Position-specific coaching

Setup

Area

Up to two thirds of pitch

Equipment

Balls, bibs, cones, mannequins, 4 target goals, 1 full size goal

No. of players

Full squad

Session time

Warm-up: 20mins, Isolated practices: 15mins, Integrated practice: 20mins

This is a session that we have used in the past with the England U20s. We use a specialist coaching model at the Football Association, with a head coach, an in-possession coach, an out-of-possession coach and a goalkeeping coach. When we run this session, it tends to be during the second session of the day and it allows each of the coaches the opportunity to work with a small group on more position-specific activities.

We think that working this way allows the coaches to get into more detail with the players and we can give them a lot more focus than when we are working with the full group. Players also like the increased attention from the coaches.

The players are split into the three position-specific groups – defenders, midfielders and forwards – and one coach works with each group.

For the last activity, the three groups come together to make it a realistic game scenario. We don’t tend to swap players into different groups for specific functions, so for example when the defending activity needs forwards, we get some of the defenders to alternate as forwards for a short period.

The groups work for 20 minutes to start the practice and that would include a technical warm-up using balls. Then they would move into the positional work.

The timings and intensity of the activities can be varied to control the workload, depending on when the training day is. When we last used this session, it was on match day -3 of a two-game camp.

DEFENDERS ISOLATED PRACTICE

We set up an area of 24×20 yards with a goal and a goalkeeper at one end and two target players at the other end. We’re using six defenders, split into three teams. One pair are the target players and the other two pairs play 2v2, with one pair attacking the goal and the other pair defending it.

Play starts with the target players combining with a square pass before playing into the attacking players, who must combine to get past the defending pair and score, as shown [1]. If the defenders win the ball, they can play back to the target players unopposed.

1

1. Play starts with the yellow target players making a square pass before playing in to the blue attackers
2. The red defenders press to win the ball and if they succeed they can play it back to the yellow target players unopposed
3. The blue attackers must combine to get past the red defending pair and score

We play for 15 minutes but teams should switch roles every five balls.

What are the key things to look out for?

This activity works with the defenders on 1v1s, 2v2s and unit compactness. Players should move in relation to the ball, keeping ball side or goal side. One defender should put pressure on the ball and the other should cover and support.

MIDFIELDERS ISOLATED PRACTICE

We set up an area of 40×20 yards with a 10-yard zone marked out across the centre. We’re using nine players here divided into three teams of three but the numbers are adaptable depending on the size of the available squad. One passing team starts at each end, while the third team are the pressers and they start with one player covering the central zone and the remaining pair pressing in whichever end zone the ball is in.

Play starts with one of the passing teams moving the ball under pressure until they can find an opportunity to transfer it to the other end zone, but it must be transferred via the centre zone, with one of the opposite end zone players coming short to receive in the centre zone and then playing the ball on to his team mates, as shown [2a].

2a

1. Play starts with one of the passing teams moving the ball under pressure until they can transfer it to the other end zone
2. The ball must be transferred through the centre zone, with one of the opposite end zone players coming short to receive it on the half turn and playing it on to his team mates
3. The pressing team must always leave one player in the centre zone to cover and screen

When the ball has been transferred to the opposite end zone, the pressing team must follow the ball but they must always leave one player in the central zone, as shown [2b].

2b

1. When the ball has been transferred to the opposite end zone, the pressing team must follow the ball and continue to press
2. The pressing team must always leave one player in the central zone
3. When one of the passing teams loses possession, they immediately swap roles and become the pressing/blocking team

When one of the passing teams loses possession, they immediately swap roles and become the new pressing/blocking team.

What are the key things to look out for?

This activity works with the midfielders on receiving and passing, with players encouraged to look forward and play forward. We want to see players using control and patience when passing 3v2.

Players should be looking for the opportunity to play forwards into pockets, while the receiving player must show he can receive on the half turn so he can play the ball on to his team mates.

ATTACKERS ISOLATED PRACTICE

We set up a playing area in the final third of the pitch with a goal and goalkeeper positioned as normal. Outside the ‘D’ of the penalty area we set up a cone box with a mannequin in the centre.

We’re using six outfield players, with a defending team of two playing against an attacking team made up on two target players and two strikers.

The two target players are in the cone box and they pass around the mannequin in order to create a trigger for one of the strikers in the penalty area to move from the corner of the six-yard box to receive the ball. The target player passes into the striker with the defender close by and the attackers must combine in a 2v2 to create a goal scoring chance, as shown [3].

3

1. The target players start in the cone box and pass around the mannequin to create a trigger for one of the strikers to move to receive the ball
2. The blue striker receives with his back to goal and with the red defender close by
3. The attackers combine in a 2v2 to create a goal scoring chance

What are the key things to look out for?

This activity works on the strikers receiving the ball with their back to goal. Players must show they can release, relax and receive. They should also be able to show they can ‘measure the pressure’; what I mean by this is that the forward should be able measure where the defender is. If he can feel the defender is tight, he can judge whether he can roll him or whether he should take another touch to either stop him or draw the foul. If the defender stands off, the striker must decide whether he can turn and face him.

INTEGRATED PRACTICE

We set up on just over half a pitch with a goal and a goalkeeper at one end and four target goals at the other end. We place a mannequin on each side of the pitch to create a defensive line, as shown [4]. We’re using 13 outfield players, split into a blue attacking team of seven and a red defending team of six.

4

1. The four blues pass the ball under pressure from the two reds. After four passes they can play forward into the front three
2. The blue front three go up against the red defenders and try to score
3. The red defenders must try to hold the line shown by the two mannequins
4. If the red defenders win possession they should counter-attack and try to score in the target goals.

Play starts with a midfield 4v2 in the centre-circle in favour of the blue attacking team. The blues must pass the ball between them under pressure from the two reds and after they have completed four passes they can play forward into the front three. Now the front three go up against the four defenders to try and score, but the defenders must try to hold the defensive line that is shown by the two mannequins.

If the defenders win possession they must counter-attack and try to score in one of the four target goals.

What are the key things to look out for?

We want to see the defenders keeping compact and holding the distance between one another and holding their defensive line, while the midfielders should be looking forward to play forward.

The attackers should be using their bodies to pin and manipulate defenders in order to receive with their back to goal and turn their man to help create goal scoring opportunities.

If the attacking team lose the ball, we want to see an immediate transition to counter-press, while the defenders should look to counter-attack with carefully executed release passes.

Key

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