Transition from attack to defence

This session is all about creating game situations at training that will help your team in trying to regain the ball as quickly as possible after losing possession while attacking. Awareness and communication become vital in this initial transition phase with player reactions key to successfully countering a counter-attack.

The session involves decision-making from your players in different scenarios related to losing possession. We build up from simple possession versus pressing games to full tactical games with the emphasis on quick movements to recover the ball and stop opponents from scoring.

Full pitch
Balls, cones, bibs, 4 small goals
Number of Players
Up to 24 players +1 goalkeeper
Session time
Total: 50mins
Tactical rondo: 10mins
Transitional possession: 20mins
Tactical shape possession: 20mins

What do I get the players to do?

Tactical rondo

Set up an area containing four boxes of 6×6 yards, as shown [1]. Beginning with four possession players and one defender in each box, the possession players must try to keep hold of the ball by passing between themselves. The defender must press to overturn possession. If the defender wins the ball, the player who lost it must quickly enter one of the other boxes.


1. In each box the possession team tries to keep hold of the ball while the single defender presses
2. If the defender wins the ball, the player who lost it quickly enters a different square and joins another team in keeping possession
3. Decision-making is key. Here a player quickly decides to enter a box that has just lost a possession player

Play must be at a high tempo and there will be lots of movement between squares. Look for good decision-making from players and for them to react quickly and move at speed. As players will be leaving squares and joining others there will be an imbalance in the numbers, so the player on the move must decide where he can make the most difference. Play for 10 minutes.

Transitional possession

This practice is all about keeping hold of possession and regaining the ball when possession is lost. Set up an area of 25×25 yards with a small goal on each side, as shown [2a/2b]. Divide your players into a possession team of six who must try to keep the ball from a chasing team of four. When the team of six lose possession, the team of four has three seconds to score in one of the unguarded small goals and the objective for the team of six is to stop them scoring. Players have unlimited touches.

Look for the possession team to pass the ball quickly and to make the pitch as big as possible by spreading out and using all the available space. This will help them to keep the ball from the chasers, who should work aggressively together, hunting in small packs to get hold of the ball. Play for 20 minutes.


1. The team of six must keep possession from the team of four chasers
2. To make it harder for the four chasers, the six possession players should spread out to create space, making the pitch as large as they can


1. Here a blue chaser closes down and forces a mistake to win the ball. The chasers now have three seconds to score a goal. They must move quickly
2. The team of six react swiftly to win the ball back and stop the chasers scoring. They continue with their possession play

Tactical shape possession

Set up an area of 50×40 yards with two small goals at one end, as shown [3a/3b]. Divide your players into a possession team of eight, a team of five chasers, plus one keeper  who plays in support of the possession team and who can be used to recycle the ball.


1. Play starts from the keeper who supports the team of eight and who can be used to recycle the ball to help them keep possession
2. The team of eight should be covering the whole pitch and moving into space so passing is easier
3. The five chasers must communicate and move in twos and threes to try to win the ball and score in one of the goals


1. Here the team of five has pressed well and forced a mistake. They must now try to score in one of the goals
2. If the chasers win the ball, the eight players should be in good positions to cover the team of five to prevent them scoring

Play an 8v5 with the aim of the session being for the team of eight to keep possession by using clever movement to make the pitch seem big, keeping open lines for passing, and recycling the ball – through the keeper if necessary. The team of eight should play in a tactical shape related to the way your team plays or using the approach you will be taking in your next match.

For the team of five chasers, the aim is to react to the tactical shape of the possession team and press to recapture the ball and score in one of the two small goals. If the chasers gain possession, the team of eight need to be close enough to react quickly and recover the ball to stop their opponents scoring.

What are the key things to look out for?

Players need good first touch and accurate passing in the first phase with defenders in a good shape (in the positional sense) for pressing and winning the ball. In the second phase of games we look for quick reactions to losing the ball – pressing players must work hard in packs to hunt the ball down. Tactically, the pressing team should be reacting to the shape of the team in possession, looking to block and intercept passes and tackle to win the ball. Communication between players in all these scenarios is vital to the reaction time and to regaining the ball.

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