Switch of play

This session is about switching play quickly while in possession. This can be specifically done for your back four, your midfield, or the entire team.

It’s important to practise this so that it becomes a habit for players, and so we don’t just pass forwards. Instead, we want to see players working diagonally – this makes it difficult for the opposition to set up defensively, and helps us exploit any gaps created.

At Fleetwood, we like to play with width, and using the switch of play enables our wingers to create 1v1s high up the pitch so they can take defenders on. A by-product of this is the creation of space centrally, which attacking central midfielders can use to pass or run into.


Up to full pitch
Balls, cones, goals
Number of Players
Up to 9v9 plus keepers
Session time
Group work 10-15mins,
Score by switching play 15-20mins,
9v9 game 20mins

What do I get the players to do?

Group work (1)

This is a basic set-up, but is great for identifying key principles that we’ll need later in the session. The ultimate question that arises is ‘can the player turn?’ If he can, great; if not, is there support to play the switch instead?

So we have three groups of six players on the pitch, as shown – each group is split into two lots of three.


1. The player inside turns on the ball to switch play
2. Players then rotate positions
3. Here, players cannot turn inside, so must lay off for the outside player to switch play
4. Here, players have the option to turn or lay off

Score by switching play (2)

Next we set up as shown, with three teams of six again, comprised of 6v2 in each area plus four defenders on the central line.


1. The team in possession scores by switching the play after making at least four consecutive passes. The four defenders on the central line must attempt to cut off the pass. If they manage to do this, the losing team becomes the defending team.
2. If, however, the pass makes it through to the other end, play comes back the other way, with two defenders moving in to create a new 6v2 at the bottom, and the two defenders at the top joining their team mates on the halfway line.

This game incorporates the principles laid down in the passing drill – namely turning and switching, and laying off and switching.

What are the key things to look out for?

Tight passing means attacking players must be quick and precise with their play, whilst at the same time attempting to set up the prospect of a long pass to the team at the other end of the practice, so calm heads are required.

Defenders should jockey for position and get ready to move back to the halfway line should attackers complete their required passes.

This game can be increased in difficulty by changing the number of passes needed before the switch. Alternatively, we can adjust the size of the area, or the distance of the switch.

9v9 game (3a/3b)

To conclude the session we play a game – normal match rules apply, though the team can also score a point by switching the play through the three zones in two or three passes (it must go through the central zone on the floor). We will make this three-touch maximum in the central zone with free play in the two wide zones to enable players to take defenders on 1v1 out wide.


• This diagram shows how to expose a team defending with a compact shape. The need for quick switches of play is important, which is why the switch must be within two or three passes


• This diagram shows what happens if the defending team tries to stop the switch by setting up with players a little wider apart. The team in possession can use the spaces created to break the defending lines

What are the key things to look out for?

Players need to be aware of what is around them. It’s important they don’t try to force the switch – they must recognise how the opposition are set up. Look to see if the player receiving the pass has good body position to allow him to see the play. If not, the player in possession must lay the ball off to a team mate who can see the pass.

With the 9v9 game we can also work on defending principles of keeping the opposition in possession down one side of the pitch, in order to keep a compact defending shape. It’s important that although we’re trying to produce a switch of play we mustn’t forget what we’re working towards, namely scoring goals. It’s vital we know ‘why’ we’re doing this.

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