Negating and opening through live passes

This session is about trying to penetrate a four-man unit as an attacking drill. It also looks at stopping that ‘probe’ by forming a tight compact shield that is able to intercept balls and exchange strategy when in possession.

The session gives players the option to intercept and counter-attack by offering an understanding and organisation by which they can move in sync as a defensive unit. It also provides positive encouragement in trying to make forward passes through the lines of defenders when spotting openings, thereby developing the type of player who should be able to quickly and technically pass through the gaps.

The session will run once or twice weekly in cementing moves or situations that arise during matches. Opponents can be of midfield or defensive units and this should be practised in all weather conditions to ensure it is game-realistic.


Up to a half-pitch
Balls, cones, goals
Number of Players
Up to 8v8
Session time
20-30mins depending on size of practice/no. of players

What do I get the players to do?

We set up as shown on a 25×30-yard area, with the objective being to try to play through the lines to your striker’s feet (1a). This player has to move with play to find the gaps and receive a pass (1b), with nothing over head height. Insisting on one- or two-touch passing encourages players to pass the ball with a tempo to try to open the opposition when gaps appear.

If the pass is successful the receiving striker gives the ball to the defending team to restart the process. If the pass is intercepted, we continue, while if it goes out of play the action will quickly be resumed by a coach on the centre line – he has a supply of balls in order to ensure the momentum is maintained.

Players should not go into the ‘no zone’ area, and are also not allowed to stand on the front line of the zone when defending.


• In this main set-up the coach feeds a ball in with the team in possession then required to move play left and right in order to find an angle for a through-pass


• Here, blues successfully make space and thread a pass through the gap (defenders) to their target player (striker)

How do I progress the session?

The session is progressed easily by increasing team numbers and yardage as desired (2).


• In the progression, the playing area is enlarged to make the challenge more difficult for defenders; but attackers must now finish into a goal target too

What are the key things to look out for?

Defensively, we want to see good communication between team mates, players filling gaps quickly and every man showing an ability to react immediately to changing conditions in front of him.

Offensively, we want to see players assessing opportunities quickly for penetration, whilst having the right technical skill set in order to complete the pass. Moving the ball quickly is also an essential part of being able to fulfil the tasks in hand.

The key mistake comes about as players switch off when a pass doesn’t come off, thus lessening the opportunity to close gaps quickly. Scoring goals (effectively making a completed pass through the lines) can also bring about this ‘switching off’ moment and is something we must protect against.

How would you put this into a game situation?

As a further progression that works as a game situation, we can change the parameters entirely by setting up 8v8 on a half-pitch, with strikers in between the lines looking to score when fed the ball (3).


• As a game situation we can move this into an 8v8 on a half-pitch with attackers positioned between the lines – this set-up is another step towards the practice being fully match-realistic

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