Exploiting overloads

This session is about exploring overloads using smart combination play in the final third.

The creation of overloads is a key aim for us, and the more effective we are with these scenarios, the more we will take advantage of goalscoring opportunities.

Of course, overloads can be valuable in other areas of the pitch too – when negotiating a clever route out of defence, or creating through-play in midfield, for instance – so it’s imperative that all members of the squad buy into the principles we outline.


See individual practices
Balls, cones, goals
Number of Players
Up to full squad
Session time
Each exercise 20mins

What do I get the players to do?

Final third drill

We work in a 25×30-yard area, marked out as shown. Three forwards are served the ball on the 25-yard line by the coach; they’re lining up against two defenders. The ball must go sideways, at which point the defenders become active. We play out this 3v2 to a finish (i.e. a goal, a shot wide, a save by the keeper or a turnover of possession) (1). Next, we rotate in new attackers.


• In the Final third drill, attackers combine in a 3v2 overload, looking to score in the goal

60×30-yard game

Setting up as shown, the coach serves into the front striker. His three team mates break to support, playing 4v3 to a finish (2a).


• In the 60×30-yard game, the coach serves into the attacker, whose team mates break forward to create a 4v3 overload

If the defenders win possession, they play into the coach, who then feeds their striker at their other end of the pitch. Defenders now move forward to support in their own 4v3 (2b). Again, rotate players regularly.


• When the move breaks down, the ball must be fed to the coach. However, he will pass it on quickly, meaning blues can counter at pace, looking to create their own overload at the other end.

Box-to-box game

We now play in the space between two penalty boxes, extending the width to 50 yards. The defender moves onto the pitch and flights a ball into his attacker in the opposite half of the pitch (3a). Two other defenders support to make a 4v3 (3b).


• In the Box-to-box game, the attack is started with a longer ball played from defence


• Attackers combine with quick passing, diagonal runs and positive support play, and a shot is fired at goal

When a goal is scored the ball goes dead and the coach plays a second ball into the front four to play 4v3 again (3c). Only when a team fails to score does it lose possession, with a new attacking phase beginning in the opposite direction as players restart the practice from behind the goal.


• The team’s reward is another attack, which this time begins with the coach feeding in at the halfway line

What are the key things to look out for?

We’re looking for intelligent support play – no straight line runs. Players need to spot, create and exploit the nearest overload, always doing so at pace. Combination play, ‘give and gos’, ‘round the corner’ moves, overlaps and underlaps are all fundamental, and players must be ruthless in what they do.

Repetition is also vital to players knowing how to overload opponents, which is why this practice progresses across playing areas of varying sizes

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