This session is about pressing, at first in pairs, and with a view to manufacturing quick and accurate attacking situations.
It’s important to practise this because effective pressing is central to ‘player versus player’ scenarios on a football pitch. When the ball is lost it is important to press the opposition in the correct areas of the pitch so as to force errors and win back possession.
Our goal scored by Junior Hoilett against Birmingham City at Ewood Park in April highlighted the benefit of this session. We pressed positively on the halfway line, forcing Birmingham back towards their own goal. That resulted in a mistake being made from which we scored an equalising goal that, in the final reckoning, was vital.
What do I get the players to do?
At first we play a warm-up in an 8×8-yard space. The game is 7v2, one-touch. The working pair must attempt to win the ball (1). Any outer player who relinquishes possession swaps to become one of the central two.
We develop this into a half-pitch exercise with two teams of five (whites and blues) and one team of four (reds), plus a keeper. Two 15×10-yard boxes are placed side-by-side in between the penalty box and centre circle with a team in each.
The ball is fed into the left box where whites hold possession against two pressing reds (2a). When reds win possession or an error is forced, a new ball is fed into the right box where blues restage the task. This time, when reds win possession they sprint towards goal, receive a cross from the right wing and attempt to score (2b). In the next attack, the cross comes from the left, then rotate the players.
How do I put this into a game situation?
Played in the space between the halfway line and the penalty box, two small goals are placed on each side of the pitch with a coned 10-yard zone in front. This is 8v8 plus an attacking neutral (3).
Players play two-touch with a one-touch finish. No-one is allowed in the coned space.
This is again 8v8 plus a neutral, played between the two penalty boxes with a goal and keeper at each end (4a). It’s two-touch apart from in the 15-yard zones in front of each goal, where it’s standard play (4b), but offsides apply in these zones .
What are the key things to look for technically/tactically?
In the first sessions, defenders work together to close down, cut off angles and force mistakes. In the Sideways game, goals can be scored from anywhere, so defenders must press quickly. And because offsides apply in the Zone game, defenders must be aware of those around them whilst holding their line.
How do I progress the session?
Instructing a forward pass after any backward pass ensures that defenders pressurise attackers.