This session is primarily about good quality crossing and finishing, but it also works on players making well-timed runs and improving the quality of their passing. Additionally, it helps players develop an understanding of other positions on the pitch.
I find that players like this session because it’s built around a couple of attacking drills and the thing that players like to do most of all is to score goals. Repeated running of the drills ensures that these patterns of play become second nature to the players, so the movement they make in training can become habitual on match day.
There will be lots of engagement in this session as the players don’t get too much time to rest, with four intense eight-minute blocks.
It’s also a very flexible session. We can do it when we have a clear week and can increase the time and use it as a fitness exercise, or we can use it on a Tuesday prior to our Saturday game and convert it into a counter-attacking game plan.
CROSSING DRILL 1
We set up on half a pitch with a goal and a goalkeeper at each end. We’re using 16 outfield players, starting off with two pairs behind the byline at each corner of the playing area, as shown. A server is positioned to one side of each goal.
A server starts play at one end by throwing the ball into the air for the goalkeeper to catch and distribute quickly. The furthest outside player on the right wing receives the ball from the keeper and drives inside before passing to the inside wide player who has made a run up the wing, timing the run to stay onside and receive before crossing. After making his pass, the outside wide player has moved forward to the edge of the box to be available for a cutback cross.
While this has been happening, the two wide players on the other wing make well-timed runs to get into the box to score, as shown [1a]. They should be careful not to arrive too early so it is harder to mark them.
Once the ball is dead, the four active players stay at the end they have attacked, joining the back of the relevant queue of waiting players. The drill is then repeated, going in the opposite direction on the right flank, as shown [1b]. Once the ball is dead again, the four players remain at the end they have attacked, joining the back of the queue.
We run the drill for eight minutes, starting on the right wing each time. We encourage the players to increase the tempo of the drill as they get used to it. We then run it for another eight minutes, this time starting on the left-hand side of the pitch.
CROSSING DRILL 2
Using the same set-up, the server again starts play by throwing to the goalkeeper, who catches as if catching a cross. The keeper then quickly throws the ball to the outside wide player on the left, who makes a well-timed run to receive and then lays it back for the inside wide player.
The inside wide player makes a driven pass up the wing to the forward at the other end, who moves to receive and passes back to the oncoming outside wide player who is making a run down the left wing.
The outside wide player then puts a good cross into the goalmouth area, where the inside wide player and the two players from the opposite flank are all making runs from deep, as shown [2a].
Once the ball is dead, the four active players stay at the end they have just attacked. The drill is then repeated, going in the opposite direction starting on the left flank, as shown [2b].
We run this crossing and finishing drill for eight minutes, starting on the left wing each time; and then we run it again for a further eight minutes, going down the right wing this time.
What are the key things to look out for?
To master the session technically and tactically, we want to see players making well-timed runs and demonstrating a good weight of pass, a tidy first-touch, and ultimately excellent crossing and finishing.
What are the typical mistakes players might make and how do I avoid them?
It’s a physically demanding session so when players get a bit tired they can become sloppy – for instance, their first touch can let them down, their passing can become weak, and they will make poorly-timed runs to either cross or finish. To overcome this, stop for a quick drinks break and encourage them to finish off the session well.