This session is about rotation and movement between players. Central to this is finding the spare man, with players knowing what to do with the ball when they have it. Awareness, movement, passing and communication are key.
The practise forms an important part of how we want to play as a team, with frequent rotation of players and an emphasis on overloading areas of the pitch in order to find a spare player or players. This is a situation that happens a lot in games.
We know that good preparation pays off in matches. Against Ipswich Town in the npower Championship this season, we perfected a 4v2 overload in the centre of midfield, scoring five goals from this area in a 7-1 win.
What do I get the players to do?
Inside a 20×20-yard area we play 4v4, though on each touchline there is a floater for each team. Starting in the middle, players have to pass as a four, then find a team mate on the touchline. A player who makes a pass outside the box has to swap positions with the receiver (1). Floating players on the outside can only play one-touch.
This is now a half-pitch practice. Around the edge of the penalty area are four defenders and two strikers, while a 25×25-yard square on the halfway line contains four midfielders and three defenders.
The drill starts with a long ball from a defender in the area down the pitch into an opposition midfielder (2a). The defender now leaves play. Using their spare man in the box, midfielders have to make five passes. Three players then move out of the box, joining their team mates in a 5v3 overload, and looking to score (2b).
Whether a move ends in a goal or breaks down, play starts again with a defender on the edge of the penalty area, and we’ll frequently rotate players within positions.
We progress the session by adding two defensive wide midfield players who can go in or out of the square, and two attacking full-backs, positioned either side of the 25×25-yard square. When the defender plays the first pass he now remains in position. If a defensive player moves into the square he can help his team by negating the overload (3a), but cannot move out, and leaves the attacking full-back unmarked (3b). If he stays out of the square, there remains an overload in the box. Box players must now make seven touches before releasing the ball.
What are the key things to look for technically/tactically?
We want to see ambitious forward movement patterns (3c), awareness, communication, good passing ability, and an ability to be able to take the ball into tight areas playing one- and two-touch football. The session will break down if these things aren’t done well. We tell players to only ask for the ball when they have two or three options in their heads.