This session is designed to improve player and team awareness within the game. The specific awareness we are looking to improve is how to read an opponent’s defensive block and identify the space to attack. MORE
The focus of this session is on combination play that results in a crossed delivery from a specific wide area. We play with attacking full-backs and like to work the ball into wider positions from which we can deliver quality crosses into the area.
The first ‘pattern of play’ allows us to place players in their specific positional areas, and permits us to rehearse relevant movements and variety of pass, whilst also working both left and right flanks.
This type of session allows the practice of key movements that we always seek to incorporate, but also strongly encourages players to express themselves by working on timing and variety of runs, creation of space and the seeking of an ‘end product’, for instance an attempt on goal.
This type of pattern of play will be practised at least once per week and almost always the day before a game, as we seek to reinforce key movements and rotations. We can amend the session to ‘tie in’ with our opposition analysis, so for example if we feel forward runs from our midfield players can be effective then we’ll add progressions to the practice which incorporate such movements.
In everything we do, players need to see relevance in the work, recognising the importance of appropriate practice.
|Use of a half-pitch|
|Balls, cones, goals, mannequins|
|Number of Players|
In this practice (1), I have allowed for a squad of 20 players including two keepers. Balls start with the two centre-halves, thus allowing them relevant practice in terms of the type of passes they will seek to deliver. The attacking players work in pairs on the edge of the area, and their involvement in terms of combination and link-up play will increase as the drill progresses. The high midfield players (the no.8 and no.10) work off the two central mannequins, while the full-backs and wide players operate on their respective flanks. We alternate sides, both for foot and technique variation, but also as a way of allowing players time to recover their positions.
In this first progression, as shown (2), the set-up here is designed to allow the coach to emphasise timing of movement. The wide player reacts to drag in his respective ‘marker’, thus allowing space for the full-back to work in.
Attention to detail is of paramount importance. If the first pass from the centre-half is poor the entire pattern of play will break down. Therefore, we want players to consider seriously what type of pass the centre-half plays, where the receiving player wants to meet the ball, how good the communication is, and more.
In the progressions that follow, we will seek to include the strikers more proactively, as shown (3/4).
The focus here is on detail. We need to make sure the wide player does not move too early, thus running into offside position. Timing of movement is constantly focused on with a clear understanding and recognition of the need to both create and maximise space, and as with all practices, seek to ensure a positive ‘end product’, so with that in mind we must also ensure the weight of pass from the midfield player is appropriate, and that the reactions of the striker following his first ‘set’ is explosive into the penalty area.
Also, players must ensure they are working at relevant match pace. Yes, specific coaching points can be highlighted and play slowed to allow ‘learning’, but it is important, especially at first-team level, to have match intensity in all movements.
And as discussed already, the quality of passing throughout is also of key importance, as you would expect, be that pass choice, weight of pass, angle, quality of ‘soft’ or ‘hard’ touch or something else.
If we have a smaller group, we can work one flank at a time, and can set this up to have a wide player from the opposite flank attack the far post. We can seek to add one or two defenders to defend the crossed delivery, thus allowing the coach to work on both offensive and defensive aspects if his contact time with the players is limited.
If detail needs to be worked on or a specific movement improved, we might choose to regress into a relevant passing drill to ensure the movement is both emphasised and recognised.
There are some mistakes we need to make sure we eradicate. These include poor decision- making over choice of pass, poor timing of movement, failure to work off the mannequin and create space, a poor final cross, poor striker movement across the front post, poor communication, or poor tempo and intensity.
All of the above demand concentration and focus. The coach must emphasise the key requirements, but this is supported by the players’ appreciation of the practice demands.
This next set-up is on a 54×36-yard area, with two penalty box-sized areas and two wide channels measuring five yards wide, as shown (5). We have two wide players from both teams occupying their respective wide channels, and for the first part of the drill they are unopposed, with no-one permitted to enter that area.
Both teams play 4v3 in their respective defensive areas, and no players can change area at the outset of the game. The keeper can release to a defender, to a wide player or straight into one of his strikers, and the game must be played in normal conditions, as shown (6) , with the exception of wide players being unopposed. These wide players are on a maximum three-touch and must deliver the cross or pass within three seconds. To emphasise the game focus, we often award two points when a goal is scored from a crossed delivery.
The first progression, as shown (7), allows the opposite wide player to attack the far post thus creating a 4v4 situation. Very often, the opposite wide player can approach late and not be marked, thus allowing central striking players to make runs, dragging defenders with them and creating space.
If the drill breaks down and possession is lost, the wide player must revert to his channel area. If we want to highlight role rotation, we can state that ‘a player’ must fill the wide channel, but not necessarily the initial wide player if someone is closer to that position and can come in to replace him.
In the next progression, one of the four defending players joins the attack to again create a 4v4 situation. This does not mean a defender and the opposite wide player both go, rather one or the other, again encouraging good decision-making and communication.
The third progression sees one of the defenders ‘overlap’ their wide player to deliver a cross, as shown (8). This demands that the wide player then drops in to become a defender to maintain team shape.
The drill can be finished by removing the inner channel markers and allowing a 9v9 game situation within the area, with the focus very much on creating space wide for crossed deliveries.
As with our first pattern of play practice, we focus on timing of movement, creation of space, ‘fast’ passing and a desire for crossed deliveries. As always, we seek an end product to the build-up play.
The session can be progressed by limiting touches to two or three per player, and again we look for positive decision-making by the player in possession, with the idea to take care of the ball at all times, maintaining focus and concentration and recognising the aims of the practice. Weight of pass, choice of release, levels of communication and eye contact are all vital to the overall success. Add into that timing and variety of movement – which are always of paramount importance –and it’s clear we are seeking to create and then maximise space to allow for crossed deliveries.
In terms of typical mistakes, players often lose sight of the fact that any such drill is an ‘aspect’ of our game. We should not forget that if a scoring opportunity becomes available, we take it, as opposed to unnaturally passing the ball wide. However, the coach must constantly emphasise the session aims and ‘steer’ the flow of play to achieving said targets.