Playing against pressure


Up to 100x60 yards


Balls, cones, goals

No. of players

Up to 10v10

Session time

Three boxes games, 20mins each, plus 15mins progressions

This is a session that aims to combat the threat of playing against a team that presses well in central areas.

We practise this so that players can deal with high and persistent pressure from opponents, particularly in midfield.

Last season, we used this to good effect, notably in cup games against teams of a higher standard than us, because it offered us the ability to soak up pressure then attack on the break.

What do I get the players to do?

Three boxes – wide start

Setting up as shown, in the left-hand box the aim of the attacking team of six is to retain quick possession, evading the attention of the three defenders. After four passes, one attacking player is allowed to break out of the box (1a). He advances across the central area and into the other box, where a 6v3 possession overload occurs (1b).


• In ‘Three boxes – wide start’, attackers begin by making four consecutive passes in the end box. Upon completion, one player breaks out and heads to the opposite box


• He combines with team mates and a new overload situation – a 6v3 – begins

If defenders win the ball, it is returned to the coach to restart. Otherwise, they press for one minute, before all players are rotated.

How do I progress the game?

We now add a defender and an attacker in the middle box. The breakout player can now play a one-two with the attacker (2), or can ignore him and pass/dribble forward directly into the opposite box. This new team mate can also now also advance into the other box – this creates a 7v3 overload.


• In the progression, an additional attacker adds a new passing option in the middle box. Here, the extra defender fails to close down the threat of a one-two

We can also increase the number of passes required before the break-out.

What are the key things to look out for?

Players must look to create space quickly after winning possession, with the emphasis being on quick passing and effective movement. They must be progressive with their passing, moving in behind the opposition and into space.

Three boxes – central start

Next we move onto a bigger pitch and, as shown, the game begins with all players in the centre. There is also a goal and keeper at each end.

The 8v8 combines quick passing with breaking into the end zone. So after four passes have been made, a breakout attacker can move into the goalscoring box. He must be supported by a team mate to produce a cross and subsequent effort on goal (3). At first, defenders are not allowed to track back, but this condition can be removed.


• Now on a larger pitch, ‘Three boxes – central start’ begins with an 8v8 in the middle. After the required passes are made, two attackers break out and attack the goal

How do I progress the game?

We now add two defenders and two attackers in each end zone. This offers midfielders attacking targets to play in to, and one supporting midfielder can also break to offer a 3v2 attacking overload in the box (4).


• In the progression, there are two attackers and two defenders in each box. Here, yellows attack and an extra midfield runner creates a 3v2 attacking overload



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