Switch of play with counter-attack


Use of a full pitch


Balls, cones, mannequins

No. of players

Up to 18

Session time

Phase One 15mins, Game situation 15mins

In the modern game the switch of play is vital. Teams now play with a counter-attacking style where a rapid transition from one side of the pitch can immediately open up an attack against even the most organised opposition.

It’s important that your players are able to control a switch of play accurately and precisely, in order to make inroads to the opposition goal. Quick and accurate passing is required with speed of thought necessary from all team members. Communication and vision are vital as well, as is the speed from wide players in benefitting the team’s attacking power.

We would run this session when playing against teams who were going to attack us directly, allowing the opposition to come on to us before breaking quickly with a switch of play.

What do I get the players to do?

Phase One

We set up as shown on a 30×18-yard pitch, with mannequins positioned six yards in from the outside line (1) – both sides start at the same time with a ball each. We want to see various lengths of passes, with driven, side foot and lofted balls employed.


1. Player 1 passes the ball to player 2
2. Player 2 controls and lays it back to player 1
3. Player 1 now sets the ball for player 3, who plays a diagonal pass to player 4 on the opposite side of the area

How do I progress the practice?

Once the players have mastered the basics we will move into a half-pitch, working towards one goal. Setting out our team in a 4-2-3-1 formation, this would now involve a crossing and finishing routine with a switch of play.

Taking the aspects from our first drill and now stretching the pitch, we make this game-related, as shown (2a/2b).


• The principles of the basic switch of play are now worked into a game situation


• This variation sees the ball start from the centre-back with a deeper final pass into enemy territory

What are the key things to look out for?

The most important thing – at least, at first – is pass completion, otherwise the move has failed straight away. Players need to show good vision, speed of thought to see the switch of play and to execute it and, within that, positive forward runs from attackers. To that end, control and movement from the lone striker is important, as well as speed and drive from wide players to get behind their respective full-backs.

In terms of typical mistakes, we might see strikers not holding the ball up, or midfielders making misplaced passes. We also want to avoid a situation where wide players do not succeed in crossing beyond the front/near post, or otherwise fail to pick out a required midfielder or attacker because, ultimately, accuracy must be a key element in all of this.

For an extended game situation, we can move this into a full-sized pitch with waves of attackers, always looking for a switch of play and counter-attack.