Attack and defend: wide and central

The session is about attacking and defending play both wide and central. As well as encouraging attacking angles, movement, link-up play and positivity in front of goal, it also gives defenders practice, in 1v1s  and in dealing with crosses into the box. It also influences their decision-making in terms of when to keep a high line and when to drop.

We’ll do this session regularly as players always enjoy it, and it can be run in any type of weather such is its fast-moving nature


Full pitch
Balls, cones, goals
Number of Players
16 plus 2 keepers
Session time

What do I get the players to do?

Zone One (1) looks at the roles of midfield players – a 6v2 working on attacking and defending crosses; while Zone Two becomes a 4v2 attack through the middle of the pitch.

We set up as shown using 16 players plus two keepers – six midfield players, four defenders, four centre-forwards and two wide men. The midfielders are positioned as two behind either goal and two on the halfway line.


1. Player 2 plays to player 4 who feeds the centre-forward
2. He lays the ball back to midfield (player 3)
3. The ball is fed one- or two-touch to the wide man
4. Centre-forwards make runs into the box to attack the cross
5. One midfielder makes a ‘third man run’
6. Another midfielder picks up second balls on the edge of box and plays to a finish
7. After player 2 plays long, both he and his partner (player 1) make runs in to zone two
8. Midfielders 3 and 4 take their places behind the goal.

The initial focus is on the runs of centre-forwards into the box both at front and back posts, with midfield players making late runs into the box to pick up second balls. Zone Two (2) looks at quick play in and around the box, with both combining to stimulate good movement from strikers in going long and coming short, as well as breaks down the side. Offsides apply in both zones.


1. Player 5 feeds the ball in to player 2
2. Player 2 plays into the centre-forward, who lays the ball back to player 1 (or chooses to turn and attacks)
3. If the ball is passed back to him player 1 has options, either to shoot himself or pass into the box
4. Players 5 and 6 make runs to the halfway line to start the practice again from zone one

How do I progress the session?

To progress we will work on midfielders playing first touch into strikers. Can they play one-touch or do they have to take two? We can also put extra effort into developing the forward runs (short and long, down the sides) plus work on communication.

What are the key things to look out for?

We want to see players receiving balls under pressure, with the right weight of pass and good movement. Centre-forwards must be careful not to run offside too easily, while defenders must be smart because they are always outnumbered, so we must keep an eye on positional play, especially from crosses.

We will rotate defenders regularly, switching them between zones after four or five attacks so they have to deal with two sides of defending.

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