Closing down and pressurising play

The more possession the team has, the more goalscoring opportunities they create. With that in mind, this session concerns itself with winning the ball back as quickly as possible by closing down and pressurising play.

While regaining possession is the main aim, the session boosts fitness levels given that it is such an intensive workout.

We like to try to win the ball as high up the pitch as we can, because this will invariably lead to better goalscoring chances. A good example of this is the first goal in our recent FA Cup first round match at Hayes & Yeading United, which set us on the way to a 2-1 victory.



36×18 yards


Ball, cones

Number of Players


What do I get the players to do?

We use 16 players in a 36×18 yard area – 8v4 in opposition with a further four resting. The team of eight starts with the ball and must retain possession for as long as possible against four opposition players whose job it is to close down and press. We’ll work this scenario at high tempo for 90 seconds to see how many times the defensive team can win the ball. When that happens, it is returned to the coach who re-serves to a player on the team of eight.

At the end of each 90-second period, switch the defensive players with the other group of four. Once this has been played out twice, the roles are reversed, with the eight players now splitting into two groups of four to act as the defenders.


• Defenders must press, trying to win possession against an 8v4 overload.


• Closing down will create opportunities to tackle or intercept.


• Defending players are switched after 90 seconds.

What are the key things to look for technically/tactically?

In order for the four players to win possession, they must get close to the opposition, cut off passing lines, and approach from all sides.

Closing down is always done by the man nearest to the ball, and should be attempted as quickly as possible. In an overload situation, an opponent who has possession should always be ‘shown inside’. If not in an overload situation, the opponent should be shown to the outside.

How do I progress the session?

We progress the session by setting up a 5v2 scenario in a square measuring 10×10 yards. Around that is an outer square of 30×30 yards containing a further nine players.

In the 5v2 game, when the team of two wins possession they remain in the square, but begin a passing game involving the other nine players – in effect an 11v5 game. The group of five must move to the outer square and attempt to win the ball back.

When possession is retrieved by the group of five, play reverts back to the smaller 10×10 yard area. Each of these sessions lasts 20 minutes, with a break in between for drinks and a recap of the exercise’s goals and aims.


• Pressurised play in a tight 5v2 situation.


• A tackle is made and the ball is released to the outer players. Attackers must break out and regain possession.


• If the ball is won back, play reverts back to the smaller playing area.

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