This session allows players to understand when and how to press from a mid-block. By starting as a structured block the session’s progressions allow the player to recognise the triggers and execute an effective press to regain the ball.
Player engagement is key for any session – this session allows all players, regardless of position, to see and understand the importance of the detail behind executing a mid-block press.
It allows opportunities to be exploited by the opposition, which in turn allows the players to quickly learn from the exposure and make corrections to shape, reading triggers, communication and ultimately when to press and when to hold.
This is a practice that I would deliver whenever the session is looking at our shape out of possession. The session is effective in its teaching and all players can quickly grasp its concept whilst also being challenged – regardless of how many times the session has been delivered to them. This is because it can be adapted for all numbers and all opposing formations the players may face, whilst also being about us as a team and what we want to be able to achieve by pressing from a mid-block.
The practise works well in blocks of time. 4 minutes blocks is often my go to, which you can then rotate the teams so the other half of one team get to become the team in the middle zone. Add a progression at each block interval.
“This session allows all players, regardless of position, to see and understand the importance of the detail behind executing a mid-block press.”
The session begins with all players locked into their zones [1a]. This restriction allows players to understand that if they can’t get up to the ball and are flat, they will get played through.
The Blues start with the ball and look to keep possession with their fellow blue team. If the reds win possession, they keep the ball with their fellow red team. The end zone teams get a rest period and must use the opportunity to fine tune their communication skills from behind the ball ‘Step, screen, left, right, press, hold’. [1b]
“If the pressing player goes too early or doesn’t have the correct body shape to show their teammates which way they are pressing, the team will get played through”
Allow one player to step into the opposition zone to press the ball . This gives them the understanding of being the trigger. If the pressing player goes too early or doesn’t have the correct body shape to show their teammates which way they are pressing, the team will get played through.
“Encourage the midfield to get closer to the ball and start to dictate the opposition”
Allow two players from the middle box to enter the opposition zone, along with one from the end zone of the team out of possession . This encourages the midfield to get closer to the ball and start to dictate the opposition with body shape where they want to be forced into to allow a regain. The player in the end zone can step in to encourage being able to recognise that the gap between units must be tight to not get played through – they can demonstrate front foot aggressive pressure from deeper than the unit attempting the win the ball.
Now allow the team in possession to match numbers that move into the opposition zone . If the red team in the middle zone sends three players, the end zone red team can match the numbers and move into the blue middle zone.
FURTHER PROGRESSION AND SSG
Throughout all the above progressions the in-possession team can also match what the out of possession team does in regard to sending numbers between zones. Or they can remain structured and look to play through that way.
Finally, the practise can be changed into a SSG by adding goals and allowing freedom of movement but keeping the zones in as reference points for the players.
What are the key things to look out for?
Technically the players must be able to demonstrate the ability to keep possession for their team so the drill can function well for the out of possession team to remain out of possession for periods of time.
Players must be able to physically move across the ground to close the ball down and have good 1v1 body shape with their shoulders and hips showing where they want to make the opposition play.
Tactically the players must understand formations and where on the pitch they may be exploited. i.e are they a midfield 3 playing against a midfield 5? If so, we can manipulate the number of players in each zone to reflect specific formations.
A common mistake in this session is that all players see the box as a restriction and allow their unit to become flat because they all move up to the line or drop off flat. This is easily rectified by coaching them to recognise the movement of the ball and who in the unit should drop or step – it becomes almost a shadow practice until the players are free to move between zones.