This session is all about rehearsing players to make the transition from defence to attack. It is made up of two parts: the first part is a 5v5 transition end zone game and as the session progresses it culminates in an 11v11 ‘fight zone’ practice with transitions.
The session is designed to engage the players with directional play and it allows them to create plenty of goal-scoring chances. It requires players to demonstrate possession and movement skills so it has a somewhat technical feel to it, but it also needs them to exhibit tactical knowledge too.
The required physical output is high because it is a player versus player session, plus it finishes with an 11v11 game, which adds psychological value.
The first part of the practice flows naturally into the second part and gives the players enough of a feel for the ball to go into an intense game-relevant scenario.
We would run this session once a week on a two or three-week cycle, as this type of training is always relevant to how our team would play and reinforces our philosophy. It also engages the players in an enjoyable and competitive environment. The fact that it focuses mostly on our own style takes away the need to over-focus on the upcoming opponent.
The physical nature of the session means we would run it three days before match day.
“The session is designed to engage the players with directional play and it allows them to create plenty of goal-scoring chances”
END ZONE GAME
We set up a playing area of 38×22 yards including four-yard end zones at each end and eight mannequins positioned as shown. We’re using 10 outfield players split into two teams of five.
Play is directional with each team defending one end zone and attacking the opposite end. A coach or server starts play by serving the ball into one of the teams and they must attack by playing through the opposition and the mannequins, with the ultimate aim of passing to a team mate who can score a point by receiving in the opposition’s end zone, as shown [1a]. We want to see attacking players making runs in behind to enter the end zone to receive.
If the team in possession successfully scores a point by entering the opposition’s end zone, they restart the game with a new ball which is played into the main area by a coach or server from their own defensive end zone.
“We want to see the attacking players making runs in behind to enter the end zone to receive”
The team that just conceded the point must react quickly by pushing up the area together to get into effective positions to be able to apply pressure to the new ball being played in, as shown [1b].
To progress this 5v5 game, the team in possession must make five consecutive passes in possession before they can attempt to score a point by passing the ball into a runner in the end zone, as shown [1c].
We would play four blocks of two minutes, with one minute’s rest between blocks. The first two blocks would be the basic activity and we would introduce the minimum pass requirement for the next two blocks.
FIGHT ZONE GAME
We set up a playing area between the 18-yard lines, using the full width of the pitch. We mark out a central ‘fight zone’ that is eight yards longer than the centre circle on each side of the halfway line. We also mark a ‘defensive build-up line’ a further 10-yard back in each half. We position a goal and a goalkeeper at each end of the playing area.
We’re using 20 outfield players split into two teams of 10. The game is directional and all the outfield players start in the central ‘fight zone’.
Play begins from a goalkeeper who can pass out to one defender who drops into the defensive build-up zone to receive unopposed. The defender must pass or drive with the ball into the central fight zone area and then play is live, as shown [2a].
The idea is for the team in possession to play through the lines and find a runner beyond the defensive line (which doubles as the offside line) and then try to score a goal.
“The main principle of this session is defence to attack and an understanding of this is required throughout the game model”
A maximum of three forward players can run beyond the last defensive line and the attacking team must score within just one pass of receiving the ball beyond the line, as shown [2b]. No defending player can track back beyond the defensive line.
If the defending team wins the ball during the build-up play, they must quickly transition to attack and try to produce combination play to pass through the central fight zone and beyond the opposition’s defensive line, as shown [2c]. The ball must stay below head height, which places a high demand on good passing, possession, and movement. Once again, only three forward players can run beyond the final line to create and score a goal.
In a simple progression, we allow two defenders to now track runners beyond the defensive line and defend their goal, as shown [2d]. Offsides always apply.
We would play two blocks of 10 minutes, with the second block being the progression.
What are the key things to look for?
We would outline to the players what is required of them before we start the first activity. We want to see players staying with runners, defending 1v1 situations, winning the ball back and then breaking forwards. Players should take care of the ball once they have regained possession, making a secure first pass. We also want to see players making good movement off the ball, with forward runners offering support.
The main principle of this session is defence to attack and an understanding of this is required throughout the game model. If we defend well as a team, it gives us the best opportunity to attack well as a team too.
What are the typical mistakes players might make and how do I avoid them?
On occasion you will see players let their runners go, or maybe they demonstrate they are too eager to win the ball back and jump out of position and lose shape, causing a disjointed team and creating more space for the opponents to attack. This then becomes the coaching point to focus on. Technical mistakes are to be expected and can be worked on individually and within other sessions.