Possession, progression and penetration


Up to a full pitch


Balls, cones, flat cones, goals, ladders

No. of players

Up to 11v11

Session time

80mins (maximum)

This session is about establishing positive habits in possession. It takes the form of a training circuit followed by a number of progressive games – the session is high tempo, and focuses on the players’ ability to assess options and choose the appropriate one. This helps develop into patterns of play.

It’s important to practise this to build a cohesive pattern for the team, and a shared thought process that leads to the creation of goalscoring opportunities. Numerous times last season we saw these principles really come to fruition in league games.

What do I get the players to do?

Training circuit (1)

Players pass the ball in a straight line and work through the ladders or cones to the back of the group at the other side.

We can vary this drill by making it two- and one-touch, or might instruct different movement on the ladders or through the cones.


• Players make their way around the circuit, using the ball at first but then sprinting for position

5v5 plus 5s (2)

Setting up as shown, this is 5v5 in the central section with five additional team members each for blues and whites, positioned around the sides. The game is three-touch for inner players and two-touch for outer, who cannot lay the ball back to the same man who passed in.


• In 5v5 plus 5s, blues can use team mates around the edge of the area with restricted touches, and passes back into the area must be to a new player

Zones game (3)

The next game is 3v3 in each zone, and each player must stay in his half. The outer players are now target players, with two at each end.


• In the Zones game, whites successfully use the target man at the end to keep possession going

Box to Box (4a/4b)

We split the pitch into thirds with players starting in zones. Teams must play through each zone, overloading or equalising playing numbers as they go. One defender can move into the middle third to make a 5v4, then two can progress from the middle third to the attacking third to make a 4v4. The intention is to create as many goalscoring opportunities as possible. We would then extend this into a full-sized 11v11 game, to finish.


• In Box to Box, whites play out from the back, with the left-back advancing into the middle third to create a 5v4 attacking overload


• This time it’s the right and left wingers who make the defining runs, joining their strikers for a 4v4 goalscoring opportunity in the box

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

In each of the games, we want to see good angles of play, assured touch and control, running off the ball, blindside runs, plus varied receiving skills (such as on the half-turn) and positions. We’re also looking for players to play through the lines and rotate within their restrictions. And players must always know their options before they pass and receive.

Tactically, support positions from behind and in front of the ball are crucial, along with sensible spacing between players and good timing of runs and movement.

How do I progress the session?

Conditions such as one- and two-touch can be brought in to increase difficulty. We might also suggest that players can only pass forward, or at most are permitted only one backward pass.