Combination play to deliver fast attacks



Up to 60 x 80 yards


Balls, cones, goals, mannequins

No. of players


Session time

Each practice 20mins

The session focuses on developing combination play at a high intensity, taking one or two touches to improve efficiency during fast breaks and counter-attacks.

The first half focuses on quick play to progress forwards, maintaining a high intensity and creating rhythm, while the second concentrates on fast breaks to finish in the final third.

Having the ability to mount these sorts of forward breaks in games whilst constructing a devastating route to goal is a trait that can catch your opponents cold.

What do I get the players to do?


Setting up as shown (1a), the requirement is to focus on forward passing at speed, with quick combination play effectively utilising the third man run. So players work in pairs to transfer the ball from one end to the other using the two reds.


• Blues utilise the two reds in the middle to work the ball from one end of the practice to the other, assuming set positions

To progress, we introduce a second ball (1b) and now two pairs work at the same time, end to end. Upon setting the first pass, reds must now spin to receive a ball from the opposite side.


• Now the challenge is enhanced with two balls being played in. Reds set the first pass, then spin to receive a pass from the opposite side

Possession practice

We now set up a 50×80-yard box (2). It’s 9v9, and the aim is to develop the ability to move the ball forwards quickly using only one or two touches, starting with a keeper at one end. The ball can only be played into a keeper from the attacking half of the pitch, and on receiving he will distribute it to the other team side using a long throw or kick.


• Blues work the ball forward one-touch as it finds its way from one keeper to the other

The session can be progressed to one-touch inside the centre circle and two outside.

Main practice

Now we slightly adjust the pitch dimensions and add goals and mannequins, as shown (3a). It’s 2v1 in each half of the pitch – the aim being to develop combination play and positional interchanges in creating goalscoring opportunities in the final third from a fast break, with a 2v1 defensive overload becoming a 3v2 attacking overload when the ball is played into the opposition’s half. The attacking team has six seconds to score a goal (3b).


1. The keeper starts with the ball
2. Central defenders, who have a 2v1 overload, split
3. A pass goes into the centre-forward, which is the cue for two attackers to enter from the side, thus creating a 3v2


• The ball is worked into the right-sided support player and the ball enters the goal before the six seconds has elapsed

If a turnover occurs, the ball is transferred quickly into the opposite centre-forward with the next two wide players joining in, thus creating another 3v2.

Small-sided game

Finally, in this 9v9 (blues are 2-4-2 against 2-3-3 for reds), we ask blues to drop deep to counter-attack on regaining possession, scoring within 10 seconds of the regain (4). Reds will aim to break down the low block to score. Here we’re looking for compactness – distances between individuals and units/lines – the forcing of play in one direction, and prevention of opponents switching play. Players must recognise the right moment to counter-attack and where the space is, as well as exploiting any disorganisation in the opposition ranks. 


• Blues defend with a low block, looking to counter at pace and with a time limit, while reds are encouraged forward to probe attacking angles using smart passing and awareness of opposition roles

What are the key things to look out for?

We focus on the movement of receiving players – can they lose their man to receive on the back foot and ‘face up’ to an opponent, or perhaps set and spin with one touch into supporting players? Movement of the wide players to support inside and outside is often key to a move’s success, as are the basics of communication, precision, awareness and playing at a high tempo.