days when the group is varied.

It also allows us the opportunity to evaluate the development of players physically, tactically and in terms of ability levels, without the usual distractions of a full first-team presence.

So, this is a multi-purpose session for a mixed group, including one or more goalkeepers. It incorporates directional play, high intensity movements, tracking, tactical awareness, runs off the team shape and finishing.

To show the versatility of the session, I ran this during the recent international break with 12 players – eight from the first-team and four from the development squad, and it worked perfectly.

What do I get the players to do?

6v6 square

We start by playing a warm-up possession game in a 25×25-yard square, as shown (1a). Multi-touch, teams play to retain possession and accumulate passes.
If possession is turned over or the ball goes out of play, the other team begins. The winning team is the one that reaches 21 passes – these do not have to be made consecutively


• Yellows successfully put together six passes using clever possession football, before a stray pass is intercepted by a red


• Winning the ball back though, yellows restart their pass count from the previous total

Two Boxes game

Now we put together two penalty boxes to create a 44×36-yard area. This is 6v6 plus keepers (making it 7v6), who play outfield for the attacking team, and in the 5×5-yard box for the defending team.

This game is three-touch, but with no corners, and the keepers start with goal kicks. The object is for players to clip the ball into the hands of the opposition keeper.
A team doing this from their defensive half scores one point
(2a), but if succeeding when in the opposition half, the reward is two points (2b).


• The keeper begins the move, with yellows linking up smartly to send a long pass into the other keeper’s arms, thus scoring one point


• Another completed pass is made into the keeper, this time from inside the opposition half, earning two points

Formation game


The final game is another 6v6 – this time in a 52×34-yard area. Shape is important here, with teams lining up in contrasting 3-2-1 and 2-3-1 formations. There are no offsides, unless players are obviously ‘goal-hanging’. The game is three-touch, and we play as we would a normal game, though all movement and recovery is based on team shape. Teams must swap formations after eight minutes.


1. Yellows, playing 3-2-1, can use their numerical advantage at the back to build
2. The left-sided red winger needs to track back
3. They overload in central midfield to good effect
4. An overlapping full-back run causes danger, with the exposed two red defenders slow to react


1. Reds, attacking with a 2-3-1 formation, use the width their midfield offers them
2. The winger beats his man in a 1v1
3. Defenders must work to deny space as the centre-forward and winger attack

What are the key things to look out for?

We’re looking for quick, positive, sharp and instinctive link-up play throughout this session, with players building a clear understanding of positions – both their own and opponents’. Movement and the creation of space are essential, particularly in the final game with players being asked to be creative and expressive whilst still respecting the rigidity of their formations.


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