This is a training session that we run at Blackburn Rovers and it is all about encouraging attacking play and creativity when driving forward with the ball.
It is a session I particularly like using as it ensures that teams attack with support in numbers and it usually culminates with a shot at goal, which is something that the players always tend to enjoy in training.
This is a session that engages all the players and it can be adapted to whatever numbers we have available for training. Here we are using this activity as an attacking session but we can also use it to focus on the defending principles, depending on our requirements and what we want to get out of the session.
It has plenty of opportunities for players to transition, from both defence to attack and from attack to defence, and if needed the focus could also be centred on counter-attacking or developing build-up play.
It’s a highly competitive session and it therefore encourages an intensity of performance from the players.
The pitch size can be adapted to achieve different outcomes: the size of can be increased to allow players to maintain pitch fitness or reduced to encourage explosive play and decision-making under pressure.
We set up an area of 60×40 yards with a goal and a goalkeeper at each end. Inside the area we mark a central box of 30×30 yards, split into two halves.
We’re using 16 outfield players divided into four teams of four. Two teams start in each half of the central box, as shown [1a], making it a 4v4 in each half. All of the players are locked in their halves until being freed by the coach. Play starts with the coaches playing a ball into each half, with one team passing to keep possession and the other team pressing to win possession in each half.
The two passing teams must try to keep hold of the ball in their respective halves until the coaches call for an attack – both at the same time. On that call, each possession team attacks the goal at the end opposite to the one in which it started, while each pressing team defends the goal at its own end of the pitch, as shown [1b].
The attackers must create a goal scoring opportunity in whatever way they can, as shown [1c], while the defenders must try to stop them scoring.
To fully engage the players, we would put a scoring system in place to make the activity more competitive. If the defending team gains possession in each half, it can be game over; or we could ask them to play into the central possession area and all the defenders must recover into that area for them to gain a point. Scoring systems can vary depending on a coach’s requirements. We could also overload or underload the teams to challenge the players further.
In terms of timings, the last time we used this session we ran it over two separate nights for 30 minutes each time, playing five games of five minutes, with one minute of rest between each game.
What are the key things to look for?
We want to see good movement and support play during the attack. It is also important to ensure the defending aspects of the session are not overlooked, as this will encourage realistic play from the attackers.