I first saw this session when I was on a club visit to NAC Breda in Holland. It was focused on body shape and the way the players not only received the pass but on getting the pass to the back foot and with the correct weight.
The session begins with an appropriate series of warm-up activities, but the primary focus of the coaching work in the main session is on the midfield players who receive the ball in the 20×20-yard square. The coaches wanted players to get in the habit of constantly checking over their shoulders before receiving a pass. They also wanted them to play on the half-turn, moving the ball with a maximum of two touches and putting the right weight on the ball so that the next player could play a one-touch pass.
I have used this drill at academy level and with the first team, and both age groups enjoy the session enormously. It’s a really fast-moving exercise that ends with a pass and finish. It also works both sides of the pitch simultaneously, enabling both a right and a left foot finish.
The drill is physically demanding so allow a break.
What do I get the players to do?
Passing box 1
We start with a series of four passing boxes, set up in an area of 10×10 yards. We’re using six players. For the first box, two players are positioned at the starting corner, one player begins in the centre, and one player starts on each of the three remaining corners. It’s pass and move, so players must always follow their pass to the next station.
Player 1 starts the warm-up at the bottom left-hand corner by passing to player 2 in the centre. Player 2 receives the ball on the half-turn and spins round to pass it to the top right corner. The ball is received by player 3, who passes to player 1, who is now in the centre. Player 1 receives on the half-turn and changes direction by passing to the bottom right-hand corner of the box, as shown .
Play continues following this pattern. Play for 45 seconds.
Passing box 2
Using the same set-up, players follow a simple, repeated passing sequence: one pass along the edge of the box, followed by a pass into the centre and out again.
Play starts from the corner with two players. Pass 1 is played along the bottom side of the box and pass 2 is played into the central man, who opens his body to receive and plays the ball out to the next corner, as shown . Pass 4 is played along the top side of the box, before the receiver returns the ball to the centre. From there it is played back to the starting point.
Play for 45 seconds, following the same pattern. The players always follow their pass.
Passing box 3
Using the same set-up, play starts with passes along the first two sides before a pass is made into the centre and out again, as shown . Then a pass is made down the final side, before the ball starts again on the same route around the box, with the players always following their pass. Play for 45 seconds.
Passing box 4
The final passing box uses the same set-up, this time with two passes along the side followed by a pass into the centre and out again. A second pass into the centre and out again takes the ball back to the starting point, as shown . Continue this passing routine for 45 seconds.
What do I get the players to do next?
Passing with a finish
This passing drill is aimed at creating situations where the midfield players receive passes on the half-turn and then move the ball on. We set up on half a pitch, with a 20×20-yard square marked out five yards in front of the penalty area. Position a goal either side of the penalty area on the by-line. We’re using 12 outfield players and two goalkeepers, starting as shown [5a].
The same drill is run simultaneously on both sides of the pitch. Player 1 starts the right-hand attack with a pass into player 2 in the centre of the square, as shown [5b]. Player 2 receives on the half-turn and spins round, playing a pass to player 3, who has timed his run to clip the ball first time to player 4 on the corner of the penalty area. Player 4 has also timed his run from the edge of the six-yard box to meet the ball and he sets it for the oncoming player 3 to finish with a shot on goal.
Players should all move to new starting positions after making their contributions: player 1 replaces 2 in the square; player 2 replaces 3; player 3 replaces 4; and player 4 replaces player 5 at the starting position for the other half of the drill. All players will eventually complete both the left-hand and the right-hand sequences.
We would play this for 30 minutes.
What are the key things to look out for?
We want to see players understanding the body shape needed to receive on the half-turn, which is the cornerstone of this session. Players should let the ball come across their body and must receive on their back foot, which allows them to control the ball while turning.
Although these activities are unopposed, we also want to see players getting in the habit of checking over both shoulders so they can be aware of potential opponents closing in ready to steal the ball.