Switching play


Up to 60x40 yards


Balls, bibs, cones, 4 small goals

No. of players

Up to 20 players + 4 goalkeepers

Session time

Passing drill: 15mins, Switch of play possession: 15mins, Four goals game: 20mins

This session is about switching play and switching the point of attack in order to exploit space on the pitch and ultimately to create more goal-scoring opportunities. We use these activities to improve as a team, as units and as individuals.

We would run this session as and when it was deemed necessary, because we don’t tend to run sessions to a specific timeline. Generally speaking, following a match we will have analysed our performance, which gives us our training direction for the week.

We will design our sessions depending on the needs of the team in the build up to the next game, based on our analysis of the previous match and our preparation for the next one.

What do I get the players to do?

Passing drill

We mark out two passing triangles approximately 20 yards apart. We’re using eight players. Three players start on cone A (two with a ball and one without), while the rest of the players are positioned around the triangles, with one starting on each of the remaining five cones, as shown [1].

Players pass in sequence and then move up to the next cone after receiving and passing. Player A starts with a feint, plays a one-two with B and passes deep to C. Player C drops the ball back to B, who switches the play diagonally across to D at the top of the other triangle. The same passing sequence is then performed on the other triangle. As soon as the ball is switched from player B to D, a new ball starts with the waiting player on cone A. This means the passing sequence is running on both triangles simultaneously.

When players become accustomed to the routine, vary the play by passing in the opposite direction.


1. Player A plays a give and go with B and then passes deep to C
2. After passing, players move to the next cone: player A goes to B, B goes to C, C goes to D and so on
3. After receiving from A, player C drops the ball back to B, who switches the play diagonally across to D at the top of the other triangle
4. On receiving the ball from B, player D starts the same pass and move sequence around the other triangle
5. As soon as the ball is switched from B to D, a new ball starts with the next waiting player at A
6. After F passes to E, he moves to A and joins the back of the queue ready to start the sequence again

What are the key things to look out for?

We want to see players using the right weight of pass. They should know to pass in front of the receiver, to make it easier for the ball to be played onwards in the correct direction.

We also want to see players using an open body shape and the correct shoulder position when receiving, so they are able to play the onward pass with their first touch. They should only resort to two-touch if the incoming pass is a poor one.

What do I get the players to do next?

Switch of play possession

We set up an area of 40×30 yards, with a five-yard channel around the inside edge, leaving a central area of 30×20 yards. We’re using 20 players, split into two teams of 10.

It’s a 6v6 possession game in the central area and both teams have a player in each corner of the outside channel, as shown [2].

The players in the central area have unlimited touches but they must try to string five passes together before they can pass to one of their team mates in the corner.

When the corner player receives the pass, he has two options – if he has the space to step into the main area, he switches places with the player who passed out and joins the play, or if space is tight and the area is congested, he can open up and play an unopposed pass to the corner man in the channel on either side of him. If he chooses to pass along the channel, the receiving corner man can only then pass into the main area with one or two touches, so it’s up to his team mates inside to make an angle to receive. The possession game then continues.

The key objective is the switch of play, with players drawing the opposition in before going out the other side.

We would progress this activity by getting rid of the target number of passes before the ball can go to the corner men. We could also allow the corner player to make a lofted diagonal pass to the corner man diagonally opposite.


1. It’s 6v6 in the central area, where players are all in. The possession team must try to string five passes together
2. After five passes, they can pass to one of their team mates in the corner of the outside channel
3. When the corner man receives, he has two options. He can step into the central area, switching places with the player who gave him the ball
4. Or, if space in front is tight, he can make an unopposed pass to a team mate down the channel. But the receiving corner man can only pass back into the main area with one or two touches

How would I put this into a game situation?

Four goals game

We set up in an area of 60×40 yards with two small goals at each end, as shown [3]. We’re using four goalkeepers – one for each goal. We’re also using 20 outfield players, split into two teams of 10. Set the teams up in the formations used by your team to recreate match specific patterns – in the diagram the set up is 4-2-3-1 v 4-3-3.

We play a normal game with unlimited touches, but with a choice of two goals to attack we want to see players exploiting any space on the pitch by switching play regularly. When a goal is scored, play restarts with the goalkeeper diagonally opposite.

We progress the game by introducing conditions. For instance, on the sound of a whistle, players must switch the play and score within five seconds of the switch. We could also condition players to shoot immediately on the sound of the whistle.


1. Play starts with a pass out by one of the keepers. The blues are attacking the two goals at the opposite end
2. This is a normal game but as teams are attacking two goals, players are encouraged to exploit space by switching the play as often as possible
3. When a goal is scored, play restarts from the opposition keeper in the goal diagonally opposite

What are the key things to look out for?

Within a session based on this theme we are looking for several key technical points. Firstly, we want to see that all players have a picture of what’s going on around them. They can do this by scanning their surroundings at all times, as well as passing on and receiving good information.

Secondly, we encourage our players to adopt an open body shape, so they can either work their feet and hips to play forwards when required or close their body up if they need to protect the ball.

Thirdly, the timing of the switch is key. By playing a series of short passes, we look to draw the opposition in before switching the ball to a player on the other side of the pitch, either directly or within two passes.

What are the typical mistakes that players might make, and how do I avoid them?

Passing in tight spaces is incredibly important for the flow of these possession sessions. Also, if players are a pass or two ahead in their minds, this will enable the session to be a success. But if we don’t get the desired outcomes, we can work with our players to educate them and coach the areas of their game that need refinement. To do this we use a variety of tools, such as video analysis or individual technical sessions.


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