Striker combinations and link play


Up to full pitch (narrowed)


Balls, cones, goals

No. of players

Up to 16

Session time

Warm-up 10mins, game practice 15mins, small-sided game 20mins

This session is about striker combinations and link-up play in the final third. It’s important to practise these because we’re frequently asked in matches to break down the backlines of teams who defend deep.

We saw this practice pay off to great effect in this year’s Carling Cup final against Liverpool at Wembley, when excellent movement and quick, positive passing enabled Joe Mason to fire home the game’s opening goal.

What do I get the players to do?

Link play warm-up

We start in a 30×15-yard area, as shown. A plays to B, as C comes towards the ball. B passes to D, then  A and B run down their respective wings (1a). As D receives the ball, C spins and receives a cushioned lay-off from him, feeding A down the wing (1b). We now repeat the drill from the opposite end.


• In the warm-up, players link with quick passing, along the top then diagonally across the area


• Here, C spins and receives a short pass from D, then passes to A

What are the key things to look out for?

Weight and accuracy of pass are the most important elements. In addition, C must approach the ball as if really wanting the pass, even though it’s destined for D. And he must ensure he doesn’t block the passing route to D. Finally, A and B must cannot run ahead of the ball. To progress, we make all players one-touch.

Link-play game practice

We set up as shown, with 3v3 in the central area, and two strikers in the next zone. Once five passes have been made in the central area, the ball is played to the strikers who, two-touch, link and strike at goal (2a/2b).


• In the game practice, players must retain possession in a 3v3 in the central area


• After three passes, the ball is released to the two strikers, who link up and score

What are the key things to look out for?

Strikers must use different combinations, communicate well and ensure good body shape when receiving the ball – e.g. on the half turn. To progress, we position a defender against the two strikers.

Small-sided game

We set up as shown, an 8v8 zonal game – 4v4 free play in the central zone, 2v2 in the end zones. Strikers now have two defenders to contend with.

What are the key things to look out for?

Strikers must work off defenders – coming short to go long, and long to come short – stretching their opponents without killing space. To progress, a player from the central zone can break forward to support (but not the player who released the ball) (3a/3b). We can also introduce a one-touch rule.


• In the small-sided game progression, a central player makes a forward break to support the developing attack


• He finds space on the wing, receives, and crosses for the two strikers

With each progressing game, players must use the skills learnt earlier in the session.


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