Scoring goals is the hardest part of the game, in my opinion, which is why we are all looking for forwards who put the ball in the back of the net on a regular basis. But no matter how good you are as an attacking player, you’ll always need great service, and that’s what this session coaches, notably in practising crossing situations from in and around the box.
With that in mind, it involves working on delivery areas, the quality of the cross, and the runs and finishes required in key areas in front of goal.
I believe the session is enjoyable and engaging, and encourages the development of the players and the team by highlighting areas that we feel can be exploited from out wide areas in a match.
This is a set-up we’ll visit quite often as it is enjoyable and it is always relevant to a match on the weekend. And as you would expect, repetition improves the quality and the understanding of the cross, not to mention the runs and finishes required.
What do I get the players to do?
Phase One: crosses from outside
We set up, as shown (1), using two 18-yard boxes. The players attacking the crosses will be in pairs at the side of either goal, with a further six on the outside of the 18-yard boxes, one in each corner and one either side of the halfway line.
In the first phase, we’re looking for wide players to cross from outside/deeper than the penalty spot, putting the ball into the area where an imaginary second six-yard box would be. Forwards are encouraged to make runs to the near post and the middle of the goal.
Phase Two: crosses from inside
In the second phase we are looking for the wide players to be crossing from inside/further than the penalty spot, delivering the ball to around the back post area or cutting it back to the penalty spot, as shown (2). The forwards will subsequently have to adjust their runs to these areas.
How do you progress the session?
In phases three and four we run just as we did for phases one and two except we now add mannequins in to each challenge (3). And progressing again after that, we re-run the initial two phases again but subsequently add a defender in to each scenario.
How do I put this into a game situation?
In the game situation we use the same area but set up as a 5v5 including keepers, as shown (4). It’s two players from each team in each half, with neutral wide players who stimulate, facilitate and contribute to the attacks of the team in possession. One wide player can be active during an attack so as to create a 3v2 attacking overload.
What are the key things to look for technically and tactically?
In every phase, wide players need to understand the areas to deliver to in relation to where they have the ball on the pitch. They then need to have the required quality to deliver the ball regularly into these areas, and that can only come with repetition and awareness of team mates’ movements.
Forwards need to have an understanding of the runs required, the areas where the ball is most likely to be delivered, the timing of their own runs and the need for a quality finish, usually under pressure. Forwards should also consider the fact that runs will often be made simply for the purpose of drawing defenders away from them, and not always with the expectation of the ball arriving to them.
To instill a competitive mindset, we will frequently remind defenders and keepers of their desire never to concede goals. Sometimes just reminding players of this can make a practice more realistic as it focuses the playing intention.
It’s important to note too – I believe a cross is still a pass but all too often it is played in with too much pace. Therefore, I will always encourage balls into the middle to be of the quality expected in a pass and, where practical and possible, with the same pace.