This session is designed to improve player and team awareness within the game. The specific awareness we are looking to improve is how to read an opponent’s defensive block and identify the space to attack. MORE
This session covers accuracy of passing both in deep areas of the pitch and in and around the goal. It also showcases combination play of centre-forwards and finishing techniques, third man running and defending situations when outnumbered. In short, it’s a session that tests every player involved, from the keeper, who has to make sure his angles are right, to ball-carrying midfielders and combination strikers.
Yet at the heart of this practice is short and long passing in counter-attacking moves. The ability to use the ball smartly with expectation, vision, accuracy and speed is vital in moving from one end of the pitch to the other and, with that in mind, this is a session we will practise at least once a week, usually midweek.
Players will require a lot of energy in order to fully embrace the challenges of the drill, always being required to operate quickly and under pressure, so not only do we want them to approach the challenges fresh, they’ll also need a small recovery period afterwards.
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As shown (1a), we set up in the area between the 18-yard boxes (or approximately 80×60 yards). Using short and long passes the move prompts a counter-attacking break into opposition territory that is played to a finish (1b).
Technically, the power, pace and accuracy of the long ball that starts the session is so important for the drill to begin with positivity and momentum, but this must be accompanied by accurate, short passing. We want to see players mixing up this passing range throughout the practice for it to succeed.
In the next phase we’re looking for a concentrated first touch of the receiving player and good running speed from his partner. The strength and body position to receive the ball off the front player is also key.
Tactically the areas of the players’ runs are important, particularly with third-man midfield runs testing defensive players’ abilities to defend outnumbered.
In terms of typical mistakes, because there is a carrot for the players (namely a goalscoring opportunity) some will hold on to the ball for too long, increasing the chances of them being tackled and the move breaking down. Really, the key to this drill is to play quick, interchangeable passes (long and short) that move the opposition players into areas of the defensive third so as to create problems for them to deal with whilst keeping potential tacklers a good distance away.
We can progress the practice by adding another defender and centre-forward, as shown (2). After the first attack finishes (either with a goalscoring opportunity or a smart piece of defensive play) another ball is played into the middle of the pitch with the attacker having a timed challenge, such as score within 10 seconds.
To conclude with a small-sided game scenario, we can set up in two penalty boxes back-to-back to rehearse the defending aspect of this drill. Namely, we can construct 1v1, 2v2, 3v3 and 4v4 drills to further play out the short and long ball principles practised.