This training session is about creating opportunities to play forward passes into the feet of forward players, or into attacking space. It is also aimed at encouraging quick support play from players behind the pass in order to either offer secure support behind the ball or to join in the attack with runs past the ball.
The session focuses on some key themes: creating the right spaces to pass forwards and through opponents; the detail of the pass forwards and the detail of the forward’s receiving skills; the quality of the supporting runs; and the creation of an end product.
The best thing about this session is that it is always creating 1v1 duals, so the level of competition and energy comes from this. The focus is on forward play and fast support, so it will always create transitions and natural turnovers of possession, which in turn creates great opportunities to also practise the key elements of transition for the defensive players, such as defending when outnumbered, emergency defending, or recovery runs.
There is a clear and simple structure to this training session, so players can understand how the key themes can progress from small areas to a larger practice.
We wouldn’t run this session too often, because we like to have a lot of variety. But generally, we would work on this type of session in the lead up to a game against opponents that may press in midfield and forward areas, which would leave some space to play forward passes into and the space for supporting runs beyond.
BREAK OUT AND SCORE
We set up between the penalty area and the halfway line, divided into two separate lengthwise playing areas. A possession box of 12×15 yards is marked at one end of each area and a mini goal is positioned at the other end of each area. We’re using 16 outfield players, split into two attacking teams of five and two defending teams of three. We play a 4v2 possession game in each possession box, with the attacking team passing to keep the ball under pressure from the two defenders. After the attacking team has made three or more passes, they can play forward into the one attacker in the main area, who is marked by a lone defender. The attacker and defender go 1v1 towards the mini goal. The attacker tries to score and the defender must try to clear the ball out of play, as shown .
The players rotate roles every two minutes or after every attack. We play for 20 minutes.
PLAY FORWARD AND SCORE
We now extend the length of the area to the other side of the centre circle to create one large
playing area, with a possession box of 30×44 yards marked out at one end and the two mini goal remaining at the other end.
We’re using 16 outfield players, split into two teams of eight. We play a 6v6 in the large possession box, with two players from each team in the main area. The team that gains possession must pass the ball under pressure until they can create an opportunity to play out to one of their team mates in the main area. The attackers then go 2v2 against the opposition and try to score in one of the mini goals, as shown [2a]. If the two defenders win possession they must try to clear the ball out of play.
In the first progression, one or two attacking players are allowed to follow the ball out of the possession box to create an attacking overload, as shown [2b].
In the second progression, we now allow both a defender and an attacker to follow the ball out of the possession box, making it a 3v3 attack, as shown [2c].
We play this activity for 20 minutes.
We set up a pitch from one 18-yard line to the other 18-yard line, coned off the width of the penalty area. The playing area is marked into thirds.
We’re using 16 outfield players, split evenly into two teams of eight and we position a goal and a goalkeeper at each end. We play an 8v8 game, as shown , with players encouraged to start and restart play in their own positional zones (for instance, midfielders would start in the central zone).
We ask players to put into practice what they have learnt in the session, but if it’s felt necessary, we can restrict them to operating only in their own positional zones in order to encourage players to play forward.
We can progress this game to allow supporting attacking runs and defensive recovery runs between zones. In the final progression of the game, we would play with free movement and remove all restrictions.
We would play this small-sided game for 20 minutes.
What are the key things to look out for?
We want to see defenders and midfielders making angles to receive, in order to create passing lanes forwards and to draw opposition defenders. They should adopt the correct body shape and ‘feel’ for their marker to encourage them to turn and play forward where possible. The speed of the forward pass is also very important.
We want to see strikers adopting the correct body shape and angle to receive the pass and to see that their first touch is always directed away from pressure.
Making the right kind of supporting runs is important, as is knowing when to receive the ball to feet and when to receive in space.
Strikers should also ‘feel’ for the defender, to encourage them to turn and go 1v1 and not just wait for their supporting players.
What are the typical mistakes players might make and how do I avoid them?
We often see forward players coming too close to the ball to receive. They do this because they are too eager and this makes the space too tight. To solve this, we encourage them to stay high and pin their defender, or we enforce this habit by restricting them to a zone that they must stay inside, because we want to encourage the pass to be made through this space.
Players often try to force the pass forwards or play over the opposition. To remedy this, we need to work on the patience of possession, the movement of support players to try to create forward passing lanes, and work on some specific technical details such as disguised passes and body shape to pass forward, to make it harder to read the forward pass.
Sometimes players make too many run beyond the ball, leaving us exposed and not protected if the forward pass is cut out. So, we will work on specific rules for the number of players to support.