This session is focused on maintaining positive possession within an overload situation and leading towards directional penetrative transfer play.
When the team is in possession this is the foundation of my own playing philosophy, and that of the club too. We should achieve ball domination through quick play and combinations carried out with purpose and direction – and based on whatever defending strategies are being used by the opponents.
This is one of my preferred practices and it’s something that I try to run every week in one form or another. I will vary the size of the area, the number of players and perhaps incorporate different constraints, depending on the outcomes I want from the players.
We set up a playing area of 52×30 yards. The area is made up of two 20-yard end zones and a 12-yard central zone. The size of the area can vary depending on the number of players available and the specific outcomes required.
We are using 15 outfield players split into three teams of five. One team starts in each end zone and the third team begins in the central zone. We try to make the teams as position-specific as possible, so the two teams in the end zones are made up of midfielders and attacking players, and the central zone team is comprised of defenders.
The coach always starts play with a pass into one of the end zones and the receiving team needs to achieve a set number of passes (here the target is five) before the ball can be transferred under head height through the central zone to the team in the opposite end zone, as shown [1a].
To add to the challenge, as soon as the ball is played into an end zone, three of the five defenders in the central zone are free to go into the end zone and press to gain possession. If the pressers win the ball, they immediately return it to the opposite end zone by passing or dribbling, as shown [1b]. The central team then swaps roles with the team that lost the ball and the flow of the activity continues.
If the ball goes out of play, the team that lost possession swaps roles with the defending team in the central area and the coach serves a new ball into the team at the opposite end to the team that lost possession.
How do I progress the session?
We progress the activity by increasing the number of passes that need to be made before a transfer can occur. We also increase the difficulty for the possession players by increasing the number of defenders that can be sent into the end zone to press.
We can progress the activity further by including two goalkeepers and positioning one at each end. The keepers become actively involved in supporting possession – they cannot be tackled and should be used as a safe pass in order to maintain effective possession.
We can also progress the activity by allowing players from the end zone team who don’t have possession to drop into the middle zone and link the transfer from one end zone to the other, as shown [1c].
We would usually play each progression for approximately 10 minutes and then move into a small-sided game or a phase of play, or ideally an 11v11 game.
What are the key things to look for?
We want to see players making good decisions when in possession and asking questions such as: How much space do I have? Where is the space? Can I use the space on my first touch? Do I need to pass early? Can I link with my team mates? If I don’t have possession of the ball, can I quickly support my team mate by getting into his eyeline early?
Can I combine with team mates with a one-two maybe, or an overlap or an underlap?
Tactically we want to see players establishing a diamond shape with one player inside the diamond. We want to make sure we spread our diamond high and wide in order to use space and see as much of the area as possible.
What are the typical mistakes players might make and how do I avoid them?
Players sometimes make an incorrect decision due to the pressure of the defenders and they may
hold onto the ball too long when they are 5v3. They need to recognise that quick passing and combination play is more effective.
I like to stop the activity and coach the players. An important part of what we do at Charlton is to ensure traditional coaching is still apparent and
that coaches step in and explain things.