Pressing within a shape


Up to an extended half-pitch


Balls, cones, goals

No. of players

Up to 10v9 plus keepers

Session time

Centre press game 4x1min, Two squares game 2x5mins, 7v9 2x8mins, 9v9 16mins

Pressing within a shape is a vital part of any team’s set-up. It ensures strength, control and organisation, and provides a crucial element to any successful side’s training process.

I loved playing this way, and when you have team mates who understand how to put this into effect, it’s very difficult for the opposition to play against.

The trick to this session is to keep it at a low tempo. We are looking for planned, thought-out moves, suffocating opposition threat and slowing waves of attacks as much as possible.

What do I get the players to do?

Centre press game (1)

1. Blues press as a group, keeping their shape and maintaining sensible distances
2. They shift across in tracking the movement of the ball and must quickly regain shape once played through
3. The shape of the man furthest from the ball is vital in that he must be ready to reposition and react should a switch occur

One of the two lines of four reds is fed the ball by a team mate positioned around the outside of the 20×20-yard area. Players pass left and right, waiting for a gap to appear where a pass can be played through to a team mate on the other side.

To progress, once the ball is passed through the blue line the box turns into a possession game and the teams play on until blues win the ball back (2).


• In the progression, a successful pass has been made through the blue line – the blues are now battling to win the ball back in a 4v4 possession game

Two squares game (3)

1. When possession is stolen, the ball is played back into the blue square
2. Four blues chase into the red half using the principles already learned

We now set up with two 20×20-yard squares placed end to end. Teams press in the opposite half in looking to steal the ball.

7v9 (4)

1. Reds keep possession of the ball at the back of the practice and outside the pitch
2. The nearest blue to the ball is aggressive and halts any red forward movement
3. Blues are marking space not a man
4. Blues hold their shape and stay patient blocking lines, keeping the play in tight corners and ensuring a ball on one side is not switched to the other

Setting up as shown on a 60×50-yard area, we play a 7v9 with pressing blues outnumbered. Reds must take their time in finding the target man at the bottom.

9v9 (5)

• The 9v9 set-up provokes blues waves of pressure when attacking, and pressing power when out of possession

Now we use 9v9 on three quarters of a pitch, as shown. Reds are 4-4-1 and need to respect an offside line when attacking. Blues are 3-2-3-1, and the set-up means the game should feel like wave after wave of attacks by the blues.

What are the key things to look out for?

In the bigger set-ups, tempo of closing players down is noticeable, and that necessitates good communication. We also want to see a positive first pass
when possession is regained


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