This session aims to improve combination play in the attacking third of the pitch. It focuses on movement, interchanging of positions and disguised passing, but always with the aim of achieving an end product, namely a shot on goal! It’s important to practise this because most goalscoring opportunities are created from central areas.
I coach in the United States and witness the majority of American teams playing with a conventional 4-4-2 system. Using three or more central midfield players allows me to have more bodies in this area, and therefore greater creativity, increased unpredictability and, ultimately, the upper hand.
I used the diamond system regularly when I managed Barnsley. We had three very technical players who could control the tempo of any game with a livewire at the top of the diamond. A lot of our success came from being able to play this system.
What do I get the players to do?
We set up as shown on a full-sized pitch (1), with two diamond shaped passing drills in the same half, each 30×30 yards. This basic passing drill gets players appreciating each others’ positions in the diamond, with the focus being on passing and following, one-twos, disguised passes, turns, movement and receiving skills. We’ll progress from basic to complex as the players grow more comfortable with what’s being asked of them.
We now progress to the main practice using the same passing, movement and receiving skills from the warm-up. We add two defenders and a keeper, and start the practice from the bottom of the diamond, as shown (2a). This can be placed anywhere from the halfway line to 30 yards from goal, with the outside poles coned off to the touchline.
Now encouraging interchanging of positions, attackers decide the right moment to break from the diamond, and we play to a finish, with the end product being a shot on goal (2b).
How do I progress the game?
The obvious progression is to restrict players’ touches. Past that, we can add two forwards and two defending midfielders (3a), insist a move must include technical elements such as tricks or disguised passes (3b), or additionally set a time limit for players to get their shots away (3c). Finally, we could factor in a passing limit before that final shot.
What are the key things to look out for?
Good weight and accuracy of pass is essential. If players are not technically proficient in these then the move will break down quickly and we’ll be susceptible to the counter-attack. Driving direct at the goal and committing defenders is something we want to see, and for that tactic to have maximum effect, it requires positive and willing movement off the ball by supporting players, each expectant of a pass into his path. Finishing early and confidently is a must.