Central attacking the final third

This session is about exploiting space in front of and behind defenders in order to get into goalscoring opportunities.

It’s inspired by the fact the modern game is quick, explosive and dynamic. Good movement, timing, space and awareness is therefore paramount, and players now need to be able to deal with and be good with the ball in a variety of situations… for instance, with their backs to play, running with the ball and close control in tight areas.

This session should be run in the early part of the week as it’s quite intensive (in terms of explosive movement if done at a high tempo).


Use of a half pitch
Balls, bibs, cones, goal, poles
Number of Players
6v6 plus 2 keepers
Session time
Back to play 15mins,
Running with the ball 15mins,
Game situation 20mins

What do I get the players to do?

Forwards: back to play (1a/b)

We set up in a coned off area in the final third, 35 yards in width, as shown. In this practice we’re looking for movement to disjoint defenders, with exploitation of space in front of and in behind defenders.

Once in the box, we want players to work half a yard to finish, and to show good composure when despatching a shot on goal.

Forwards and midfielders must do all their work within the 35  yard width area.


1. The ball starts with the server, who then passes to the first midfielder
2. The midfielder feeds the ball on to one of the strikers
3. The striker moves forwards, losing his marker, to receive the pass
4. The other striker cuts inside, to have a shot on goal


• As soon as the first attack has concluded a ball is fed straight into the forwards from the server for a second attack (with the centre-midfielders taking it in turns to attack)

Forwards: running with the ball (2a/b)

In the same area, now the challenge is to see attackers running with the ball rather than receiving with their backs to goal. With that in mind we want to see lots of dribbling, moving the ball with purpose in looking to commit defenders and take them out of the game, as well as demanding strong, hard runs (sprints).


1. The ball is passed to the first midfielder
2. The ball is transferred to the opposite midfielder
3. The midfielder takes on the defender in a 1v1
4. The other two attackers move forward to support the attack


• Again, immediately after the first attack is finished the server sends in another ball and a second attack is played to a finish, 3v2

Game situation (3)

1. The ball starts with the keeper who plays into an unopposed defender
2. He plays out to any of the forwards
3. The midfielder joins in to make a 3v2
4. This player is not involved but will switch and be active in the next run
5. If opposition players win possession they play straight into their forwards to keep the game flowing

We now set up as shown with two keepers, four defenders, four forwards and four centre-midfielders. At the start, defenders must play into forwards only, with centre-midfielders having no defensive responsibility.

As things progress, defenders can pass into centre-midfielders but they still have no defensive responsibility.

In the final phase, there are no restrictions and free play is the aim.

Aside from all the tactical and technical ‘wants’ from the first two practices, we now also want to see forwards looking for areas of space when their team is not in possession, always looking to receive should a turnover occur, thereby stealing a march in the final third.

What are the key things to look for technically and tactically?

In all play we’re looking for a positive attitude, explosive hard runs (from forwards and centre-midfielders) into space in front or behind the defence. Half-turn movement from players coming towards the ball to play forward is key, and we want to see attackers moving the defence out of balance so they are disjointed.

Beyond that, are forwards and centre-midfielders clever enough to spot and exploit an out of balance defence, can they create 2v1 overloads, and will they avoid a number of common errors that can creep in as the practice develops? These include not checking over shoulders to see if a turn is on for a forward pass or shot, not attacking with pace, releasing the ball too early and not committing defenders.

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