Quick combination play around the box

This session is about attacking players improving their decision-making and movement, and helps them build advanced understanding of how to create goalscoring opportunities around the box.

The modern game sees more and more attacking play through central areas of the pitch, so it only seems right to construct a practice that helps improve players’ potential to exploit these areas around the box.

At first the set-up is unopposed, but we go on to introduce defenders so as to create what is essentially a match situation.



Half a pitch


Balls, cones, goals, mannequins

Number of Players

Up to 12

Session time

Session 15mins, Development 20mins, Game situation 20mins

What do I get the players to do?

We set up on half a pitch but will generally use just the final third. The practice benefits from the use of five mannequins or large cones.

Attacking breaks

We set up as shown with three attackers outside an arc of cones and two more in advanced attacking positions (1). Outside players are two-touch, and must pass the ball around before feeding into the forwards. When they do receive, these forwards combine quickly, and with good timing. The end result is a threaded pass in between the mannequins (defenders) so that breaking the line presents a clear chance on goal. Ensure forwards make ‘opposite runs’ – namely one comes short while the other goes long.


• Outer players combine and pass into the forwards. One goes short, the other goes long in breaking the line, and the attacking move ends with a shot past the keeper


To progress the practice we replace the mannequins with four defenders, also adding in two extra attackers. Offsides apply and attackers can lay back to outer players if it benefits the idea of having a direct and dynamic final pass that the attacker can run on to (2).


• In the progression, mannequins have been replaced with defenders, and in this instance the outer player makes the final pass onto which the attacker runs and shoots

Again, forwards must look to play between defenders as well as ensuring they are not easily marked. Timing and direction of runs is critical – after all, the run dictates the pass.

To progress further, we can allow players behind the cones to have more of an active part in attacks. For instance, if one of these players is responsible for a final pass into the danger area, it enables attackers to time their runs onto a ball from deep, as well as offering variety in terms of how many attackers are going forward against four defenders (3).


• Here, intricate passing between and around defenders leads to the ball being fed to an outer player, whose deep cross enables attackers to practise staying onside as they break the line looking to score

How do I put this into a game situation?

Placing a goal at each end of half a pitch can produce, in effect, two halves of attack versus defence. Because there is little space to build up, what’s created is a quick set-up that transitions quickly from one team’s attack to the other’s.   

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