This is a specific match preparation session that I like to use when we are due to face a team that we expect to be playing in a 4-3-1-2 formation with a midfield diamond, so our focus is on switches of play into wide areas to create overloads.
When we set up in a 4-3-3 formation, I believe that using this session is the best way to show players how to break down a narrow 4-3-1-2 team.
Players usually respond well to this session and they take everything they’ve learnt from it into the coming game, taking on board all of its key principles.
The last time I used it was as preparation for facing a specific League Two team and we used our analysis of the opponent to prepare the team with a game plan for how we could effectively break the opposition down during the match. It was important that if we couldn’t create overloads down one side, that we were able to switch play quickly to create opportunities on the other side of the pitch.
We set up on three quarters of a pitch with a goal and a goalkeeper at each end. The wings are coned off into wide channels, leaving a midfield zone the width of the penalty area.
We’re using 20 outfield players split into two full teams of 11 including goalkeepers and we play an 11v11 game. We coach the blues, who are set up in a 4-3-3 formation, while the opposition reds are set up in a 4-3-1-2 formation and play with a midfield diamond.
The red 4-3-1-2 team is conditioned so that the players forming the midfield diamond must stay in the central zone and only its full backs and centre forwards can enter the wide zones, as shown [1a].
The blue 4-3-3 team must try to create plenty of overloads in the wide areas in order to bypass the midfield diamond, or if the wide channel is blocked on one side and forward progress can’t be made, they must find a way to switch the play to the opposite wing.
We want to see the 4-3-3 team really exploiting its overload advantage on the wings to make plenty of crosses from these wide areas, as shown [1b].
We might also choose to run another good crossing and finishing session after this, in order to work on creating even more end product.
FULL PITCH GAME
We finish the session with an 11v11 game. We set up on a full size pitch with a goal and a goalkeeper at each end and the teams line up in formation as before. It is an unconditioned game but we look for the players in the blue team to demonstrate what they learnt in the main practice by creating plenty of crosses into the penalty area, as shown . We also want to see players using a variety of finishes from these crosses.
For the main practice, we used three quarters of pitch instead of a full pitch to save on the players legs during a period of fixture congestion, but we could just as easily run it on a full pitch or even on a smaller pitch if we want to get the message across.
What are the key things to look for?
We’re looking for the blue team playing in the 4-3-3 formation to try to create overloads in the wide areas so they can attack with 2v1s and 3v2s. Once they have created the overloads out wide, we want to see them making plenty of crosses into the penalty area and taking their scoring chances well, using a variety of finishes on goal.
What are the typical mistakes players might make and how do I avoid them?
After successfully achieving overloads in wide areas, sometimes players don’t make enough crosses. Additionally, on occasion players struggle to make forward progress in the wide channel and don’t seize their opportunities to switch the play quickly enough in order to take out the opposition midfield. We would overcome this problem by stopping the session and having a coaching moment, showing the players exactly what we want to see from them in the session.