Possession beyond your opponents’ midfield

Here’s a simple yet devastatingly effective passing drill that works on combinations in and through midfield, up to the front player. It relies on good movement, players knowing their duties and responsibilities, and a willingness to adopt key tactical ideas such as third man running.
At Wolves, our football philosophy revolves around playing an attractive and expansive passing game, and this session has given a great deal of success this season.


Up to a full pitch
Balls, cones, goals
Number of Players
Up to 11v11
Session time
Passing practice, 
Box release and Thirds game 
20mins each

What do I get the players to do?

Passing practice

We set up as shown (1) – the first pass is square across the bottom of the area. A first-time pass is then made into the middle to player 3, with the ball being set back for player 1, who passes ahead, where player 2 receives and feeds out diagonally to the other side of the area.
The move then comes back in the other direction.


• In the Passing Practice, players 1, 2 and 3 combine with one-touch play to see the ball passed out to the other side of the area

How do I progress the session?

A simple progression is to reduce the size of the playing area. This ensures players must be tighter, quicker and more accurate with their passing.

Box release

Once players have mastered the first set-up we create a new practice on a half pitch (2a). Near the halfway line is a 20×5-yard box – it’s 6v3 in this. Gold players working with the overload must make four to six passes before playing out – if it is intercepted, the ball must be won back and the count restarts.


• In Box Release,  gold players use their overload to make six consecutive passes and move the ball out of the box

When the ball is released from the box, two gold attackers and one red can also move out (2b). The challenge now is for gold players (who are attacking 7v7) to use the types of passing mechanics practised in the first part to work a way through the red defence in order to test the keeper.


• The attack now progresses, 7v7, with gold players looking to pass a way through into the opposition’s penalty area

What are the key things to look out for?

Gold attackers must pass and move quickly, and we want to see one midfielder ‘drifting’ behind the midfield line. In addition, one centre-forward should drop in to receive the ball, with the midfielder running past him.

Thirds game

We now set up as shown (3a/3b) playing 11v11. The aim is to play out from the back, with the ball being passed through the thirds and one player from each team moving into the next zone as the ball progresses. We can encourage the ball to go wide into the channels or to keep play narrow, depending on the challenge.


• In Thirds Game, play progresses from the back, in this instance with players encouraged to use the channels as they pass through the thirds


• One player can follow the ball into the third he is attacking – here, the receiving player in the final third has the option of a laid off pass or a shot

We can progress this by expanding to a full pitch 11v11 game.

What are the key things to look out for technically/tactically?

Midfielders must rotate, trying to receive the ball facing forwards, with a willingness to combine. This means real attention must be paid to movement behind the opposition’s midfield line, with a direct mode of attacking and a willingness to shoot.

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