Defending crosses


Half pitch


Balls, goals

No. of players

Full squad

Session time

Crosses 20 mins, game 20mins

This session enables defenders to learn how to best to repel a number of different crosses into the box. We test defensive strength against four different deliveries – an inswinging cross, and outswinging cross, a cross that’s laid back on the wing, and a second phase cross.

It’s crucial we practise this because, in matches, most goalscoring opportunities arise from crosses into the penalty area. Therefore, preventing and dealing with this threat is a key aspect in ensuring we keep clean sheets.

What do I get the players to do?

On a half pitch, there are two attacking wingers on each flank and, at each end, four defenders – two centre-backs and two full-backs – a keeper and a goal. Once each crossing phase is complete, it’s rerun on the opposite flank.

Outswinging cross

For this phase, the full-backs must stay in the box. The keeper plays out to the left wing, a winger takes the ball on, advances, then sends an outswinging cross into the penalty area (1a).


• A left wing attack ends with an outswinging cross that the centre-back clears at the near post

Second phase cross

Immediately, the coach feeds the ball to the opposite flank as soon as the first cross is cleared (1b).


• The second phase develops with a ball to the right, and subsequent cross

Inswinging cross

Full-backs can now press, with the keeper playing out to a defender, who supplies a left winger. He checks back, then makes an inswinging right-footed cross into the area (2).


• The inswinging cross results from the winger cutting back and delivering right-footed from the left wing

‘Lay back’ cross

Here, a winger touches the ball back for his team mate to make either an inswinging or outswinging cross (3).


• The ‘lay back’ cross offers wingers a choice of final ball, meaning defenders must react quickly

Free cross

Finally, wingers combine to send over a cross of their choice.

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

Defenders must ensure they remain in their designated areas, opening out to a 45 degree angle to give themselves the best chance of seeing what’s around them.

Defenders must be positive in their clearances, making a solid first contact that offers height and distance. They follow out, ready to regroup for any second phase crosses.

The full-backs’ task is to engage  wingers and restrict wing threat.

How do I progress the session?

In progression, centre-backs now handle the threat of active forwards, while wingers can create one-two interplays, which threaten to pull full-backs out of position.

How do I put this into a game situation?

The session progresses into a continuous 8v8 game, with an emphasis on balls to the wing. A full-back must defend well whilst also supporting his attacking winger (4).


• In the continuous 8v8 game, full-backs must defend, then be ready to support their winger in forward breaks



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