This session is all about encouraging players to counter-attack with speed and precision. Counter-attacking is a big part of the modern game and we feel that working on this will improve the quality of our play and develop our decision making so the players know how to react when these kind of opportunities arise in matches.
We like to play a high tempo game and we feel our players need to be able to produce a high number of sprints and cover distances at high speeds throughout a game. This session will not only help the players with their decision making and quality on the ball but it will also help to maintain and improve their overall physical conditioning.
We might choose to run this session in a week when we feel we are coming up against a team that is particularly susceptible to the counter-attack, in order to put the players in realistic situations and get them making decisions that may occur in the game.
We would not usually run the session on the day before a game, due to the high physical demands that we are looking to get out of it.
We set up on half a pitch with a goal and a goalkeeper at one end. We cone off the wings, tapering to the outside edges of the six-yard box as shown and we mark a 12×12-yard possession box on the halfway line. We position poles on either side of the possession box.
We’re using 10 outfield players, split into a red defending team of six and a blue attacking team of four. Two of the blues are wide players, with one starting on each pole. Two red defenders start on the edge of the penalty area. The four remaining reds start in the possession box and pass the ball in a 4v2 under pressure from two blue attackers, who try to win possession, as shown [1a].
The aim for the reds is to keep hold of the ball for as long as possible. To encourage this we award them a point every time they string 12 passes together.
As soon as the two blue pressers gain possession, they look to pass to a wide team mate and then they break up the pitch supporting the wide player on the ball.
The aim for the three breaking blues is to counter-attack the two red defenders at the other end, making it a 3v2 in the attacking team’s favour, as shown [1b].
As soon as the ball goes dead, the three attacking players must recover so the practice can start again. We get the attacking and defending players to switch roles every few goes so everyone gets adequate recovery time. To make things realistic, we use a linesman.
We set up an area of approximately 60×50 yards (or half a pitch with the wings coned off). We have a goal and a goalkeeper at each end and four mannequins positioned as shown. We’re using at least 12 outfield players split into two teams of six, positioned as shown, but as it’s a wave attack numbers are flexible and we rotate other players in as necessary.
Play starts with the keeper throwing the ball out to one of the blue winger, who arcs his run around the mannequin. Two blue players from beside the goal join the winger in the attack and they go 3v2 against the two red defenders and try and score in the goal, as shown [2a]. The attack must be quick and if there is any hesitation, the coach can call an end to the attack.
When the attack is dead (after a goal or if the ball goes out of play), a counter-attack is immediately launched from the goal that was just attacked. The keeper throws out to one of the red wingers, who must run around the mannequin to receive and then he attacks with the support of the two reds that just defended against the previous attack, as shown [2b]. The blue winger from the last attack must return to his starting position and the other two attacking blues must quickly recover and defend their goal.
What are the key things to look out for?
We want to see players making quick counter-attacks, as the speed of the attack is vital to the success of the session. We want players to make good decisions, both on the ball and off it. For instance, it’s important that players should make good attacking runs off the ball to create space for the ball carrier or to open up the opportunity to be played in themselves.
We also want to see players using speed of thought to their advantage, making runs that keep them onside and following up in front of goal to take advantage of any rebound opportunities.
What are the typical mistakes players might make and how do I avoid them?
Sometimes we see the attacker in possession slowing the play down too much. This may be by taking to many touches or not attacking the space quick enough, so we encourage players to attack with speed, using forward passes where possible rather than playing the ball square too often.
Another problem we see is that attacking players don’t always time their runs well enough and stray offside too often.