Quick, intelligent play in the final third is essential if a team is going to create and convert goalscoring opportunities. I like to run this session because it coaches players in manipulating the ball, using a variety of turns and techniques. We look at combination play, movement, dribbling, as well as attacking and counter-attacking at speed.
It’s the type of practice we’ll use in the immediate lead-up to a game so that players approach match day fresh and full of ideas.
What do I get the players to do?
Small-sided game – breakout
Setting up as shown, this game is 3v3 plus a neutral (who plays with the attacking team) in each of the boxes. Further up the pitch, there is a defender and keeper, who patrol the penalty area.
The coach serves into the right-hand box. The team that wins possession are the attackers, and must pass the ball amongst themselves, making use of their one-man advantage. The defending team must press the man with the ball (1a).
When ready, attackers set free one man to ‘break out’ of the box. He goes 1v1 against the defender, looking to get past his man and score past the keeper. As soon as the break occurs, a ball is served into the other box, for a similar possession game and breakout to begin (1b). Players always recover to their original start positions, though we rotate the lone defender frequently.
How do I progress the game?
Now we allow the whole team to break out, thus replicating the movement in a counter-attack. The defender must aim to slow the 4v3 attacking breakout to enable his team mates to retreat to defensive positions (2).
What are the key things to look out for?
We’re looking for players to make quick one-twos, breaking out of the box with speed and positivity. Players must find space, and time passes into feet, while breakout players must dribble with purpose, displaying individual skills such as feints and step-overs in finding a way past an opponent.
Setting up as shown, the full-pitch game begins 4v4 in the central box. Players must link up one-touch, with the aim of making three passes (3a). Then, the ball can either be played forward to one of the strikers (who is being man-marked), or it can go into either channel where an attacking winger awaits (3b).
If the ball goes to the attacker, he has one touch before shooting. If it goes to a winger, players in the central area ‘break out’. The winger must take a touch before sending a cross into the box to be attacked. Play restarts in the middle after each attack.