Possession and transition


Up to half a pitch


Balls, bibs, cones, 6 target goals, 6 small goals

No. of players

16 players

Session time

Possession game: 25mins, Small-sided game: 30mins

This session involves two teams playing against each other but each team has a different objective.

In the basic session one of the teams attempts to keep possession, while the other has to win the ball back and score into any of the six target goals. This then progresses into a small-sided game, using many of the same principles.

This session really engages the players as there is an element of competition attached to it and it really allows players to practise game-related skills, which include retaining possession, pressing, scoring and transition.

I would usually run this session once every one or two weeks. If our next game was on a Saturday, I would tend to run this on a Tuesday as it is quite a physical session.


We set up an area of 40×30 yards with three target goals positioned on each of the longer sides of the area. We’re using 16 outfield players, split into two teams of eight. The teams take it in turns to be the possession team or the pressing team.

Play starts with a pass from the coach into the possession team, who must string eight consecutive passes together to score a point, as shown [1a].

1. Play starts with a pass from the coach into the playing area
2. The possession team must string eight passes together to score a point
3. The pressing team must try to win the ball
4. Both teams have unlimited touches to begin with

The other team presses to win the ball and if they gain possession, they can score a point by finishing into one of the target goals, as shown [1b].


1. Play always restarts from the coach, who passes into the area
2. Here the pressing team wins the ball from their opponents
3. If they gain possession, the pressing team can score in one of the target goals
4. Progress the game by limiting players to two-touch

If the possession team lets the ball go out of play, the coach restarts with a pass to the pressing team, who must quickly try to score in the goal. If they succeed, the coach restarts play with a ball to the pressing team again but if they miss with their shot, or fail to score, the coach restarts play by serving to the possession team again.

In each block we play for two minutes before the players swap roles and play for another two minutes. We play four or five blocks.

A simple progression for this activity is to limit the players to two touches after initially allowing them to have as many as they like.


We set up on half a pitch, with three small goals on each side behind a five-yard ‘no player zone’. We’re using 16 outfield players split evenly into two teams of eight. It’s an 8v8 directional game, with each team defending the three goals at one end and attacking the three goals at the other end.

Teams can score as normal in the goals at the end they are attacking, as shown [2a], but the ‘no player zones’ are there so that defenders cannot simply stand in front of the goals to prevent the attacking team from scoring.


1. Play an 8v8 directional game, with each team defending the three goals at one end and attacking the three goals at the other end
2. Teams can score as normal in the goals at the end they are attacking
3. There is a ‘no player zone’ at each end to stop teams simply leaving defenders in front of each goal to block shots
4. Having three goals to score in makes attackers look for the ‘open’ goals, which leads to switches of play

Having three goals to score in makes the attacking team look for the ‘open’ goals, which often leads to switches of play.

Teams can also score by putting together eight consecutive passes, as shown [2b], and this ensures that the team without the ball does not just sit back and defend the small goals. If the attacking team misses with a shot, coaches can play another ball into the attacking team. If the ball goes out of play at the sides, restart with a throw-in as normal.


1. Teams can also score a point by stringing eight consecutive passes together
2. The team without the ball should try to win possession and transition to attack
3. If the attackers miss with a shot, coaches can play another ball straight to the attacking team

Each game lasts four or five minutes with a couple of minutes’ rest between games. We play between four and six games.


What are the key things to look out for?

In this session we are looking for the players in possession to demonstrate good control, awareness and an ability to pass the ball well. The team in possession also has to work really hard to create options for the player on the ball; they must make the playing area as big as possible in order to make it hard for the defending team to win possession.

The defending team initially has to work hard and must work together to win the ball back. On regaining possession, they have to quickly identify opportunities to score a goal. In order to do that, players will need to show vision. They must also have the ability to execute a pass and that most likely will involve a player making a run to get in a position to score. The team that initially had possession must now transition to defending the goals and then try to regain possession.

What are the typical mistakes players might make and how do I avoid them?

Sometimes the players who have the task of retaining possession are often slow to react when they lose possession and they are slow to transition to defending the goals.

Also, when the initial defending team wins the ball and transition to attack, they can be guilty of attempting to rush the pass or take the shot at goal when the chance to score isn’t there.

While we encourage the team to try to score as quickly as possible before the opposing team can cover the goals, it is also important not to ‘force’ play and turn possession of the ball over too soon.


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