This session examines how we condition a player technically, tactically, physiologically and psychologically when attacking and defending transitions in a small-sided competition-based game.
It’s important to practise this because it improves our mastering of a scenario that appears regularly in matches – namely the attacking team regaining possession and aiming to create space, passing the ball quickly, then playing to a target player in a zone to score.
The session is also good for defenders – their task is simply to organise well, stay alert and aim to regain possession as quickly as possible.
Up to 60×40 yards
Cones, goals, bibs
Number of Players
5v5 plus two targets and two wide players
Main session 30mins, Progressions 20mins
What do I get the players to do?
Setting up as shown (1a), the ball starts with one of the two wide players – we will alternate which of these starts. Only one player from each team is allowed in the end zones – these are the target players and must remain in that space. No other players can enter.
It’s 5v5 in the middle with the aim of the team in possession working space so as to flight the ball into the target player (1b), who must finish one-touch (1c).
• We set up with 5v5 in the middle, two target men, and two wide players
• The team in possession passes and successfully makes space, preparing for a ball to be floated in towards the target player
• The target man scores in the goal with a one-touch finish
Should the ball go out of play, a new ball comes back in from the wide player as quickly as possible.
In addition, the two wide players and the target men can offer support to the 5v5 and can be passed to if needed, but unless a pass is played in the air a target man cannot make a scoring attempt on goal.
Each game should last three minutes with 45 seconds rest before the next one begins. We repeat this eight times, ensuring the two target players and two wide men are rotated for each game.
What are the key things to look out for?
Maintaining a high tempo is very important so as to ensure pressure is placed on transitions for both defenders and attackers.
In terms of technical proficiency, speed and accuracy of pass are important, particularly the pass made in the air to the target man.
Tactically, each team of five must rotate positions so as to create space for players, whilst maintaining awareness of defensive balance. For the defending team, we’re looking at their ability to press quickly and be compact.
Physically, repeated sprints, continued movement and high-intensity activity are important. And we’re looking for players to understand the psychological aspects of the practice as well, to include good communication with team mates to co-ordinate attacks and ‘the press’, whilst also being alert to deal with fast transitions, even with little recovery time.
How do I progress the session?
To progress, we can reduce the number of touches allowed, change the number of passes required (minimum of three), or condition the pass to the target man to come from a first-time pass.
We can also create specific areas on the pitch where the attacking team must move the ball to before the final pass (2).
• In the progression an attacking player may only pass the ball from a designated area
Defending against the counter-attack and reacting quickly to these transitions of play is important. That’s because in the modern era, once teams win possession they are capable of breaking forward at great speed and with real quality. The ability to make the correct countering defensive decisions is a core part of being a successful defender.... MORE
In this session, we try to give players an understanding of their roles and responsibilities in defensive zones in and around the box – this includes defending individually and as a back four unit. We also look at covering, team balance, and the ability to support. It’s important to practise this because, more than anywhere... MORE
“…fantastic… I encourage all my coaches to read it,”