Becoming pass masters

This session is in four parts, and deals with the basics of passing and receiving. Although simplistic in their delivery, perfecting these techniques provides the platform for almost everything a footballer needs to do on the pitch.

The very best sides in the world will rehearse the simplest of moves, as is evident by the title, ‘The Ajax passing drill’, which forms a large part of this session.

The first phase comes in two stages. The initial stage is basic passing between players, concentrating on variations in receiving and sending. The second stage focuses on the aforementioned Ajax passing drill, and this is something that gradually increases in difficulty.

We then move on to a non-directional possession game looking at advanced passing and control, plus movement.

We’d then conclude with a small-sided game.


Small training pitch
Balls, cones,
Number of Players
Session time
Session 10mins
Development 10mins
Game 10mins

What do I get the players to do?

We get two players to stand 10 yards from one another, and to make very simple one-two passing lines. (1b) It’s a straightforward start, but we’ll build in variations, such as flighted balls and passes with pace. (1b)


• Receiving on the back foot enables a player to draw the ball in to set up a controlled pass or turn. Players construct simple one-twos at high intensity.


• Variations on the type of pass test players’ control abilities

We then move on to the Ajax passing drill, which requires players to set up in a triangle, with each cone 15 yards apart. The passing process sees A pass to B, B control on the back foot and pass to C, C control on the back foot and pass to A; then repeat. (2)

In my experience, this works best by using two players on each cone, constantly rotating.


• The Ajax passing drill sees the ball fed around the triangle

How do I progress the session?

Now the passing move becomes more complex, namely by adding one-two passes. So, whilst retaining a high intensity, A passes to B, B passes to A, and A passes back to B. Now B passes to C, C passes to B,B passes back to C, then C passes to A; and repeat. (3)


• In the progression, one-two passes are added before the ball is sent to the next man

Once the players are comfortable, we’ll progress this again. A passes to B and B passes to A, as before. But now A passes to C, and C, on the move, plays a one-two with B before running the ball home.

Enhancing the session further, we can bring back in the element of lofted and chipped passes, or ask players to volley and head the same passing pattern as they work the ball around the triangle. (4a/4b)


• Shorter one-twos are made within the triangle as the need for precision of pass and true concentration increases


• The third player dribbles the ball to the start cone allowing a new player to come into play

How do I put this into a game situation?

We can create a simple (non-directional) possession game in a 30×30-yard area. It’s 6v6, with the emphasis on high tempo passing and movement. Six consecutive passes constitutes a point. The winning team is the first to score 10 points.

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

Concentration plays a massive part in this session. We are looking for quality passing and receiving, and the constant awareness of team mates – their positions and their intentions.

The simplicity of this session is tempered somewhat by the high intensity that we demand throughout it, but such is the enclosed movement that we can halt play at any moment to pick out examples of good and bad practice.

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