Improving attacking players in and around the box


Up to a third of a pitch


Balls, cones, goals

No. of players

Up to 8v8

Session time

Final third practice 15mins, Small-sided game 4x5mins

This session improves attacking players in key skill areas – namely in pre-movement (dynamic and elusive), penetration (with and without the ball), link-up play, plus the ability to focus on positive outcomes.

It’s important to practise attacking scenarios in and around the box because it refines player knowledge in terms of the positions they need to occupy, gives them confidence to take opportunities that come their way, and also helps with getting the ball in behind the opposition.

We know this works for us – in our final 18 games in the 2012/13 season we saw 22% of our goals being scored from ‘drive and slide’ passes and pre-movements, all elements practised.

What do I get the players to do?

Final third practice

We set up as shown, with four attackers going up against two defenders (1a), who can only press and tackle when one of the two attackers immediately in front of them receives the ball. Defenders and attackers are separated, at first, by a gap of four yards.


• In the Final third practice, the deep-lying strikers feed in to their advanced team mates, who find space and evade the attentions of defenders by using pre-movement

The deeper attackers link up and feed the ball in. The attackers nearer the goal are encouraged to move as opposites to one another, creating space in front of the defenders. Once one player has received the ball, one of the deeper attackers can join to create a 3v2 situation in front of goal (1b). However an attack ends, play resets and restarts.


• Defenders move in to press, but ‘drive and slide’ movement from a supporting attacker means a 3v2 overload is created in the box and a goalscoring chance presents itself

We can progress the practice by adding an extra defender, or by allowing both deeper attackers to join in the attack once the first ball has been played.

What are the key things to look out for?

Players must move before the ball arrives (pre-movement) using dynamic and elusive actions, while ‘drive and slide’ runs mean quick, distinguished and fast passes to team mates on the move. We also want to see good receiving on the back foot, plus combination and link-up play, and a positive goalscoring end product.

Small-sided game

Moving into a game situation, as shown (2a), a 5-yard wide mid-zone represents a free and unopposed area for two neutral midfielders – no other players can enter this area.


• In the small-sided game, midfielders patrol the central channel and link up with attackers who again make pre-movement to evade the attentions of defenders

Attackers combine with the midfielders to attack each goal (2b). Defenders turning over possession feed the ball into the midfielders, while successful attacks restart with the server.


• In the progression, a midfielder can step into the space to create a 4v3 overload

This time, we progress by allowing midfielders to step in to create 4v3 overloads, particularly if attackers are struggling to create and score. We will also encourage one-touch finishing.

Finally, we’ll remove the mid-zone for an 8v8 that looks to replicate previous outcomes. 


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