This session looks to improve attacking options and movement, utilising strong player mentality and concentration in trying to prevent counter-attacks.
It is specific and engaging for the whole team – when the attacking team is in possession of the ball, the practice will encourage quick play with an overload, as well as impressing on players the need to find opportunities both centrally and wide.
It is specific to matches as it is a full 11v11 with a slight twist, versatile in match preparation or as a generic session earlier in the week. It can be used to cover all of the four corner requirements – technical, tactical, physical and psychological – and with players in tight areas it can be social too (especially if competitive)!
What do I get the players to do?
The set-up of the session takes the form of an 11v11 on three quarters of a pitch – one goal as normal and the other placed 10 yards past the centre circle, with balls in both goals, as shown (1). The fact we use these player numbers means the practice is real and transferable into matches.
The start position is with the coach, who serves the ball to various areas of the pitch, or instructs a normal restart (including from the keeper).
The attacking team can move forward involving all 11 players, while the defending side has to leave both its forwards in the area past the halfway line and the end of the pitch, so restricting them to nine active defending players and a significant overload to play against.
On transition, the team of nine can feed the ball into the forwards who can score unopposed by the other team’s centre-halves – it is only the covering full-backs who can tackle the forwards. Of course, the other potential defensive block is whereby a midfield defensive screen intercepts the pass into the lone forwards (2), but if both of these plans fail then it is only the keeper who can prevent a goal from that transition.
What are the key things to look out for?
In an attacking sense, we are looking for movement off the ball, notably timing of runs and willingness to both run in behind or receive to feet. We also want to look at players’ decision-making, so whether they pass with penetration or patience. The passing itself should be of a good tempo, or a probing nature, and with an awareness of potential switches; while we also want to see crosses and movement in the box, shots, headers and rebounds.
Where defending mentality is concerned, we need to see good, positive and quick reactions on transition, with players always fighting to win the ball in their actions and responses, which comes as a team. And a big part of this is the ‘locking out’ mentality that forms the basis of this session, with central midfielders on the screen of the unopposed forwards. We need to see good awareness and covering positions of full-backs, plus excellent communication from back players including the keeper.
In terms of typical mistakes, we often find it is difficult for the defending centre-halves to resist challenging the forwards. However, it is important to recognise the falseness of this part of the session – instead we need to re-emphasise the role of these players in organising players both in front of and behind them (namely midfielders, attackers and the keeper).
How do I progress the practice?
To progress, we will release one of the unopposed forwards to drop as a no.10, thereby causing the central midfielder more problems in the sense that he is operating as a player between the lines (3).
As a further progression, we can enable centre-halves to defend and play 11v11 on three-quarters of a pitch, paying particular attention to the coaching points from the opening part of the session.