Receiving skills


Up to 106x40 yards


Balls, cones, discs, goals, mannequins (if available)

No. of players

Up to 16 plus 2 keepers

Session time

Four Boxes and progressions 25mins, Four Strips 4 x 2-4mins, Three Zones SSG 25mins

The session helps players perfect receiving skills, whether that be on the front foot, back foot or the half turn; and whether as a result of one-, two- or three-touch football.

This is a vitally important part of our game which improves awareness and close control, especially in the attacking third of the pitch.

Barcelona are particularly good purveyors of accomplished receiving skills, and most of their goals showcase an absolute masterclass in passing and control.

A key part of this session is players running off the ball at all times – team mates must always be looking to create space and offer options.

What do I get the players to do?

Four Boxes (1a/1b)

We begin with a couple of practices that lead into a small-sided game. The first is on a 40×30-yard area, with 12-16 players working in groups. Setting up as shown, it’s 2v1 in each box with some scattered mannequins. The lone defender must look to intercept or tackle, with all players staying in their boxes.

As the practice continues, we can apply certain conditions in order to increase difficulty. For instance, players receiving a short, square or straight pass must then pass diagonally. Other passing conditions can be determined by the coach. We can also add a second or third ball, or an extra man to make a 3v1, so that players have to be aware of opportunities/threats from all sides.


• In Four Boxes, each area is 2v1 in favour of attackers. Passes can be made inside the box and also into different zones, but players must remain in their boxes at all times


• To progress, we add a condition so that a player receiving a short, square or straight pass must then make a diagonal onward pass

Four Strips (2a/2b)

This game uses three groups of four, the aim being for red players to work the ball around the area and feed through to blues, bypassing the whites. One white can enter the end zone, while another comes forward to press the ball.

As the challenge progresses, we increase the difficulty by limiting touches.


• In Four Strips, reds successfully evade the attention of the lone defender and thread a pass through to the blues


• The ball is received on the half-turn and worked to the top zone, where blues follow in. Reds and whites move up a zone each as the practice now restarts in the other direction

Three Zones SSG (3a/3b)

This small-sided game requires 16 outfield players plus keepers. It’s 2v2 in the end zones and 4v4 in the middle. The thin channels represent safe zones for attackers to drop into, and the intention is to create 3v2 overloads in the end zones with midfield runners.

To progress this game, we can allow the defender to enter the safe zone after the attacker’s first touch in order to speed up the practice.


• In Three Zones SSG, reds work the ball through, with one of the attackers dropping into the narrow ‘safe’ channel to receive on the half-turn


• In the progression, a defender can now come into the channel once red touches the ball, meaning red attackers must work quickly to find space and keep play moving on

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

Tactically, we are looking for vision, speed of thought and movement. We want to limit straight passes because they are too predictable and easy to defend. For defenders, the ability to press quickly and effectively is important.

Technically, we want to see players receiving on the front- or back-foot, with a first touch moving the ball away from pressure.