This session was designed through an analysis of player needs and it helps to create more positivity in attacking areas. It is aimed at encouraging the use of wide players and helping wingers to feel confident about positive 1v1 play in order to create crossing situations.
It’s also a good session to get forward players finishing from crosses and it requires attackers to demonstrate quick reactions because the second and third ball phases are integral to the session.
This is a fast moving practice that needs players to show creativity, technical skills, good decision making and of course efficient aerial and ground finishing. It gives players the freedom to try tricks and all kinds of different strikes on goal.
It’s also proves a good test for the defensive players and the goalkeepers, who are more than merely dummies in this session and can really compete. It allows for many different scenarios, especially when the second and third balls are introduced.
I have run this session or similar with different teams, including the Estonian Women’s national team and more recently with Charlton Athletic Women, as well Carshalton Athletic senior men’s team and in post U16 academy football. The aims would be to stretch teams that like to defend narrow and in low blocks and for counter-attacking at speed.
Following a general warm-up, we run a technical warm-up to allow players to practise their dribbling technique.
We set up in an area of 20×40 yards made up of five eight-yard channels, each with a mannequin at the halfway point. We could run this with just some of the players or with the full squad. We would usually encourage the goalkeepers to join in.
Here we’re using 20 players with two starting at each end of each channel. Play starts with the first player at each end dribbling along the channel and rounding the mannequin before reaching the end and laying off the ball to the waiting player. The waiting player receives and dribbles along the channel in the opposite direction.
As two players are dribbling around the mannequin at speed and in opposite directions at the same time, they must be careful to go different ways around it, as shown . We play for 10 minutes.
CROSSING AND FINISHING DRILL
We set up on half a pitch with a goal and a goalkeeper at one end. We mark out a 10-yard wide channel on each flank and position two mannequins in each channel. We also mark out a start zone between the centre circle and the penalty area.
We’re using 18 outfield players split into an attacking team of 12 and a defending team of six. Of the attacking team, six midfielders start in the centre circle; two wingers wait at the top of each wide channel and are locked in their channels; and two forwards begin in the start zone along with two opposition centre backs. The remaining four defenders wait on either side of the goal for their turns to serve and rotate in.
Play starts with the first two waiting midfielders passing to each other and then passing out to the wide channel, where the first wide player on the right wing receives and dribbles down the flank. After attacking and beating both mannequins with a technique, the right winger then crosses from the channel into the penalty area, where two forwards go up against two centre backs to try to finish on goal, as shown [2a]. The first wide player on the opposite side to the ball also joins in the attack, making a supporting run down the wing.
Once the first ball goes dead, the opposite wide player receives a second ball, passed to the left wing from one of the waiting opposition defenders positioned beside the goal. The left winger receives it in the wide channel and sends a cross into the penalty area. The two forwards and the two defenders should adjust their positions for the cross, checking back out ready to re-attack the second ball in the goalmouth, as shown [2b].
Once the second attack is dead, both the left and right wingers return to the back of the queue at their starting positions, while one of the midfielders in the centre circle receives a lofted pass from one of the waiting opposition defenders next to the goal. The midfielder controls this third ball and drives forward to launch an attack centrally, combining with the two forwards who have dropped deep to offer support and passing options. This makes it a 3v2 attack that should culminate with a shot, as shown [2c].
We play to a finish and then reset, rotating the players and restarting the sequence by repeating the first attack but down the opposite wing this time.
We run the same sequence of three attacks, but this time we add two full backs to create a 4v4 (including the wingers) on the first attack. However, the full back can only enter the wide channel to press the crosser once the ball has passed the second mannequin.
Also on the first attack, the wide player on the opposite side to the ball can now come inside to make a run into the back post area, as shown . However, for the second attack [not shown], this winger should check back to receive the second ball from the opposition defender next to the goal and the full back can only press after the winger has touched the ball for the first time. This encourages early decision making and creates a 1v1, allowing the wide player to dribble inside for the second attack. On the third attack, this time the wide players should stay engaged, making it a 5v4 attack.
We run the same sequence of three attacks as before, but this time we can build on progression 1 by adding fresh elements to both the first and third attacks. This time we can allow the second wide player to join in the first attack by moving down the channel to receive a set-back from the dribbler and then cross into the penalty area, as shown [4a].
On the third ball, a second attacking midfielder can join the attack. We also add one or two recovering midfielders to the defending team, as shown [4b], making it a 7v6 overload in favour of the attackers once the three active wide players have come inside.
We set up on a full pitch with a goal and a goalkeeper at each end, with a 10-yard wide channel marked along the length of each wing. We’re using 20 outfield players split into two teams.
Normal rules apply but the winger of each team can receive the ball unchallenged in the attacking half of the wide channel. However, as soon as the winger has touched the ball, opponents can enter the channel to tackle them, as shown .
We encourage 1v1s in wide areas and the wingers are allowed to come inside with the ball if they elect to do so. From then on it’s free play.
What are the key things to look for?
We want to see a good quality first pass and first touch, plus an awareness of opponents and space. We also want to see players demonstrating a positive attitude and the bravery to use different dribbling techniques and skills.
Players should be able to recognise the space to exploit and make good decisions on the timing of the cross and the types of runs made into attacking areas to meet the cross, plus the forwards should use good finishing technique.
We want to see players reacting quickly to the second ball and using movement to re-attack the ball that avoids straying offside. Quickly reacting to the third ball is also important, where we want to see players using good movement to pass and receive during combination play in order to capitalise on overloads.
What are the typical mistakes players might make and how do I avoid them?
Avoid getting frustrated if goals are not scored at first. Get the players to work on the quality of their 1v1s and crosses first, then attempts on target will come.
If the defenders and the keeper are making great blocks and saves, give them credit. We can give them a target for clearances if they gain possession with time to play – build in a zone or gate for them to pass to if they win the ball.