Exploiting possession

This session is focused on creating opportunities from possession. Every team should work on their ability to maintain and exploit possession because, when harnessed to attacking intent, keeping hold of the ball is the best way to break down defences and create goal-scoring chances. This kind of play greatly increases a team’s chances of winning games.

We start off with a simple possession square and as the session develops, players are encouraged to use possession to their advantage while attacking. The session progresses seamlessly through a series of possession activities to an 8v8 game to finish.

SET-UP

Area

Up to 60×40 yards

Equipment

Balls, bibs, cones, 2 full size goals

Number of Players

Up to 16 players + 2 goalkeepers

Session time

Normal possession: 10mins

Directional possession: 10mins

Small-sided game 2v2: 15mins

Small-sided game 4v4: 15mins

Small-sided game 8v8: 20mins

What do I get the players to do?

Normal possession

We set up an area of 25×25 yards and we’re using 16 outfield players, split into two teams of eight. Teams have one player on each of the four sides of the area and four players in the centre, as shown [1]. The coach starts by passing to one of the players in the centre and teams must keep possession, using the help of their team mates on the outside. When out of possession, teams should press to win the ball and then keep hold of it themselves in the same manner.

1

1. The coach starts play with a pass into the blues, who pass to keep possession
2. Touches are unlimited for the passing team and they can use the support of their outside players to keep the ball
3. The reds press. If they manage to win the ball they must pass to keep possession


Directional possession

Using the same 25×25-yard area, we again set up with two teams of eight players, with a 4v4 in the centre. The remaining players are set up as shown [2], with each team having two pairs facing each other on opposite sides of the area.

2

1. An outside player starts by passing across the square to a team mate
2. The receiving player must pass to a central player. Outside players are limited to one or two touches
3. The central players have to work the ball to an outside player, who then must pass the ball back across the area
4. When out of possession, teams press. If they win the ball, they must find an opening to pass to an outside player and the sequence begins again


The aim is for teams to transfer the ball from one side of the square to the other without losing possession.

Play always begins with an outside player, who must pass across the square to a team mate on the other side. The receiving player then passes to one of the central players. The central players have to try  and work the ball back to another outside player, who receives and plays back to the side of the square that the ball started.

The other team press and if they win possession they must try to work the ball to one of their outside players, who then starts the same passing pattern again. We limit the outside players to one or two touches.

What are the key things to look for?

We want to see players using a variety of passing styles, such as soft passes and fast passes, both in the centre of the area and to the outside players. It’s also essential that players use the correct body shape when receiving the ball, particularly when touches are limited, and they must show an awareness of the positions of their team mates.

What do I get the players to do next?

Small-sided game 2v2

We set up an area of 36×26 yards, with a goal and a goalkeeper at each end. We’re using 16 outfield players, split into two teams of eight. Each team has two players on the pitch in the half they are defending and another two in the half they are attacking. Players must remain in their halves. Each team also has four players around the outside of the pitch at the end they are attacking, as shown [3], with the players at the side limited to two touches and the players behind the byline limited to one touch.

3

1. Play starts with a pass out from the keeper. It’s 2v2 in each half and players are locked in their halves
2. The possession team works the ball forward to their attackers to create a scoring chance, using the assistance of the outside players
3. Players at the side of the area are limited to two touches
4. Players behind the byline are limited to one touch
5. If the opposition wins the ball, they can counter-attack using the same rules


Play starts from the goalkeeper. It’s 2v2 in each half and the possession team must work the ball up to their attackers and create a goal-scoring opportunity, using the help of their team mates around the edge of the pitch if necessary.

The opposition press and if they win the ball, they counter-attack using the same rules.

How do I progress the session?

Small-sided game 4v4

We use the same 36×26-yard area as in the previous activity, with a goal and goalkeeper at each end, but this time we’re using 12 outfield players split into two teams of six. It’s 4v4 in the main area and the inside players have free movement, while each team also has two supporting players behind the byline of the goal they are attacking, as shown [4]. These players are limited to one touch.

4

1. Play starts with a pass out from the keeper. It’s 4v4 for the inside players and they can move anywhere on the pitch
2. The possession team must pass the ball to create a goal scoring opportunity
3. The possession team can use the support of their team mates on either side of the goal when attacking. These bounce players are limited to one touch
4. If the opposition wins the ball, they counter-attack


The team with the ball must keep possession and try to create a goal-scoring chance, using the support of an outside player if needed.

What are the key things to look for?

We want to see a high quality of passing, good movement to receive the ball, inventive attacking and quick combination play. In terms of creating chances, attackers should make good off the ball movement in order to receive crosses and they should be effective with their heading and shooting techniques.

We want to see the defensive players demonstrating a good body shape and taking the correct angle of approach, blocking well and tackling efficiently. It’s important for the defenders to be aware of the position of their team mates in the other half and use a variety of passing techniques to get the ball to them.

How would you put this into a game situation?

Small-sided game 8v8

We set up an area of 60×40 yards with a goal and goalkeeper at each end. The pitch is split into three 20-yard zones. We’re using 16 outfield players split into two teams of eight.

Each team starts with three players in their defensive zone, three players in the midfield zone and two players in their attacking zone.

We play an 8v8 game with all players limited to two touches. To begin with players are locked in their zones, but when in possession teams can push one player forward from each zone into the next zone, in order to give them an advantage when attacking, as shown [5].

5

1. Teams line up in a 3-3-2 formation, with players locked in their zones
2. Players are limited to two touches and must keep possession and build an attack
3. When attacking, teams can push one player forward from each zone into the next zone to give them an advantage. When out of possession, players return to their original zones
4. Here the player has moved zones. He cancels out the defensive overload and scores for his team
5. The opposition must try to win possession and launch a counter-attack using the same rules


After the attack has concluded, or if the team loses possession, the players who pushed up must drop back into their original zone.

As a progression, play the same game but instead of getting one player to push forward from each zone when attacking, allow one player from each zone to drop back while defending, to give that team a defensive overload.

To finish the session, take out all three zones, remove the touch restrictions and play a normal 8v8 game, encouraging players to take note of all the coaching points from the previous activities.

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