This is a pressing session and it works on encouraging players to aggressively press and regain the ball quickly.
It focuses on an aggressive press, with players looking to win the ball high. As a session, it helps players to use the press as an attacking tool that will enable us to attack well while we defend. It also helps players to understand the principles of how to quickly regain possession and then exploit space in the transitional phase.
We would run this session frequently in pre-season, as it can also be used as a physical and mental development tool because it gets players to perform at a high quality under a fatigued state. Then we would run it twice a month in the season to reaffirm our pressing principles and exploit opposition vulnerabilities.
“As a session, it helps players to use the press as an attacking tool that will enable us to attack well while we defend”
We set up a playing area of 12×12 yards divided into four squares of 6×6 yards each. We position four small goals outside the playing area, with one on each side.
We’re using 16 outfield players split into four teams of four. Three of the teams start inside the main area with two teams combining to play in an 8v4 and the fourth team starting on the outside of the area as bounce players. The outside bounce players can support the two teams in possession but they are limited to two-touch.
The two attacking teams start with the ball, as shown [1a], and they must string seven passes together before they can try to score in one of the two goals adjacent to the square they are in.
Players on the two attacking teams are limited to three-touch to practise their in-possession principles, as shown [1b].
The team of four defenders must press to win the ball and if they regain it they can join the attackers in place of the team that lost the ball.
“This is a highly physical and demanding session. Therefore, recovery times are key to making sure players can maintain the intensity”
If a team loses the ball it then becomes the pressing team, instantly looking to counter-press to regain possession, as shown [1c], and if they succeed they can score in any of the four goals. We play this activity for six games of three minutes.
To progress the activity, we double the size of the playing area, making it a square of 24×24 yards and then, with the same teams, we focus on closing down space and trying to lock the attacking team into one of the smaller squares. All other rules remain the same. We play this progression for four games of three minutes.
This is a highly physical and demanding session. Therefore, recovery times are key to making sure the players can maintain the intensity.
How would I put this in a game situation?
We would finish with a small-sided game focusing on the press and winning the ball back in the opposition half. We would try to develop this as an 11v11 to keep numbers realistic, setting up between the two penalty boxes of the pitch with a goal at each end. However, this would depend on the numbers available. We would play this game for three periods of 10 minutes.
What are the key things to look for?
We look for player to understand the correct body shape needed for the press to highlight the triggers and want to see them using good communication as to when to “go” and when to “hold”.
We also want to see players demonstrating the physical elements of acceleration and deceleration and showing mental awareness and quick reaction times when possession is lost so we can regain the ball within eight seconds.
What are the typical mistakes players might make and how do I avoid them?
Sometimes players make the mistake of not pressing as a unit but we emphasise the importance of good communication to solve this.
Players also tend to go in too fast or too slow, so we show them how mental awareness of distances can help them understand the correct speed to use.