Pure wing play

Pure wing play is about developing wingers’ ability to cross the ball, whilst promoting relationships and understanding with strikers and other attack-minded team mates.

Forwards should begin to understand where a ball will be delivered to just from the winger’s body shape and how he is positioned.

It’s important to practise this because in today’s game so many opportunities are created from wide areas. Using the full width of the pitch allows wingers to create more space for the attacking team, and we see rehearsed wing moves paying off frequently in matches. 

We’ll practise this session for around an hour.


60×45 yards
Balls, goals
Number of Players
16, plus 2 keepers

What do I get the players to do?

Having placed a goal at each end of the playing area, along with two wing channels five yards wide, we first practise unopposed crossing routines. We use five players – a winger on each side, two strikers and a supporting midfielder. The ball is played out to either flank where the winger either dribbles and crosses, takes a touch then crosses, or crosses first time. The key is for the winger to send balls in using a variety of crosses… lofted balls, drilled centres or clever cutbacks.

In addition, if the ball is crossed from the right, the left winger attacks the far post looking to score, and vice versa.

• Unopposed, rehearsing crossing enables the winger to pick out any of the attack-minded players

How do I put this into a game situation?

On the same playing area, we create an 8v8 small-sided game. Both teams have a winger in each channel leaving 6v6 in the middle. Play is always encouraged out towards the flanks, where wingers can be asked to follow a number of different progressions and rules.

Rule 1

The wide player  has unlimited touches, so he can dribble the ball along the flanks and then cross.

• A ball to the wing is taken down the channel and fired across to the near post

Rule 2

The winger only has one touch so is required to cross the ball from wherever he receives it.

• A first-time cross from deep is aimed at the far post where the opposite winger has come in to attack space

Rule 3

Limit the wide player to two touches so attackers know when the ball is coming in.

Rule 4

The winger must run on to a pass into his channel though only has one touch, therefore much of the emphasis here is on the set-up pass from a central player.

• Laying a channel ball into the path of the winger requires a measured pass from the midfielder

Rule 5

An opposition player is allowed access to the channel to attempt to win the ball. Under pressure, the winger must act quickly and decisively

• An opposing player comes into the channel to force the winger into a quick pass

Rule 6

The winger can enter the main playing area, looking to shoot or cut the ball back for an inrushing team mate

• The winger dribbles out of the channel, feeding a ball across goal for his opposite winger to attack

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

Obviously, the type of cross is crucial in this move, so we look for variation and imagination in the balls that are played in.

We also expect quick decision-making on the wings, because the earlier a ball comes in, the better the scoring opportunity.

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