This session is all about encouraging the different units of a team to connect together to win the ball back from an opponent and create goal scoring opportunities quickly and efficiently.
It shows players that by setting traps and having a strong mentality, a team can control a game without having possession of the ball. This can lead to the team regaining possession when the opposition are in a defensively vulnerable position. The players will grow in belief when chances are created and goals are scored after winning the ball back in critical areas of the pitch.
We would tend to use this session when we are due to be playing against a possession-based team that builds play from the back. Or it can be run as a stock session to help build the identity of the team, and to keep reinforcing the messages that we see as key elements of how we are developing the out-of-possession presses.
“The players will grow in belief when chances are created and goals are scored after winning the ball back in critical areas of the pitch”
PRESSING TO SCORE
We set up a playing area of 60×30 yards, including two five-yard end zones. Two small goals are positioned on each side of the pitch, as shown, and one goalkeeper is stationed in each end zone.
We’re using 20 outfield players, split into two teams: a blue possession team of 12 and a red pressing team of 8. The teams are set up with six blues and three reds in a 6v3 in each half of the pitch, plus one extra red defender in each of the end zones.
The coach starts play by serving a ball into a goalkeeper in one of the end zones. The goalkeeper receives and passes into a player on the blue possession team in the nearest half of the pitch, as shown [1a]. The aim for the six blues is to play through the red pressing team and create an opportunity to pass into the blues in the other half of the pitch, and then work the ball to the goalkeeper in the opposite end zone to score a point.
“The aim for the blues is to play through the red pressing team and work the ball to the goalkeeper in the opposite end zone”
If one of the three red players in the starting half wins possession, they must try to score by quickly passing the ball into one of the mini goals in that half, as shown [1b].
When the blues start to build play from the back, the three red players must decide whether to sit back and screen to prevent passes going into the opposite half, or whether to press aggressively together with the aim of winning the ball back high in the opposition’s starting half. This, in turn, will dictate the positioning of their three team mates in the other half. If the three active reds in the starting half don’t press high, their team mates in the other half must guard against a quality weighted pass over their heads by sitting deeper and reading the long pass but be always ready to move quickly forwards if necessary.
However, if the three red players decide to press the ball aggressively and high, then a red player from the opposite half can step across the halfway line to join the press, therefore creating a 4v6 situation with the aim of helping the reds win the ball high up the pitch. If this happens, the extra red player in the opposite end zone steps into the main playing area to support the press from the back, as shown [1c], ensuring that there are still three red players in that half in case the ball is transferred through by the blue passing team.
It is important that when the red team decides to press, everyone is connected and ready to press one by one. If one red fails to press, then the blues will be able to create an opportunity to pass into the other half, as shown [1d].
“It is important that when the red team decides to press, everyone is connected and ready to press”
If the blues succeed in transferring the ball across the halfway line and the ball is then regained by the red pressing team in the half being attacked, then the aim for the reds is to find a way to score as quickly as possible in transition by using combination play to help them finish into one of the mini goals, as shown [1e].
But if the blue team counter-press and win the ball back, the blues must keep it and again try to transfer it from one goalkeeper to the other.
If a goal is scored by the red pressing team, then the practice restarts from the coach who plays a new ball into a goalkeeper, as shown [1f].
What are the key things to look out for?
We want to see the pressing players cutting off passing lines and reading the eyes and intentions of the player in possession. The pressing team also have to recognise when to ‘jump forward’ in order to apply extra pressure, and when to sit and screen in an attempt to intercept forward passes.
We want to see the possession team, who are trying to pass the ball from end to end, using variety in how they achieve their aims, mixing short, sharp passes with long, high deliveries.
What are the typical mistakes players might make and how do I avoid them?
Players will press without a trigger and this should be the signal for the whole team to be alert to an opportunity. When this happens, if they’re not alert to the group press, individual players can be passed through and around and spaces between each unit of the team will be exploited by good passing and clever players.
How would I put this in a game situation?
This drill is taken onto a full size pitch which has been prepared with different coloured lines to help players get the distances between each team unit correct and compact. We would transfer it to the pitch on game preparation days and work in the designated zones before opening up the full pitch, so as to expose the players to the dangers of space and how good players and teams can exploit space if you allow them to.
Some games, we would set up to play a high press, some with a mid block and some games we would play against a top team and expect to defend deep but always carry a counter-attacking threat.