Forward thinking


40x20 yards


Balls, goals

No. of players

Full squad

Session time

Practice 15mins, progression 10mins, game 20mins

At any level, the ability to attack the opposition with quick, positive forward play can yield terrific rewards.

This session requires determined and aggressive forward movement and clever passing, and the key is to always be moving forwards or sideways – so never backwards, and never remaining stationery. If players follow this simple blueprint, we, as a team, have the makings of fast, invasive attacks, which are so dangerous.

The session improves inventiveness in passing. It also increases ball retention, and promotes dynamic forward running.

What do I get the players to do?

We set up three players in a 40×20-yard area, with additional players ready to come in at the top and bottom edges.

Two players start at the bottom – they always play one-touch. Player 1 feeds player 2, then runs around him and up the line. Player 2 lays to player 3, himself then making an intelligent run.

Player 3 – who is one-or two-touch – links with the advancing player 1, who then plays into the feet of player 2. A final ball to one of the two new players waiting to come into the practice completes the move (1). Players 1 and 2 leave the area while player 3 remains – he is the central cog for play coming back the other way. After a few minutes we change the central player.


• Working players link up to move possession through the area

How do I progress the session?

We progress by giving players the freedom to make their own choices in terms of running and passing angles (2), but at no point must the ball go backwards.


• Players progress by developing their own passing and movement variations

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

We look for fast, dynamic passing and a willingness to run into space quickly to keep the drill going. Player 3 must resist the urge to play backwards, because going forwards (or even sideways) is the blueprint for fast invasive attacks.

How do I put this into a game situation?

We play 8v8 (plus two keepers) in a 70×50-yard area, dividing the length into two outer 20-yard sections and a 30-yard central box. The two 20-yard lines act as offside lines, representing defensive, midfield and offensive areas. The game has a four-touch limit.

The keeper plays the ball into the defensive area. Because there is no backward passing in the middle area, midfielders and strikers have to be inventive when receiving, so we look for them to turn with the ball or receive on the half-turn (3a). Players must support those in possession, particularly defenders and midfielders, in getting alongside and in front of the ball (3b/3c). Balance in attack and defence remains important at all times so as to protect against counter-attacks (3d). To finish, we can enlarge to an 11v11 game.


• In the game situation, the keeper serves the ball into the defensive third, from where it moves into the key midfield area


• The ball cannot go backwards in the midfield, so overlapping runners are vital to the overall forward progression


• The right-winger here plays sideways in crossing the ball to the striker, who scores


• In this instance though, the header is saved, offering the chance of a fast, invasive counter-attack


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