This is an all-action session that brings together fitness and technique in a fast-paced competitive game. It relies on individual skill and good teamwork. It encourages shots at goal and must be played at Premier League pace – in other words, at a high tempo.
We play this intensive game every Tuesday if we have no midweek match as it acts as a brilliant maintenance session, using up to 14 players in the exercise.
In the session, we constantly encourage creative players to shoot at goal when they create half a yard for themselves. It’s great for fitness – hence why we do it early in the week – and for team spirit too, because it builds camaraderie and the will to win. I have used this at every club I’ve managed.
What do I get the players to do?
Having divided players in two teams, and with a goal placed at each end of the playing area, we begin by playing 2v2 in the middle. One keeper starts with the ball, playing out to his team. Players must combine, making short and precise passing patterns before attempting to score in the far goal (1a). We try to create a very intensive game, with coaches positioned at each end so as to immediately get a ball back in play should it go dead. We play for two minutes; each team of two is replaced by two new players.
We enhance the move by placing additional team members around the side of the pitch, up to a maximum of four players per team. Now, players involved in a 2v2 can combine with those on the touchline to create more elaborate passing angles and options, though these peripheral players can only play using one touch (1b).
Players again swap after two minutes with each individual 2v2 score contributing to an overall head-to-head score, something that makes this session very competitive for players (1c). Each player will usually play four or five games with the total session lasting 30 minutes.
What are the key things to look for technically/tactically?
For strikers this is a quick and reactive game. We are looking for them to find an angle to shoot, and to immediately dispatch a shot whenever they can. We have times throughout the season where frontmen hesitate when in shooting positions, so this session is great practice to get them back into the mindset of getting shots off early.
Players must construct quick passing moves, always willing to break forward. They must be looking to create overloads and overlaps, whilst staying aware of their defensive duties should a forward move break down.
Precision is key because there is no room for error. Making a mistake often leads to a goal in this game, just as it does in the Premier League.
How do I progress the session?
We progress the session by varying playing numbers, starting at first with a 1v1 (2a). This is very hard work but our players enjoy the challenge. The fact the exercise offers plenty of touches of the ball makes it extremely game-relevant.
As a final progression, we play 3v3 with an emphasis on creating 2v1 situations by using overlaps (2b/2c). Too often in today’s game players rely on their ability to beat opponents. But if a footballer can make something happen with movement in a 3v3, it adds another string to his bow.