This session is all about counter-attacking and it encourages players to be organised and confident, so that during the transition from defence to attack they are able to quickly commit numbers in behind and in wide areas.
Players like this session because it is game-related and it helps our approach to matches because we feel teams defending deeper is becoming a greater trend in the modern game. It also exaggerates the importance of decision making, improves the detail of passing and requires high quality movement.
We would use this session in the run up to facing a team who commit numbers forward and potentially play with a back three, where they can be vulnerable in wide areas.
What do I get the players to do?
We set up a playing area of 70×44 yards (or between the two penalty boxes on a normal pitch), with a goal and a goalkeeper at each end. We’re using 18 outfield players. We set up a red attacking team of six and a blue defending/counter-attacking team of six, who both start in the defending half of the pitch. In addition, six yellow neutrals are positioned around the outside of the defending half. The neutrals are one-touch and they can support the team in possession.
Play starts with the coach passing into the attacking team, who must try to score in the goal in that half. The defending team should attempt to win the ball and launch a counter-attack to score in the other half, as shown . We play for 15 minutes.
How do I progress the session?
To progress the activity, we play the same game as before but this time we add three gates halfway between the centre line and the goal that the blues are counter-attacking. The counter-attacking team must pass the ball through one of these gates before they can score, as shown . This is to ask the players for more detail on the pass and to highlight key areas for the counter-attacking team to exploit at speed. We play for 15 minutes.
To progress the activity further, we now remove the gates and ask the goalkeeper of the red attacking team to start play with a pass out from the back. As it’s now free play, some of his team mates should drop into their own half to receive the ball from him and they then build an attack into the other half where they must try to score. The blue defending team must now set up to intercept, or tackle to win the ball before it gets into the danger areas. When they win possession, they should counter-attack with speed, as shown . We play for 15 minutes.
How would I put this into a game situation?
As this activity is already a small-sided game, it can easily be progressed into a full 11v11 game with the basic principles of play remaining the same.
What are the key things to look out for?
We want to see the possession team maintaining a high ball speed in order to move the opposition and limit the touches in the opposition half. We particularly want to see teams counter-attacking with width and players creating angles off the ball to help with link play. Players should also make dynamic runs beyond and between the lines to stretch the opposition.
Always make sure that the players continue to pass the ball with quality and detail.
What are the typical mistakes players might make and how do I avoid them?
Players can sometimes rush their decision making, but while the body is racing, the mind should remain calm. Ensure players stay composed through the transition from defence to attack and do not play ‘direct’ because there is space behind.