Quick play in the penalty box

In the modern game, penalty boxes are tight, congested areas to work in and around. This session helps players practise elements of quick approach play, strong and dedicated support, along with the ability to dispatch immediate shots on goal.

Individual skills are important, so we’ll encourage player traits such as subtle flicks or quick directional changes. Combined with strong positional sense and dedicated practice, it means that opportunities can be produced in any area against any backline.

This is a straight-forward and relatively quick session lasting 10 minutes, with a further eight minutes for a small-sided game.



Penalty box


Goal, balls, bibs

Number of Players

14 (3 teams of 4 plus
2 goalkeepers)

What do I get the players to do?

Divide 12 players into three teams. The whites have a player on the right and left of the box, plus another two along the 18-yard line, one either side of the arc. They remain outside the box at all times. Inside it, the orange team set up to form a square, with yellows in the shape of a cross.

The goalkeeper throws the ball out to any white player. While it is in the air, the coach calls out “yellow” or “orange”. That team becomes attackers, the other team defenders. The attacking side must combine with the whites to get a shot in on goal – effectively, as an 8v4 overload. The white team plays one-touch and must only support, not shoot. The session is played at a high tempo.

When a move comes to an end, restart with the a new keeper. Keep players alert by only confirming who the designated attackers will be when the ball is in flight.


• Play starts with a member of the white team.


• Whites combine at high tempo with the designated attacking side.


• In an 8v4 overload, a scoring chance is created and taken.

What are the key things to look for technically/tactically?

From the whites, we’re looking for control, accuracy of pass and a variety of crosses. The attacking team inside the box must use all options around them and must shoot quickly. Defenders must judge carefully when to press white players and when to close in on their opponents inside the penalty area.

How do I progress the session?

Encourage attackers to turn and take on defenders rather than laying a simple ball back to a white man. Also experiment by adding an attacking player in the ‘D’ outside the 18-yard box. This player must stay in this area and can shoot using one touch, or act as an additional white supply man.

How would you put this into a game situation?

Use two penalty areas placed together with a goal at either end to play a quick shooting game, 4v4 plus two keepers. White players continue to play as neutral – this time each patrolling a flank along half a pitch. When possession is turned over, the defending team can use their white flank player as a forward outlet as they break into the opposition’s half. Varying one and two-touch commands will also have an interesting effect on the pace of the match.


• In the small-sided game, quick interplay passing releases the ball to a neutral support player.


• Good forward movement makes space for a shot.


• The shot is blocked and the attack switches direction, the neutral player setting up a breakaway move.

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