Attacking and defending transitions


Three quarters of pitch


Balls, bibs, cones, 2 full size goals

No. of players

Up to 20 players + 2 goalkeepers

Session time

Transition practice: 20mins, 11v11 transition game: 15mins

This is a session designed to encourage the defending team to win the ball back and quickly play it forward to their attackers. The attacking players then have to look after the ball and bring in other players to transition and help to create chances against the opposition. As a session it also helps defenders to work on their defending when being transitioned against.

Players tend to like this session because it is really competitive between the defenders and the attacking players. This challenges the forwards to look after the ball and bring in other players around them to go and create and score. The defenders then have the challenge of stopping the counter-attack and defending their goal when overloaded.

This session is ideal to use when coming up against a team that is very expansive in its play. It’s a good session if we decide to play deep and drop off the opponent, allowing us to transition on them if we win the ball back.

Also this session works if we decide to be more expansive in our play and try to dominate possession, leaving ourselves exposed sometimes to be transitioned on. Our defenders are then used to certain situations and are prepared to defend the initial first pass forward but also organise themselves to defend when outnumbered.


We set up between the two penalty boxes of our pitch with a goal and a goalkeeper at each end. The playing area is coned off to the width of the penalty area and we mark an 18-yard end zone in front of each goal.

We’re using at least 18 outfield players. We set up as shown with 6 blue defenders who start in the central zone (with three defending each end). We also set up with 4 red strikers who start in the central zone (with two attacking each end) and 8 yellow midfielders who start with four to the side of the goals at each end.

Play starts with a pass from the goalkeeper to midfielder A, who combines with midfielder B. Midfielder B passes forward to one of the two red strikers attacking the opposite end and midfielders A and B both then make forward runs to join the strikers in attacking the blue defenders with a 4v3 overload, as shown [1a].

The attacking team has just 10 seconds to score once the first striker has touched the ball. The three defending players must stay narrow and try to stop the attack penetrating behind them.

Once the first attack is over, the coach plays a new ball into the central area from the halfway line and the two red attackers and two yellow midfielders who have just attacked have to quickly get back in shape to get on the ball and make a second attack on the same end, as shown [1b].

The three blue defenders who just faced the first attack must quickly get up to the edge of the end zone ready to defend against the second attack. This time there is no 10 second rule, so the attackers have more time to develop the attack, as shown [1c].

Once the second attack is over, play goes the other way in the same manner with two yellow midfielders combining to play the ball into the two strikers at the opposite end and then join the attack, as shown [1d].


We set up between the penalty area at one end of our pitch and the goal line at the other end. We are using the full width of the pitch and we position a goal and a goalkeeper at each end. We also mark a 10-yard zone across the width of the pitch at the halfway line. We’re using 20 outfield players split into two teams of 11 including keepers.

We play an 11v11 game, with possession starting with the three central defenders from the blue attacking team in the central 10-yard zone. The two nearest red forwards in the central zone are passive in the initial phase but the rest of the red defending team must press and try to win the ball back.

If the reds succeed in winning possession, they pass the ball from the back into one of their strikers in the central zone, who looks to bring the other players into the game in a counter-attack, as shown [2].

Now faced with a counter-attack against them, the blue team can only defend using the three central defenders who can recover from the central zone, with the counter-attacking red team pushing forward to overload in attack.

If the red team find it difficult to pass forward when they win the ball, when the phase of play stops the coach can pass a new ball into the red strikers and the transition begins from there.


What are the key things to look for?

When attacking, it’s important that we see a quick tempo in passing and movement from the possession team. Accuracy and ball speed of the pass across the ground is also important, as are the quick reactions and movements of players to start transitions. We want to see good timing and the correct speed of runs and passes to penetrate the opposition for goal scoring opportunities.

It’s a good session for individuals to practise quality execution in passing, receiving, dribbling and running with the ball skills. It can also be used to practice good intelligent decision making, with players having to select the best option to maximise the overload and score.

When defending, it’s important that players adjust from pressing to cover and balance in relation to the ball and the defensive line. We want to see players sliding across as a unit, remaining compact and leaving the furthest attacker away from the ball. Players should demonstrate good communication and decision making as to when to delay, press or deny a forward pass.

Players should also make a quick allocation of marking and covering roles and use good concentration and judgement to decide when to leave the man and press ball.


  • Ball movementBall movement
  • Player movementPlayer movement
  • DribbleDribble
  • Optional movementOptional movement