Aligning possession practices to our tactical model


Up to 40x40 yards


Balls, cones

No. of players

Up to 8v8 plus 2 neutrals

Session time

15mins per practice

This session begins by focusing on the defensive transition following possession loss, before training in possession principles of play.

It’s a practice that fits with the Swansea blueprint of play – it offers high intensity, quickly getting players engaged in what we are trying to achieve. That means what’s being practised can be challenging both physically and mentally, because as soon as players lose the ball they know they will need to work hard to win it back quickly.

Overloaded possession and transition practices

Practice one

We set up as shown (1a) in an area measuring 25×20 yards. Although this can be adjusted depending on the number of players, the aim is always to create challenging in-possession conditions to elicit intensity from the practice.


• This is 8v5 in favour of whites, who use the three yellows with the aim of retaining possession

The game is 5v5 plus three neutral players, who are conditioned to play one-touch. The side in possession plays with an attacking overload while the defending team’s challenge is to regain possession whilst outnumbered.

The emphasis here is on the importance of hunting the ball immediately following possession loss. If the side that loses possession allows the opposition to establish control of the ball (and of play), it becomes a difficult task to regain the initiative in an 8v5 situation.

The way we approach the problem of regaining against an overload is to make a mental line where play is to be restricted (1b). This pressing line would generally represent a half-pitch.


• Reds have regained possession, meaning whites must attempt to pen the opposition into the shaded area of the pitch in order to reduce space and regain possession quickly

What are the key things to look out for?

This practice enables us to train our pressing reaction when the ball is lost, promoting the physical and tactical ability in players to regain possession quickly; and when they do that, they must quickly make the pitch big. The exercise, through simple execution, allows us to develop this defensive element of our game.

A common mistake occurs when a player will chase the ball by himself, and gets played around easily. It’s important to coach the whole team to press collectively, and to cut off parts of the pitch in eliminating the ‘danger’ of opposition space.

Practice two

The practice area is now split into four even quadrants on a 40×40-yard pitch (2a) that can be used as points of reference or as a way in which a coach, just as in the first practice, can confine players to specific areas of the pitch.


• We set up 8v8 with players positioned in quadrants

In this example an 8v8 possession game (which includes a supporting yellow neutral player on either side (2b) takes place with each side aiming to complete a sequence of 12 uninterrupted passes. The only stipulation initially is that no more than three consecutive passes can be made in each quadrant before transferring the ball.


• Neutrals on each side support the team with the ball (reds) who continue the possession practice with the intention of making 12 uninterrupted passes

Numerous conditions can be placed on this practice in order to hone in on various learning objectives. For example:

  • Condition the game so that the point-scoring system is direction-specific – a team must play from one target player to the other in order to score a ‘goal’, and therefore a coach can focus on combination play to pass forward.
  • Stipulate that teams retain a minimum of one player per quadrant – this ensures they maintain width and depth within their play.

What are the key things to look out for?

This practice allows us to develop simple game principles. It is crucial that on regaining the ball, as per the previous drill, we make the pitch big – this is the offensive transition. The exercise allows these natural principles to take place with few interventions and cements the idea that, on regaining the ball, we must use width and depth in order to maintain possession. 


  • Ball movementBall movement
  • Player movementPlayer movement
  • DribbleDribble
  • Optional movementOptional movement