Decisions, pressure, possession

This is a full squad session that works on passing out from the back and making the right decisions to pass and keep possession. Its focus includes first touch, through balls, switching play and possession skills, with a final shot or killer pass at the end. For the defenders the session works on pressing skills, and on movement to block passes and to intercept through balls.

This session can help if team possession breaks down in matches and teams are not making the most of space on the pitch. It challenges defenders and creative midfielders to combine and get the ball into dangerous areas of the opposition play. Also, if the team as a whole is not winning the ball back, this is a good session to coach players to close down and press quickly when they lose the ball.

It is a very match relevant session that works on team passing. It’s good for rehearsing the shape of the team with an important role for wide players in the final part of the session.

Up to full pitch
Ball, bibs, cones, poles, 4 full size goals
Number of Players
20 players + 4 goalkeepers
Session time
Total: 85mins
Switch zones: 20mins
Killer pass: 20mins
Progression: 20mins
Game: 25mins

What do I get the players to do?

Switch Zones & Killer Pass

Set up two separate but adjacent areas of 44×25 yards. Play two games of 5v5, one in each of the marked out areas. Play the ‘Switch Zones’ activity in one of the areas [1a], which is divided into two halves. This activity works on switching play between the halves and keeping possession of the ball. One player from each team starts in one of the halves and the players go 4v4 in the other half. After three passes, the team in possession passes to the player in the other half and play moves to that end, with one player from each team staying in the area without the ball. Play now goes the other way.


1. After three passes, the possession team can pass to the player in the other zone
2. Three players from each team must follow the pass to the other half to play a new 4v4

Play the ‘Killer Pass’ activity in the other area [1b], which has two gates made of training poles three yards apart, one at each end. This activity encourages players to make killer passes. Play 5v5, with teams scoring by passing through the gate to a player receiving on the other side. Players must not just wait for the ball on the other side of the gate – instead, they should make well-timed runs to receive. Then play goes in the other direction with the team in possession attacking the other gate next.


1. The team in possession passes until creating an opening to pass through the gate to score
2. The point is scored only if a team mate makes a well-timed run to receive the pass. The attack then goes the other way

How do I progress the session?

Both parts of the first session come together in the progression. Set up an area between the two penalty boxes, coning it off to the width of the penalty area. Place four five-yard gates made of training poles, one in each corner of the playing area, as shown [2]. Play 10v10 plus four neutral overload players (use your four goalkeepers); one overload keeper is at each end and two are floaters in the main area.


1. A neutral end player starts play by passing out from the back
2. The players in possession pass to create an opportunity to score through a gate at the end they are attacking
3.The team only score a point if the pass is received by a team mate making a well-timed run. Then they attack the other gate at the same end

Play starts with one of the neutral keepers at the end of the area passing out from the back. The team in possession have to pass until they have created an opening to score with a killer pass through one of the gates at the end they are attacking. To score, the pass has to be received on the other side of the gate by a team mate who has made a well-timed run. After scoring, the team then attacks the other gate at the same end, unless the ball has gone dead and then the opposition get a ball and play out from the back.

How would you put this into a game situation?

Set up an area between the two penalty boxes, the width of the full pitch. Position four goals and a goalkeeper on the 18-yard line, as shown [3]. Mark out a 40×30-yard zone around the centre circle that is only one-touch for players when they are in that zone. Play is directional so each team is attacking the two opposition goals.


1. Play starts with one of the keepers playing out from the back
2. Play is one–touch in the central zone to help move the ball on quickly and to encourage passes out wide
3. There are two goals to target at each end, so teams can catch defenders out by switching play to the other goal

Play 10v10 plus four goalkeepers. Advancing the session with this game widens the area for players to spread out and move the ball across the pitch, using the goals at each end to catch defenders out (defending one goal and leaving space at the other goal invites a switch of play).

The one-touch zone in the centre adds a technique for the attacking team to move the ball at a much higher tempo and gives the defending team less time to press the ball. It makes vision, and an awareness of where players are, quite vital to moving the ball through this part of the pitch. It also creates a reason for passing out wide to the wingers who can run with the ball.

What are the key things to look out for?

When attacking, players should use a little patience to see where and when to make through passes in the final part of the pitch. Decisions between passing and holding onto the ball are vital for progression in the session.

Defending players should be covering dangerous routes to goal, especially when facing attacks with teams playing through the defensive lines. Pressing is important – look for players not closing down when the ball has been lost.

Wide players should be supporting wingbacks in both defence and attack, stopping switches of play and giving options out wide for passes from defence.

What are the typical mistakes that players might make?

Not playing at a high tempo is a typical mistake, as is leaving spaces for killer passes to be played into, and not supporting the player on the ball.

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