The session is about creating chances through the centre against teams that defend zonal orientated in a lower block. The session focuses on integral parts of our playing philosophy and covers many topics that are crucial to our game.
The main focus is on building up from the back with low passes and finding the offensive players in between the lines with vertical passes. Then it is about attacking the opposition’s backline in overload situations by playing fast combinations and finishing quickly.
We would run this session in pre- season and at the beginning of the season to instil our style of play in our players, especially new players. Then we would run it every few weeks, especially when games are coming up against teams that like to defend zonal orientated in a low block.
“The session focuses on integral parts of our playing philosophy and covers many topics that are crucial to our game”
We like to use this passing drill during the warm up as a preparation for the main exercises that follow. We’re using 10 players in each group and we would normally run two groups simultaneously.
We set up as shown in an area of 40×20 metres. Pairs of players run the length of the course, one on each side, playing different combinations with two central wall players and working the ball from one end of the course to the other, as shown . When they get to the end, a waiting pair of players receive the ball and set off to run the same course in the opposite direction, again combining with the wall players.
Different variations of combination play can be used. For example, the central wall players can just set the ball to the second running player; or the central wall players can open up and play across into the space to the second runner; or two players can make overlapping runs on each side whilst combining with the central wall players.
This exercise includes many passing patterns that we want to see in the game, such as vertical passes, lay backs after vertical passes, opening up and playing passes into space to players that join the attack.
It is important to make sure that the combinations are played in a neat and tidy fashion at the highest possible speed, because this also has to happen in a game to create chances against compact teams that set up in a low block.
5v5 BUILD-UP GAME
“It is important to make sure that the combinations are played in a neat and tidy fashion at the highest possible speed”
We are using two groups of 10 players, running this activity simultaneously with both groups. In each group the players are split into two teams. The playing area is 52×20 metres with a goal and a 16-metre end zone at each end (zones 1 and 4) and two 10-metre zones in the centre (zones 2 and 3), as shown .
The goalkeeper starts play with a pass to a centre back in zone 1. The keeper and the two centre backs must combine to work the ball past the one opposition striker who has entered the zone to press. The aim for the possession team is to get a centre back into a position to play a vertical pass to one of the two midfielders who are in a 2v2 in zone 2, or to break lines with a pass to the striker who is alone in zone 3.
The two opposition centre backs are in zone 4 and are not allowed to enter zone 3 before either the pass to the striker is played or one of the attacking midfielders opens up and dribbles into zone 3.
When bypassed in the build-up play, the opposition striker and the two opposition midfielders must stay in their zones and cannot recover to help defend.
As soon as the ball has been worked into zone 3, the two attacking midfielders and the one striker can move forward through the zones and combine to make a quick attack against the two defending centre backs. The attack is played with the offside rule.
After the attack, the defending team becomes the attacking team and vice versa, with play starting from the goalkeeper and going in the opposite direction.
To progress the activity, we can restrict the build-up phase in zone 1 to a 2v1, by insisting the centre backs cannot pass to the goalkeeper.
Also, once bypassed, allow one opposition midfielder to drop and help the two centre backs to defend, meaning the attacking team would have to play very quickly in order to exploit the overload situation.
We would play three blocks of five minutes each.
10v10 BUILD-UP GAME
We set up a playing area on three quarters of a pitch with a full size goal at one end and three small goals at the other end. A strikers zone, a midfield line zone and a back four zone are marked on the pitch, as shown. In addition, there is a 40×8 metre box marked out inside the back four zone.
We’re using 20 outfield players split into two teams of 10 plus four goalkeepers. The attacking team (the reds) play in a 4-1-4-1 or 4-2-3-1 formation. The game always starts and restarts with a pass from the goalkeeper of the attacking team and the reds build up play in a 4v2 at the back, with the goalkeeper, two centre backs and a holding midfielder trying play out of the strikers zone against the two opposition strikers who are pressing high. The aim for the red attacking team is to work the ball into the shaded 40×8-yard box between the midfield line zone and the back four zone before they can attack any of the three small goals, as shown [3a]. Only players from the red attacking team can enter this 40×8-metre box.
Once the ball is played past the midfield line, the offensive players need to attack the opposition back four by playing quick combinations. Scoring in the central goal is worth two points and scoring in the wide goals is worth one point. The reason for this is because in a normal game the aim is to score in the central goal by playing combinations through the centre. Equally, the defending team will often be very compact in the centre and if the attacking team encounters this, it is important to play the ball out wide and attack by using options in wide areas.
A typical set up we want to see is the red wide players overloading the centre and the full backs in high positions to provide options in wide areas.
The number 8s can drop deeper to help to build up if necessary and also to get the opposition midfield players out of their positions to create passing lines to bypass the opposition’s midfield line.
The opposition team (the blues) defend in a 4-4-2 with a low block. All players in the defending team are locked into their zones – the four midfielders are in the midfield line zone, while the back four are restricted to defending in the back four zone. If the blue strikers gain possession while pressing high, they should counter-attack the main goal.
The game is played with the offside rule and after 15 minutes of play, the attacking team switches roles with the defending team.
To progress the game, we allow the defending players to come out of their zones to help stop the attackers, as shown [3b]. If the blues gain possession, they should counter-attack the main goal as normal.
What are the key things to look for?
The players must focus on a good passing choice and quality. Creating overloads in the centre and a good awareness level in terms of where to position themselves is equally crucial. Whenever possible we want the offensive players to open up and engage the defending players to create spaces rather than passing the ball too early.
What are the typical mistakes players might make and how do I avoid them?
Typical mistakes occur, for example, when offensive players do not have a good pre-orientation and positioning and then receive the ball with their back to the opposition goal. Therefore they can often only just play lay backs or they need extra touches to open up and attack the goal. Insisting that players provide options at an angle will give them the opportunity for quick improvements. They will have a better pre-orientation and receive the ball on the half spin. This allows them to open up a lot quicker rather than not knowing what’s going on behind them and playing lay backs, or taking extra touches and therefore delaying the attack.