This session is all about counter-attacking at pace. It teaches players to quickly turn defence into attack while opponents are out of shape and it also shows them how to create overloads and goal-scoring chances.
Players like this session because it is very game-realistic and it is performed at match tempo. It involves all players and all positions so the whole team benefit from taking part in this session. It rehearses players in scoring goals, defending the penalty area and making both attacking runs in support and recovery runs to defend.
This practice is most beneficial when players perform it at speed and at a high tempo. As it relates to game-like distances it can be a demanding session, so we would tend to run this on a Tuesday after the players have recovered from the weekend’s game and aren’t fatigued going into the coming fixture.
We would run this session as match preparation if our forthcoming opponents tend to commit a number of players to attacking play.
“Players enjoy this training session because it is very game-realistic and it is performed at match tempo”
COUNTER-ATTACKING PRACTICE 1
We set up a playing area between the penalty boxes of a pitch, with a goal and a goalkeeper at each end. The playing area is coned off to the width of the penalty area.
We’re using 18 outfield players, split into six blue defenders and 12 red attackers. Four attackers start at each end, while the remaining four attackers start on either side of the halfway line marked by three blue defenders in each half, as shown.
The attackers work in pairs and start from either side of the goal. One of the attackers starts play by combining with his team mate, who receives the ball and plays a longer pass forwards into one of the two strikers in the attacking half of the pitch, as shown [1a]. Both starting players make supporting forward runs to join in and create a 4v3 attacking overload situation with the aim of scoring a goal.
“The attacking players must be direct in their approach and produce clever movements and combination play to create scoring opportunities”
The four attacking players must be direct in their approach and produce clever movements and combination play to create goal scoring opportunities, as shown [1b].
Once the attack has been completed, the attacking pair join the back of the queue. The next pair immediately launch an attack in the opposite direction, making forward passes and forward runs to create a new 4v3 situation with the strikers in the other half, as shown [1c].
Once players are used to the mechanics of the drill, we can progress it by allowing one of the players in the attacking pair to dribble with the ball before combining with the two strikers. The first pass played into the strikers can now be contested by an opposition defender, as shown [1d].
We can progress the activity further by introducing a second ball from the coach, which would be played into one of the four attackers in the attacking half as soon as the first attack is complete or the ball has gone out of play. This means both the attacking and defending players must be alert to the fresh challenge and react accordingly, as shown [1e]. To keep the pressure intense, we would play three non-stop games of six minutes with two minutes of rest in between.
COUNTER-ATTACKING PRACTICE 2
We set up on a full pitch with a goal and a goalkeeper at each end and with a target line marked 10 yards over the halfway line, as shown.
We’re using 20 outfield players split into two teams: a red attacking team of 10 and a blue defending team of 10. In one half of the pitch the attackers have a 10v7 overload but the defending team also has a front three positioned on the halfway line ready to counter-attack if their team wins possession.
The red attacking team starts in possession with the aim of playing their way through, around or over the blue defending team of seven to create a goal scoring opportunity, as shown [2a].
“To maximise attacking opportunities we want to see that players recognise the quality and detail of the shot needed when finishing a counter-attack”
If the defending team of seven wins the ball, then they must try to quickly launch a counter-attack by playing a forward pass into one of their three forward players stationed on the halfway line. The aim is to get beyond the target line as quickly as possible and then continue the forward momentum towards the goal at the opposite end, as shown [2b]. The front three can be joined in their counter-attack by one additional player from the blue defending team.
The four counter-attacking players aim to produce various movements and combination play to create a chance and score, as shown [2c]. As the counter-attack is being executed, the rest of the team push up the pitch behind the ball.
Once the counter-attack has been completed, the four blues who have just taken part in the counter- attack are now expected to immediately make recovery runs back to their original starting positions on the pitch. Another ball is played in by the coach to one of the 10 red attackers and a new 10v7 phase of play is initiated in the defending half, as shown [2d].
If the 10 red attackers score a goal or if the ball goes out of the play at any stage during an attack, then a second ball is played in by the coach to the blue defending team, who look to immediately initiate a counter-attack, as shown [2e].
We play three non-stop games of 10 minutes with two minutes of rest between games.
What are the key things to look for?
We are looking at three main coaching points. Firstly, we want to see players using the correct speed of pass. Secondly, to maximise attacking opportunities we want to see that players recognise the quality and detail of the shot needed when finishing a counter-attack. And thirdly, we want to see that our players are aware of the tactical requirements needed on transition, both in and out of possession, because we really don’t want to get countered from a counter-attack. We want to accomplish these three points of focus during the training session and stay consistent with our message to the players.
What are the typical mistakes players might make and how do I avoid them?
The quality of the final pass or shot can sometimes be misunderstood by the players – they will think the support runs are the hardest part of the activity, but there is no point in making the runs if a lack of concentration means that the move doesn’t result in a goal or a shot on target.