Possession and retention


40x40 yards with an inner 15v15 square


Poles, marker discs, balls

No. of players

16 (7v7 plus two neutral players)

The fundamental principle of retaining possession occurs in every game. In particular, the ability to hold the ball in midfield areas is crucial to any side, with an eye on good movement and fluid rotation from forward and wide players. Gaining control of the midfield often equates to gaining control of the game, so this is a session that will we practise often.

What do I get the players to do?

We play 7v7 in the large square, with a pole positioned centrally along each long touchline. Two players from each team are fixed to poles opposite one another. These players can only be released when brought into play by a team-mate, who must pass the ball to him and take his place on the pole (1a).


• The white team combines to free a player fixed to the pole, who is then replaced by his team-mate

The team in possession can use the two neutral players (who must always remain in the small square) for overload advantage, therefore creating a 9v7 game (1b).


• They utilise the two neutral players

The result is a passing and possession game between fixed and mobile team-mates (1c). Should the ball go out of play or possession be turned over, the other team restarts and can now utilise the two neutral players.


• A tackle is made and the orange team combines to good effect

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

This is a session that requires quality passing, intelligent decision-making and excellent movement and rotation. Players must adopt good passing angles, clever timing and strong positional awareness. Holding onto possession and being willing to free a fixed man are the main aims of the session.

How do I progress the session?

We progress by creating a scenario that rehearses players in gaining control of the game specifically in midfield areas. We use 14 players in a 60×30 yard playing area – the longer side split into three 20 yard zones. On each side of the central zone is an area extended 5 yards outwards. The overloads are 5v1 in the far zone, 3v1 in the middle section (with two attackers fixed wide) and 3v1 in the near zone (2a).


• Both end zones are utilised before a pass is laid into the middle zone

In the 3v1 near zone, an attacking player starts with the ball. A minimum of two passes are made before a long ball is played into the far zone. At least two passes are made before a pass to either of the wide players in the central 3v1 zone. Receiving a pass frees both wide players (2b). Two of those in the middle now head to the near zone to create a new 5v1 overload. Two attackers from the far zone move into the middle zone to occupy the now vacant wide areas. Play can now be played back in the other direction (2c).


• The wide orange players can now move infield with the defender looking to break down the move


• The oranges switch into the original starting zone and are replaced – therefore the 5v1 and 3v1 end zones have been switched

The key area is the middle third, yet players are using both end zones to launch midfield player exchanges, a weapon that can be utilised to great effect in matchday situations.