Attacking patterns of play


2/3rds of a pitch


Balls, cones (or mannequins), goal

No. of players

15 plus keepers

Session time

Diagonal passes 20mins, Progressions 15mins, Game situation 20mins

This session is about an attacking shape of play, and how it can be used in two ways – firstly, to reinforce offensive movements, but beyond that to highlight the importance of good technical passing and receiving, crossing and shooting.

We are always looking to replicate specific match movements in training whilst presenting the players with decision-making situations that best prepare them for forthcoming fixtures.

What do I get the players to do?

Diagonal passes

We begin by setting up as shown (1a). The ball is fed in from each side of the halfway line into a central player, and a diagonal is pass then played forward. The lines of pass are very specific with right-back and left-back positions the starting points. The four centre-forwards stay as strikers, while all other players pass and follow.


1. Players here represent left- and right-backs
2. The ball is fed in from left and right sides
3. A diagonal pass is made into the midfielder
4. The ball is passed on to wide players who pull off their mannequins to receive

When the pass has been made into the left or right wide man, a cross is made where attackers challenge near and far post (1b).


1. The wide man spins off to make a blind side run around the mannequin ready to cross into the box
2. A variation sees the final pass played inside the mannequin
3. Two of the centre-forwards peel off and make for near- and far-post areas

As soon as the cross is made we will repeat the move from the opposite start point – it’s essential to maintain a good tempo in ensuring players aren’t standing still for long periods.

How do I progress the session?

The first progression sees a series of one-twos as the ball makes its way forward (2). The emphasis here is on good movement, passing and communication.


1. In the progression one-twos are made as the ball makes its way into opposition territory
2. Each man follows his pass in moving into the next space
3. Again players pull off their mannequins to receive

In the next progression we are again looking for more intricate interplay, so that attacks are fast, purposeful and unpredictable. Here we are creating zigzag lines as players from left and right attacking diagonals step in on each others’ attacking moves, with previously non-working centre-forwards now helping to move the ball wide to the flank before a cross into the middle (3).


1. Increasing in complexity again, a zigzag pattern utilises players working on the other diagonal
2. Again a cross produces the required finish

Moving on again, we will introduce crossover runs by attacking midfielders (4). We can also encourage players to go long, cut inside or shoot from distance.


1. In this move a straight pass is made through the middle
2. The progression sees midfielders crossing over
3. It combines long passing into feet with short balls dropped off for team mates to work with
4. Attackers also perform crossover runs in making their way into scoring

There are a variety of further progressions – from overlapping full-backs, the addition of defenders in the box or even rotation of midfield positions.

What are the key things to look out for?

We are looking for timing of movement, weight and accuracy of the pass, positive decision-making and good angles of runs into the box, all the time looking to ensure a positive end product.

How do I put this into a game situation?

We can now move this into a full-size 11v11, or play box-to-box if the squad is smaller. Whatever pitch size we use, we must allow for the implementation of the key patterns and movements as outlined. 


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