Defending and attacking when overloaded


30x20 yards


Balls, bibs, cones, 2 goals

No. of players

8 players + 2 goalkeepers

Session time

Session: 30mins

A progressive, multi-directional drill, this session is based around players attacking quickly whilst recognising and exploiting the space to finish with a shot on goal. They must then immediately transition to defence, recovering quickly to get behind the ball and approach it with the correct body shape to show the opposition around, not through.

A high intensity activity, it consistently mirrors the tempo that our players need to perform at. It also stretches the players in terms of the psychological aspects of the game because there is a constant flow to the session that requires players to attack and make clear decisions and then switch to a defending situation and again make the correct decisions whilst being overloaded.

The continuous flow of the session ensures we are getting the required physical outputs, whilst also ensuring good player engagement.

We use this as a reminder session to get players working at the intensity we require. It would be used on a match day -3/-4 and the focus would be on the physical aspect of the practice, as well as the technical and tactical details required within our playing principles.


We set up a playing area of 30×20 yards with a goal and a goalkeeper at each end. We’re using eight outfield players split into two teams of four. The reds start either side of the goal at one end of the playing area and the blues start either side of the goal at the other end.

One blue player starts by dribbling into the playing area and attacking the opposite goal, trying to score past the goalkeeper, as shown [1a].


1. One blue player starts play by dribbling into the playing area and attacking the opposite goal
2. The solo blue scores past the red goalkeeper

Once the blue player has shot he must quickly get back to defend his goal against two red players who attack the blue player in a 2v1, as shown [1b].


1. Once the blue attack is dead, the blue player must quickly recover to defend his goal
2. Two reds join the play and attack the blue player in a 2v1, combining to get past and shoot at goal

Now two more blues join the active blue player to attack the reds in a 3v2, with the aim of scoring in the goal that the reds are defending, as shown [1c]. Once the blue attack is dead, the remaining pair of waiting red players join their two active team mates to attack the blue players in a 4v3, as shown [1d], scoring in the goal that the blues are defending.


1. Once the red attack is dead, two more blues enter the playing area and go 3v2 against the reds
2. Here the blues make well-timed overlapping runs to set up a goal scoring opportunity


1. The remaining waiting red pair enter to join their two team mates in attacking the blue players in a 4v3
2. The reds use their overload to get past the three recovering blues and score

Finally, the remaining blue player joins the play to make it a 4v4 attack against the goal that the reds are defending, as shown [1e].


1. The last blue player joins the play to make it a 4v4 attack
2. The four reds must quickly recover and try to stop the blues scoring

This can be competition based – we keep score and the team with the most goals is the winner. We would first run two seven-minute games with a two-minute rest break, followed by three three-minute games with one minute’s rest between games.

I would explain the session to the players beforehand, outlining the key points that we are looking for because I don’t want to stop the flow or the intensity of the session once the game is underway.

If we decide that we are not getting the required outcomes, in terms of intensity and quick decision making, then we would put a time limit of six seconds on the attacking team to finish their attack. This hopefully would ensure a high intensity game and players would have to make the correct decisions quickly.


What are the key things to look out for?

When in possession, we want to see players attacking with pace and making decisions quickly, plus using the correct timing and detail in passing and making well-timed overlapping and underlapping runs. Calmness in finishing is also vital, with players needing to demonstrate composure to find the corners of the goal.

When out of possession, we want to see players using clear and concise communication and remembering a ‘fast-slow-side-low’ approach when getting up to the ball. Players should show that they know how to delay and to use the correct body position when doing so, showing attackers outside.

What are the typical mistakes players might make and how do I avoid them?

Some players can show a reluctance to defend aggressively and get up to the ball when required. Sometimes they fail to defend with the correct distances between the defender and the ball.

Another typical mistake is for players to make decisions too slowly when attacking with a numerical advantage and failing to appreciate when a team mate in a more advantageous position.


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