Support play and swapping roles

This session encourages players to problem solve and find space, and is formed of four different game scenarios. The practice offers lessons in how players can really work positional flexibility to their advantage.

By rehearsing this and playing it out in match situations, we can fashion long sustainable periods of pressure, and the longer an attack lasts, the more chance the team has of scoring.

The session is also great for defenders because it necessitates strong communication. We always state that the success of how we attack is identifiable in how well we can then defend.


30×10 yards
Balls, cones, goals
Number of Players
Session time
Small-sided games 3x10mins
Full size 30mins

What do I get the players to do?

Game one: Play off a target player

This is a 3v3 game in a 30×10 area, split into three zones. It’s 1v1 in each zone, plus a neutral target player at each end.

The attacking team must pass the ball through the zones to their target man at the end (1a). While defenders cannot change zones, attackers can in order to work space and angles, though one team mate must remain in each box (1b). If attackers succeed in working the ball to the opposite end they score a point, then play back the other way.


• Play off the target player- Reds successfully pass through the areas, each of which is a 1v1 duel


• Players are now switching zones so as to spread play, with the ball coming back the other way

Game two: Dribble to the end zone

Now we add a two-yard scoring zone at each end. This time, players pass then dribble through into the end zone (2).


• Dribble to the end zone- The red player at the top receives, turns, and dribbles into the zone.

Game three: Pass, dribble and finish

Extending to a six-yard scoring zone and placing a goal and keeper at each end, we now revert to 4v4. Players rehearse elements from the first two games – playing off a target man in the main zones, then dribbling the ball into the scoring zone, except now attackers must shoot past the keeper for a point (3).


• Pass, dribble and finish- The red player receives a pass, dribbles into the scoring zone and fires past the keeper

Game four: Full match

In a full-sized 11v11 game, there are channels on both sides outside the width of the 18-yard box. We set up 4-3-3 against 4-4-2 to produce varying attacking approaches, with two wingers from each side out wide (one in each half), and a 3v3 in each half in the middle.

Players must always occupy each of the zones, so we’re looking for rotation of the front five, communication, and clever interchanges (4a/4b).


• Full match- The central midfielder breaks to the wing as his team mate comes back inside. The attacking team must occupy each of the zones at all times


• Yellows tackle back and play progresses in the opposite direction. The red players should stay in their zones to defend and not recover to their original positions

What are the key things to look for technically/tactically?

For attackers, timing, angle of movement and hitting space is vital. They must be versatile and on the same wavelength, knowing when to fill or vacate a zone.

Because defenders cannot change zones, communication is key. Given the 1v1 situations, they should avoid going to ground, and must be prepared to make recovery runs.

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