I often use this type of practice to work on our team shape and attacking patterns in preparation for matches. The patterns and movements we rehearse will vary greatly, depending on the system we intend to use for the game and the system we expect our opponents to use.
People accept that in professional football, teams must be organised defensively when they do not have possession. When the ball is in certain areas of the pitch, players need to understand how and where to position themselves in relation to the ball, the opposition, the goal and their team mates.
It is equally important for players to understand their positioning and movement when we have possession. As a coach, you can use this session to prepare players to play against specific opposition tactics. The players can be coached on how to exploit weaknesses we have identified in the opposition’s expected shape and system.
What do I get the players to do?
After a warm-up with the fitness coaches and a passing drill based on the type of work we intend to do [not shown], we set up for the main session on a full size pitch with a goal and a goalkeeper at one end. The diagrams show 10 outfield players, set up in a 4-2-3-1/4-4-1-1 shape, but to ensure that the full squad understand what we are working on, we often double players up in most positions. For each session we will set up 10 mannequins in the expected shape of the forthcoming opponents.
Play starts with a pass from the centre back to the right back, who combines with the midfielder to pass back to the starting player. When the starting player receives the ball back from the midfielder, the left winger moves infield to receive and pass in to the striker. Whilst the move is developing, the left back overlaps to receive a pass from the striker and crosses into the penalty area, where his team mates have made runs to meet the ball, as shown .
Play starts with a pass between the centre backs and then to the right back, who passes to the number 10 who then passes to the supporting midfield player. The midfield player then passes into the path of the right winger, who crosses, as shown .
Play starts with a pass between the centre backs and then the ball is passed to the left back. The left back receives and passes to the number 10 who passes to the supporting midfield player who passes to the right winger, who has moved inside. The right winger turns and plays into the path of the overlapping right back who crosses, as shown .
Play starts with a pass between the two centre backs and then the ball is played to the left back, who passes directly to the striker. The striker lays the ball off to the number 10, who plays the ball into the path of the running left winger to make a cross in the box, as shown .
Play starts with a pass from the centre back to the right back, who plays the ball to the right winger. The right winger passes inside to the first central midfielder who passes to the second central midfielder, who passes to the left winger who has moved inside. The left winger passes to the overlapping full back who crosses, as shown .
The right back receives and plays into midfield, as shown . The midfield player switches play to the left winger who has stayed wide. The left winger passes to the number 10 who turns and passes to the right winger who has moved inside. The right winger turns and passes into the path of the overlapping right back who crosses.
What are the key things to look out for?
We want to see a good quality of passing, crossing and finishing. Players should make well-timed runs and should demonstrate an understanding of their own movement in relation to the movement of their team mates.
What are the typical mistakes players might make and how do I avoid them?
Things that can let down the successful execution of an attacking pattern are poor technique, poor timing and poor understanding.
How would I put this into a game situation?
After we have practised the attacking patterns that I want to work on, we may go into an 11v11 game [not shown] with one team arranged in our formation and the other in the expected shape of our opponents. When we progress into the 11v11 game, the players should show that they recognise the patterns from the practices we have just done.