It is always interesting to understand how coaches think about exploiting the opposition’s system of play. This is a session that I would use when we are due to be playing against opponents expected to set up in a 3-5-2 formation. We would look to isolate the outside centre backs and switch the play, while overloading on the sides.
Engaging our players in the tactical aspect of how we are going to win a game is very important and this is a session that fulfils that objective, building up through a series of activities and culminating in a final 11v11 game.
This would be the kind of technical and slightly physical session that we would choose to run on match day -2, when playing against opponents utilising a 3-5-2 formation.
SWITCH OF PLAY PASSING DRILL
We would use this passing drill when we are looking to get a switch of play into our style of play.
We set up in an area of 20×16 yards with a cone near each corner and a flag on each side at the halfway point as shown. We’re using 16 outfield players, with four players waiting on each cone.
The ball starts with player A who passes long to player B. Player B takes two touches – one to control and one to lay the ball back to player A who receives on the move, as shown [1a]. Player B then makes a well-timed run to the flag on the far side of the playing area, which is used as an offside line. After receiving on the move, player A passes to player C and runs to the back of the group in front. Player C, who started as the second man in the line, then makes a switch of play to player B who is now at the flag on the halfway line. Player B receives and dribbles to the back of the group. Player C is now at the front of his group and becomes the new player B, ready to receive the next long pass from the new starting player A.
Two balls would be running in the playing area at the same time, with the second ball mirroring the movement of the other group, as shown [1b].
We work on passing with both feet by switching the groups. The size of area would be varied over the 10-minute drill.
POSSESSION WITH A SWITCH
We set up in a 40×40-yard square with a cone at the halfway point of each side. We’re using 20 outfield players, split evenly into two teams of ten. Each team has four players around the outside (one on each side) and five players in the centre.
Plays starts with a pass into the area from the coach to one of the teams and they must pass the ball, keeping possession under pressure. Inside the square players are three-touch but on the outside the players are only allowed one touch.
Players can use their team mates on the outside to keep possession and in addition to playing bounce passes to the central players, the outside players can make also make a diagonal switch of play to a team mate on the next side, or switch the play across the square to the opposite side.
The aim is to suck the pressing team in to create space for a switch of play across the square. A point is scored by switching play from one side of the square to a team mate on another side, as shown . If the pressing team wins the ball, they become the passing team.
To add some physical work to the exercise, we allow players to score an extra point if they string a target number of passes together, say eight passes. This helps give the exercise a more competitive edge.
We play five games of three minutes with players rotating roles.
FUNCTIONAL PLAY DRILLS
We set up on half a pitch with a goal and a goalkeeper at one end of the pitch and we position eight mannequins to represent opponents, as shown.
We are using eight outfield players in this drill, all on the attacking team – although we could use live opposition instead of mannequins if it was felt to be necessary.
We would run the three drills, as shown [3a/b/c], with play starting with a long pass out from the opposition goalkeeper each time. This would allow our players to continue rehearsing options for finding the switch of play and it would help their decision making in the event of finding themselves in a position to execute the switch of play in a live match.
We set up on half a pitch with a goal and a goalkeeper at each end. We’re using 18 outfield players split evenly into two teams.
We coach the team set up in a partial 4-2-1-3 formation against an opposition playing in a partial 3-5-2 system, as shown .
We would work on player movement off the ball to gain space to enable a switch of play. We would try to get our team to isolate the opposition’s outside centre backs in a 1v1 situation and run at them with pace. We would try to get an overload against the back three.
We would play this game for 20 minutes.
We would finish this training session by progressing into a 11v11 match. We set up on a full pitch with a goal and a goalkeeper at each end.
We’re using 20 outfield players split evenly into two teams. We coach the team set up in a 4-2-1-3 formation against a team playing in a 3-5-2 formation, as shown .
We would work on the various elements of play to gain an overload and create a switch of play.
We would play this game for 30 minutes.