Switching play & pressing high

This session is focused on encouraging players to switch the play to launch attacks. It also helps players to press high as a team when out of possession.

It’s very important for us to practice this as we defend and attack with a back three and five in midfield. We feel that one of our big strengths as a team is to switch play as quickly as possible in order to create 1v1s, 2v1s and crossing opportunities.

These practices allow us to create realistic scenarios that the players will have to face on a match day.


Up to half a pitch
Balls, bibs, cones, 4 mannequins,
2 goals
Number of Players
Up to 18 players + 2 goalkeepers
Session time
Possession practice: 20mins
Small-sided games: 12mins
Main session: 18mins

What do I get the players to do?

Possession practice

We set up an area of 24×16 yards, divided into two halves. We are using 11 players split into two teams of four, plus three neutrals.

A neutral is positioned at each end of the area, with one on the halfway line – the neutrals play for the team in possession. The other two teams are in the main area but they must keep two players in each half at all times. Limit touches in possession to two or three.

The team in possession must pass the ball and try to work it from one end of the area to the other, using the help of the neutrals. If they succeed, they score a point and keep possession, as shown in the diagram [1]. They must then try to work the ball back to end it started.


1. Play starts with a pass from a neutral player at one end. The neutrals play for the team with the ball
2. It’s 2v2 in each half. The possession team must work the ball from one end to the other. Limit their touches
3. The neutral on the halfway line helps the reds to keep possession
4. The reds score a point by passing the ball to the neutral at the other end. They keep possession and try to work the ball back again

The other team must press to win the ball. If they do, they become the new passing team.

Run this practice for 20 minutes.

What are the key things to look out for?

When in possession, we want to see players using quick passing and good movement to make the pitch big. They should also play in areas that allow them to see both ends of the pitch.

On losing the ball, players should press quickly to regain possession and their team mates should move to support the press.

When out of possession we want to see teams keeping compact, but as soon as a team wins possession, they must make the area as big as they can as quickly as possible.

What do I get the players to do next?

Small-sided game

We set up an area of 30×20 yards with a goal and a goalkeeper at each end. The area is divided into two end zones, plus a central zone containing three boxes, as shown [2]. The two outer boxes contain a pair of mannequins in each, while the middle box acts as a holding area for the pressing players.


1. Six red defenders are in possession in the end zone. They must pass under pressure from the three blue forwards who have entered from the centre square
2. The red defenders pass the ball until creating an opening to switch ends by playing the ball forwards between the mannequins
3. When the blues receive the ball, the three red forwards can enter the end zone from the central holding area. They press and if they win the ball they try to score

We’re using 18 outfield players split into two teams of nine. Six defenders from each team are in the end zone in front of their goal, while their three forwards start in the holding area ready to press the opposition defenders at the other end.

When in possession, teams have a 6v3 advantage in the end zone. Teams try to keep possession under pressure until they can create an opening to switch the play to the defending team at the opposite end. To do this they must pass forwards through one of the pairs of mannequins. When an opposition defender receives this pass, the three forwards can enter the end zone from the holding area – the forwards press the defenders to try to stop them switching the play. If they succeed in winning the ball, they must try to score in the goal.

Play four three-minute blocks.

What are the key things to look out for?

This small-sided game is focused on encouraging the defenders and midfielders to switch play quickly and then pass forward, with wide players and forwards introduced for realism. We also use this practice to maintain a high press against the opposition, whilst looking to regain the ball and create a shooting opportunity as quickly as possible.

When in possession of the ball we want to see that players are capable of finding the spare man and recognising when the switch is on.

What do I get the players to do next?

Main practice

We set up on half a pitch, marking out an area the size of back-to-back penalty boxes with a goal and a goalkeeper at each end. A halfway line is marked down the centre of the area – from goal to goal, as shown [3].


1. The reds are in possession but before they can score, they must switch the play across the halfway line that separates the two sides of the area
2. Teams should switch play in one or two passes. Here it takes a second pass to get it to the unopposed neutral winger
3. The yellows are neutral and play for the team in possession, acting as full backs or wingers. They must pass or cross within four seconds of receiving the ball
4. Goals scored directly from crosses are worth extra points

We’re using 17 outfield players, split into two teams of six who play in the main area, and five neutrals who play for the team in possession. One of the neutrals is in the central area, while the others are on the outside and they act either as full backs/wing backs or wingers. The neutrals outside the area can only keep the ball for four seconds before passing or crossing.

Teams have to pass the ball from side to side across the halfway line at least once before they can score. Ideally we want to see play switched in one or two passes. We award extra points for goals scored directly from a cross.

Play three blocks of six minutes.

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