Simple pressing as a team


Up to a full pitch


Balls, cones, goals, target goals

No. of players

Up to 11v11

Session time

Shape line pressing drill 10mins, 8v6 20mins, 10v10 (plus keeper) phase 20mins, 11v11 game 30mins

This session teaches players simple tactical understanding for pressing as a team. It’s important to practise this because pressing forces mistakes in opposition build-up play, particularly in sides who like to pass the ball out from the back. That means, in the context of a game, we can gain or change momentum.

The session acts as an excellent practice for all team members. Even outside of pressing, it coaches stamina, communication and concentration.

And it should be remembered, the physical demands of pressing are paid back by teams winning the ball high up the pitch – in other words, already in danger areas. That means a quicker creation of chances and the retaining of momentum.

What do I get the players to do? 

Shape pressing line drill

Setting up as shown on a half pitch, a defender in the back four receives from the keeper then passes two-touch across the back four, with the ball moving left and right (1a).


1. The keeper feeds the ball to one of his defenders
2. The ball is worked left and right across the defensive line
3. Pressing players in the top line move in to close down then drop back
4. Behind, the midfielders react to the pressing players’ movement

The trigger player starts the press – the pressing line works by shuffling and sliding in relation to the position of the ball, but players do not tackle, they merely work together in forming a strong pressing line. Non-pressing players in the line must drop off, ready to move forward should the player in position send the ball to a team mate. Behind them, the defensive line subsequently shuffles and slides as well.

After a time period to be designated by the coach – we would recommend a minimum of one minute – the defensive back four jogs out to the rest line (1b). The team who were at the front pressing line now turn around and become defenders, receiving a pass from the keeper to begin, as the move is repeated.


1. After 60 seconds, the ball is returned to the keeper and the defending team sprints out around the side to join the rest line at halfway
2. Pressing line players now become defenders and will receive the ball off the keeper

8v6 phase

Now set up 8v6, as shown (2), as the defending team (of eight players) begins by being fed the ball by the keeper. The aim here is to move the ball upfield and score in any one of the three small goals. The attacking team of six must score in the big goal.


1. In the 8v6 game, the pressing line is now just two players against four defenders
2. The keeper feeds the ball to a defender
3. Defensive players track the path of the ball and the two attackers

We want to encourage the two centre-forwards to compress,  giving their midfield line of four time to adjust in taking up good supporting pressing positions.

Again, two-touch conditions can be applied to the defenders in order to encourage attackers to press. We would then remove these conditions to see how players react to the change.

10v10 (plus keeper) phase

This is a new set-up which means us extending the pitch length by 20 yards. It’s now 4-4-2 versus 4-4-2, so an equal two-way practice in terms of team size, although each side still has to attack different types of goals (3).


1. In the 10v10 (plus keeper) phase game, both teams attack 4-4-2
2. Defenders must make maximum use of the pitch to ensure they can press quickly and positively

11v11 game

We now move onto a full pitch (4a). Sideways distances between the back four remain the same, but due to the lengthened pitch we now want to see players showing awareness too of distances between the lines.


1. In the 11v11 game, the ball is again fed out by the keeper
2. Attackers move in to press
3. Midfielders follow the movement
4. Defensive players also shuffle across but keep their shoulders side-on so that they can remain reactive to a long ball

In the 11v11 we are also working even more closely on the trigger, namely the player who starts the press. This could be the wide man, the centre-forward, or anyone else. Again, players must shuffle and slide as a team, but must be compact within this shape.

We look too for recovery lines to be adhered to if the press is beaten (4b).  


1. A quick pass through the middle sees the white attacker receive with his back to goal
2. His pressing opponent is quick to close down the space
3. Midfielders also reduce available space in the centre
4. Fellow defenders prepare to cover the space in behind

What are the key things to look out for?

In each set-up, the key directives are pressing, team shape, keeping the same side as the ball, and maintaining good distances between team members in each back four – this, ideally, will be a distance that can be covered in two strides.

Players must have front foot thinking, always ready to move forward quickly in order to close down or receive the ball.

Players operating in the back four should have their shoulders side-on in case of a long ball being played forward.


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