This session is all about switching play, particularly when we are trying to encourage players to use the switch to get beyond the last line of defence in wide areas.
I like this session because the Possession activity and the Six Goal Game both encourage repetition of the focus principle of switching play, while maintaining a high level of intensity – with and without the ball. In the Possession activity, the players can score either by maintaining the ball for eight passes or by switching play, while in the Six Goal Game switching play will help players to score in the mini goals. Both exercises will test the decision making of the players and offer them various ways to be successful.
Typically we would run the Possession activity within a restart session on MD+2, because the design and conditions of the practice allows for a player-led session rather than a coach-led session, which is important on this particular day. We would also tend to use the Six Goal Game on this day to manage the intensity and load.
On a MD-4/MD+3 we would progress to the Small-Sided Game, as this will provide higher intensity and work load.
“These activities encourage repetition of the focus principle of switching play, while maintaining a high level of intensity, both with and without the ball”
SWITCHING PLAY POSSESSION
We set up a playing area of 50×40 yards with 5×5-yard boxes marked in each corner. We’re using 18 outfield players split into a red team of eight and a blue team of eight, plus two yellow floaters who play for the team in possession.
The red and the blue teams each have two target players in diagonally opposite corner boxes and the aim for the team in possession is to score a point by keeping hold of the ball while switching it from one corner target player to the opposite corner target player. By using the help of the two yellow floaters, the possession team have an 8v6 overload in the main area, as shown [1a].
The possession team can also score a point by making eight consecutive passes. To give the possession team an additional numerical advantage, the target players can step out of their corner boxes with the ball to give the possession team a greater overload in the main area, as shown [1b].
“We want to see players demonstrating positional awareness and discipline to provide the structure for a switch of play”
If the opposition team wins the ball, they become the new possession team and they can score points either by transferring the ball from one corner target player to the other, or by making eight consecutive passes, as shown [1c]. To keep the ball they can now use the help of the two yellow floaters in the middle to create an overload situation.
We can progress the activity by limiting the possession team to two or three touches. Typically we would run this activity for three blocks of three minutes, with 30 seconds’ rest between blocks.
SIX GOAL GAME
We set up a playing area between the 18-yard line and the halfway line of a pitch, coning it off to a width of approximately 60 yards. The area is divided into thirds, creating an offside line into each end zone. We position three small goals and one goalkeeper in the scoring zone at each end.
We’re again using 18 outfield players split into a red team of eight and a blue team of eight, plus two yellow floaters who play for the team in possession. The floaters can only function in the middle third and should help to build play.
Both teams are set up in a 3-4-1 formation and each team attacks the three goals at one end and defends the three goals at the other end.
Play starts with a pass from the goalkeeper of the red possession team to one of the defenders. The reds should build an attack through the thirds and they must try to score in one of the three small goals at the end they are attacking. The opposition defenders are initially not allowed to track back past the offside line into the final third and only their goalkeeper can try and prevent the attackers from scoring once the team in possession has entered the scoring zone, as shown [2a].
Once the ball is dead, play always restarts from a goalkeeper. We can progress the activity by allowing one or two players from the defending team to make recovery runs into their defensive third to try to stop the attackers scoring, but they can only enter the zone once the ball has been played in, as shown [2b].
We would play this activity for two blocks of five minutes or three blocks of four minutes.
We set up a playing area between the ‘D’ of each penalty area with a full size goal and a goalkeeper at each end. The playing area is coned off to a width of approximately 50 yards and split into two end zones separated by a larger midfield zone. A mannequin is positioned at either end of each offside line to the side of the playing area.
We’re again using 18 outfield players split into a red team of eight and a blue team of eight, plus two yellow floaters who play for the team in possession and who support the play from the wide channels outside the main area. Each team is set-up in a 3-3-2 formation (with the floaters replicating a 3-5-2).
Play starts with a pass out from the goalkeeper and the possession team must build an attack from the back, playing through the zones. The two yellow wide players act as ‘build players’ on the sides of the middle zone and they are expected to produce quick deliveries into scoring zone, as shown [3a].
If the yellow wide player receives the ball between the two mannequins (to the side of the central zone), they can play two-touch, but if they receive the ball beyond the mannequin (to the side of the scoring zone), then they have one touch to create a goal scoring opportunity.
“There is a focus in this session on switching play, but we don’t want the players turning down good opportunities to play forward”
To begin with the opposition defenders cannot drop back into the end zone to defend against the attack, leaving the keeper as the only player on the defending team able to stop the attackers scoring. As a progression we allow the opposition defenders to make recovery runs into the end zone once the ball has entered the zone, as shown [3b]. We would play this for three blocks of six minutes.
What are the key things to look for?
Technically, we want to see players receiving on the back foot, using no touch turns, scanning and demonstrating awareness.
Tactically, we want to see players demonstrating positional awareness and discipline to provide the structure for a switch of play. We also want to see the right players making the run beyond the defensive line.
Defensively, we want to see players locking the opponents down on one side of the pitch and regaining the ball with a clean transition (by an interception or a tackle). They should then look to launch a counter-attack.
What are the typical mistakes players might make and how do I avoid them?
Tactically, players need to show the discipline to maintain good distances across the pitch to allow for a structure to switch.
We want to see that players are capable of recognising when to switch play and when to break lines. Although there is a focus in this session on switching play, we don’t want the players turning down good opportunities to play forward beyond either the midfield or the last line.