This session is all about link-up play in the final third of the pitch and it focuses on attacking crosses and finishing, whilst encouraging players to use good movement and the correct weight of pass. It also tests the decision-making of the team.
Our players always engage with this session because it is based on lots of quick decisions in tight areas. It’s very important to practise this sort of training session on a regular basis, as its main principles can easily be replicated in a game situation, which is the aim of any good session plan.
We tend to use this session the day before a game because, generally, we don’t want to cover too much distance that close to a match.
After evaluating the session with the players, it seems that they enjoy it and get a good return from its main focus.
“Our players always engage with this session because it is based on lots of quick decisions in tight areas”
END-TO-END SHOOTING GAME
We set up a playing area made up of two penalty boxes separated by a five-yard channel running the width of the penalty areas. A full size goal and goalkeeper are positioned in their usual position at each end.
We’re using 16 outfield players, split into four teams of four. A defending team starts in each penalty box, an attacking team starts in the central channel, and the members of the fourth team are positioned with one on each side of the two penalty boxes, as shown, and they support the attacking team from the outside.
Play starts with a server passing the ball into the attacking team in the middle channel. On receiving the ball from the server, the attacking team enters the penalty area and tries to score a goal.
If needed the attacking team can opt to use the support of either of the two players on the outside of the penalty area to create a 6v4 attack, as shown [1a]. The outside players can be used to link play with short passes or they can fire crosses into the penalty area.
“The attacking team can use the support of either of the two players on the outside of the penalty area to create a 6v4 attack”
When the ball is played to an outside player, the attacking players can work on their movement and timing of runs to be able to attack and finish from a cross, as shown [1b]. The defending team of four and the goalkeeper should try to defend against the attack.
If the attacking team scores, they are rewarded by retaining possession. They restart the practice with a new ball served into the central channel and they then attack the defending team at the opposite end.
If the defending team wins the ball they can immediately break out of their penalty area and counter-attack, with all four players in the team making supporting runs to join in and create a new 6v4 attacking overload situation at the opposite end, as shown [1c]. If this happens, the attacking team that just lost possession replaces the counter-attacking team to become the new defending team ready to defend when the attack next comes back their way.
Once the players are used to the basics, we would progress the session by allowing the defending team to go press and engage the supporting players on the outside of the area, as shown [1d]. They could try to block crosses and stop clever attacking link-up play.
To progress the session further, if the attacking team loses possession we would allow them to counter-press to win the ball back in the area they lost it. If they succeed in regaining possession, they can continue to attack the same goal, as shown [1e].
As this game is performed at a high intensity, we would play just four games of five minutes.
“We want to see players using the right weight of pass and employing an effective finishing technique”
What are the key things to look for?
In terms of technical skills, we want to see players using the right weight of pass and employing an effective finishing technique. We also want to see, good attacking movement to get on the end of crosses and through balls.
Tactically speaking, we want to see players making the correct decisions in the final third. They should demonstrate that they know when to link play, when to make movement to create space and how to finish accurately from central and wide areas.
What are the typical mistakes players might make and how do I avoid them?
A typical mistake players make is showing a lack of composure in the final third. They can also make the wrong decisions on the ball and employ poor finishing technique when under pressure.
How would I put this in a game situation?
This session can be replicated in any type of practice, as long as the focus is on the key principles that we are trying to achieve. This activity can be used to lead into an 8v8 small-sided game or a full 11v11 practice.