Counter-attack team shape in a 4-4-1-1


Half pitch plus 10 yards


Balls, cones, goals

No. of players


Session time

20mins per practic

In modern football, it’s becoming rarer for teams to play with two out-and-out strikers. Instead, they line up in a 4-4-1-1 formation, so this session helps quick counter-attacking play with a variety of combinations involving all team members. It’s a high intensity session that tests both forwards and defenders.

It’s important to practise this because there will be several occasions in every game, both home and away, when counter-attacking produces quick, tangible rewards. As a squad, practising overlaps, blindside runs, running and passing forward, one-twos and 1v1 situations is essential, and that’s what this session does.

What are the key things to look out for technically/tactically?

As you would expect, good communication is at the heart of the moves we practise. It’s essential that players know when their team mates will pass, dribble or turn.

Positive forward running and forward passing, and the presenting of options for the man on the ball is also essential.

Passes should be well placed and quick, at both one- and two-touch, with particular attention paid to the timing of the striker running into the hole, creating time and space for himself. The types of runs are important too – overlaps and blindside runs particularly.

What do I get the players to do?

As shown in the annotated diagrams, we conduct three different counter-attacking moves, with different numbers of players involved. There are five for a wide directional practice (1a/1b), seven for the same practice through the middle (2a/2b), and nine for a two-way exercise (3a/3b). Each practice uses the notion of the lone striker.


1. Players A and C approach from either side of the goal, linking with player B. Player A makes a forward run
2.Player C feeds the ball in to player D, who drops deep to receive


1. Player D touches the ball off to player A, who arrives at pace then dribbles forward a few yards
2. Player D makes a wide blindside run and finds space to receive a pass from player A, then crosses into the middle where player E heads home


1. A and B make a quick one-two and the ball is immediately fed forward to D, who drops to receive
2. C makes a run from deep to receive a pass in the centre of the pitch from D. He immediately feeds a short pass to E, who, like his strike partner, drops back and approaches the ball


• E returns a short pass to C, who shoots at goal, with D making an overlapping run to take advantage of a possible loose ball from a save


1. The keeper and defenders combine to send a pass through opposition ranks into the feet of one of the two strikers
2. His fellow striker must drop back into the middle zone to receive a short pass. He then turns back into the attacking half, combining with team mates in a 5v4 overload


1. If opposition defenders win the ball – in this case, the left full-back has made an interception – strikers now play with the attacking team
2. Again, the striker in the attacking half has to drop into the middle zone to receive the ball. Then the 5v4 attacking overload begins

In the first two moves, at the end of each attack (whether that ends in a goal, a save, a shot that goes wide or a tackle) play now comes back in the opposite direction. The third move is set up as a game and should flow as such.

Each move showcases one particular example of the type of interplay that can occur, but we will look for many different variations and passing moves, with players linking up positively and instinctively. The more variations players can practise, the more quickly and positively they will be able to combat different defensive obstacles.

How do I progress the session?

We can progress the session by adding more defenders, or by putting pressure on the forward with a time limit of 10-12 seconds to get a goal attempt in.

How do I put this into a game situation?

Once we’ve run through the three set practices, we’ll conclude with an 11v11 game on a full pitch with normal rules. Players must use the techniques learnt in the main part of the session.


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