Combination play and finishing

This session is all about passing and combination play between wing backs and wide players. It is also very focused on crossing and finishing techniques, as it offers plenty of opportunities to shoot with a variety of different approaches.

We would run this session around once a month, depending on the analysis from the previous match.


Up to full pitch
Balls, bibs, cones, mannequins,
2 full size goals
Number of Players
20 players + 2 goalkeepers
Session time
Total: 45mins

What do I get the players to do?

Pass and follow

Use half a pitch with a goal and a goalkeeper at each end. Split your outfield players into two teams of 10 and set up for this unopposed warm up as shown [1]. Players pass and follow their pass, replacing the player immediately next to them in the routine, with one striker going off the pitch and back to the start after the attack. Separate drills go in different directions at the same time, with the two routines running simultaneously.


1. Play starts with a pass out from one of the players next to the goal
2. Each player passes the ball to next position and must follow the pass, replacing the player at that position
3. The ball is worked out to one of the wide players. Here, the winger and the full back combine to cross
4. The forwards should make runs to attack the cross. At the end of the routine, one striker goes off the pitch and back to the start
5. The drill runs in both directions simultaneously

The purpose of the activity is to develop passing combinations and finishing. Players work the ball across the pitch and the full backs and wingers are encouraged to try different forms of combination play before crossing for strikers and midfield runners to finish.

What are the key things to look out for?

Make sure players have an open body shape to receive and play forward during the passing routine. It’s also important that players use the correct weight of pass to move the ball quickly. Look for good combination play out wide, and encourage full backs and wingers to make well-timed overlapping runs. Players must also be aware of what’s happening around them and must be able to spot space opening up or see the supporting/attacking runs of their teammates.

It’s important to encourage the wide players to use an array of crossing techniques, whether it be pull backs, in swinging or out swinging crosses, or balls whipped into or across the box.

What do I get the players to do next?

Work the ball wide

Set up for this opposed finishing activity using a half-pitch with a goal and a goalkeeper at each end, again splitting your outfield players into two teams of 10. Position four mannequins as shown [2]. Play begins from the back with one of the players by the goal, who enters the pitch with the ball and passes to a defender, who in turn plays forward to the attackers. The aim of the activity is to play the ball out to the winger/wingback, who must go around the mannequin and cross into the penalty area. The opposite wide man and two strikers should attack the cross against the two defenders. If the goalkeeper gathers the cross, he can release the ball quickly for a counter-attack – encourage players to counter using the wide players.


1. A defender plays the ball forward to the attacking team. They must work it wide
2. The ball is played to the wide man, who goes around the mannequin and crosses
3. The mannequins are used to keep the players wide so they should be overlapping them rather than cutting inside them
4. The opposite wide player should join attackers in making a run into the box to meet the cross
5. The defenders should try to prevent a goal being scored

How would you put this into a game situation?

Set up an area between the penalty boxes of a full pitch with a goal on each 18-yard line. The area uses the full width of the pitch but cone it off level with the edges of the penalty area, creating a crossing zone on each wing as shown [3]. Play an 11v11 game including goalkeepers.


1. The game is a normal 11v11 within the main area between the penalty boxes of the pitch
2. Attacking players can go in the crossing zone unopposed. They can either dribble in or receive the ball in the zone, but they only have two touches while there
3. If a cross from the crossing zone results in a goal, the team gets 2 points

If the ball is passed into the unopposed crossing zone and the cross results in a goal, the team scores two points. An attacking player can go into the zone at any time by either dribbling in or receiving the ball there, but he only has two touches to cross when in the zone, so you should look for good decision making from your players about when to pass or move into the zone and when to simply play through the middle.

Also look for players to have understood and implemented the coaching points from the earlier parts of the session, particularly regarding the timing of the movement of full backs to create overlaps and underlaps with the wide men, and the timing of the runs of the forwards and opposite winger to attack the cross in the box.

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