Playing short and long

This session examines when to play short and long. It’s a set-up that, despite its simplicity, addresses a key question that a player needs to ask himself every time he gets the ball, so is actually a mental principle that it’s vital to practise. And whilst it’s not an original question, the way we search out the answer in this session certain has the intention of making the challenge engaging and lively, with conditions that can be changed to suit the challenge or group.

We would typically use this once or twice a week in the lead-up to a main session or as part of an active recovery day.



40×30 yards


Balls, cones

Number of Players


Session time


What do I get the players to do?

7v3 box practice

We set up as shown, with seven reds and three greens. We play one- or two-touch, with greens defending and reds staying in their approximate positions. The session is formed of making the right decisions and retaining possession.


• Here, reds play short with a clever one-two around the blue defender


• Now space has been found with the use of short passing, reds have room to play long and a precise ball is played up to the top touchline

What are the key things to look out for?

The intention in retaining possession, for reds, is to lead a team mate into making the next pass, so that means understanding when to play close and when to play longer. This is determined by two things – the closeness of an opponent and the positional set-up of team mates who can be passed to. A pass should never be made to a team mate if it puts him in a potentially hazardous position.

Players often play with a picture of where the next pass will go but must be reactive to quick-changing conditions so as to know whether to go short or long.

How do I progress the practice?

We can put the players into an 11v11 and ask them to embrace the same tactical and technical elements practised; and if there is a clear pass that has been missed in a game situation we will stop play to show them the route that should have been taken.

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