The session is about improving the technique and quality of crosses into the 18-yard box – whipped in with pace, stood up to the back post, cut back or floated – with the emphasis on perfecting a supply line that gives team mates the best opportunity to score.
It’s about trying to create understanding and awareness of team mates’ runs, with players choosing the correct delivery to give that attacking player the best opportunity to score.
The session needs time and, preferably, calm, mild weather in order for players to be able to maximise both its potential and that of their own. We like to run it in pre-season, a time when players begin to understand what we’re looking for as a team, but also get to learn about each others’ individual strengths.
We will also run the session if we’ve created numerous crossing opportunities in recent matches without realising a definitive end product.
What do I get the players to do?
We set up as shown in a 44×36-yard area (or two penalty boxes put together) (1). There are four wide players and two lots of pairs on either side of the two goals. The first pair interchange passes then play a diagonal ball to either the right or left wide man. Wide men have two or three touches before delivering a cross into the box.
The first pair must focus on timing and making runs into the penalty area, with the wide man deciding on a type of cross that is then delivered to either unmarked player for an attempt at goal.
How do I progress the practice?
We progress by introducing a defender, as shown (2). This player is asked to mark one of the attackers (leaving the other one free) enabling the crosser of the ball to find the free player in the box.
We then move to a 3v2, as shown (3). This complicates further the decision-making of the player crossing the ball but slowly we are moving this player into a mindset whereby he knows he must be precise and accurate to succeed.
We want to see lots of movement in the area, a good selection of the right pass or cross to the unmarked player and an awareness of the timing of his run. These elements develop with repetition, practice and familiarity of the way team mates play.
What are the key things to look out for?
Tactically, players must pick out the unmarked player. Concentration is key because the task at hand is not about just crossing; it is about ‘passing’ the ball to a team mate in order to create a goalscoring opportunity, and that can only be achieved if players are composed.
Technically, we are looking at the selection of crosses and their quality, with delivery and pace crucial. We want to see crosses stood up, floated and cut back, with the weight of that cross varied so that a receiving player needs to think about whether he should take a touch or finish first-time.
It’s common for players to believe what they are doing is too easy. However, when defenders are introduced into the session they often realise it’s very difficult to find the free player with the right ball, and what is being demanded of them is considerable quality and technique.
How would you put this into a game situation?
We move this into a 8v8 game situation in a 50×44-yard area, as shown (4). It’s normal rules with players positioned in specific areas on the outside of the pitch. Here, they can receive the ball free, and are able to control and cross with time and space in order to improve their assist/crossing ability.