This session is designed to rehearse players in the kind of attacking patterns we want them to use when playing in a 4-2-3-1 shape. The focus of the session is to teach the players to understand the different ways we, as a team, can break down opponents who are playing in a defensive block, particularly when we are playing at home.
It’s all about the implementation of attacking patterns. Players tend to enjoy this session as it creates goal scoring opportunities and gives them ideas and solutions to problems they face when they are in front of the opposition’s goal.
This session would be used at least once a week if fixtures allow a full week’s training. It will also be run on the day before a game in order to reinforce the patterns of play.
We set up on half a pitch as shown, with a goal and a goalkeeper at one end. Mannequins are used to represent the defending team, plus extra mannequins are added in the penalty area to give the forwards guidance for the areas to attack. We’re using 11 outfield players.
Play starts with centre backs combining and playing the ball into a central midfielder, who sets the ball back. The centre back then plays it through to the left winger who comes inside to receive and sets it for the other central midfielder, who plays a through ball into the wide channel for the overlapping left back.
The left back runs onto the pass and fires a low cross into the box, where the centre forward and the number 10 are making runs to attack the ball, as shown [1a]. Both wingers should also attack the penalty area, while a central midfielder supports from the edge of the penalty area ready to receive a cut-back or if needed sustain the attack.
Next we reset and run the same attacking pattern on the opposite wing, replicating the movement. After receiving the set-back from the winger, the central midfielder plays a through ball for the overlapping full back to receive on the edge of the penalty area. The full back fires a low cross into the path of the centre forward and the number 10, who are making attacking runs, as shown [1b]. Again, the wingers should also attack the penalty area in support if possible.
We set up as before. The first movement is for a deep midfielder to drop between the centre backs to create a back three, who then plays into the number 10, who comes deep to receive. The number 10 lays the ball off to one of the central midfielders, who plays a forward pass to the centre forward. The centre forward then lays the ball off to the number 10 and then turns and makes a run into the penalty area. The number 10 has made a forward run to receive the pass and shoots at goal from outside of the penalty area, as shown [2a].
As soon as the first shot is dead, a second ball is played in to the centre forward by the coach. The centre forward receives the ball with his back to goal and turns and finishes, as shown [2b].
We set up as before. The first movement is for a deep midfielder to drop between the centre backs to create a back three. He receives from the centre back and then plays the ball into one of the central midfielders, who sets it back. The deep midfielder then switches the point of attack with a long pass to the full back, who has made an overlapping run into a wide forward position. The full back delivers a whipped cross for the forward players to attack – the centre forward, the number 10 and the opposite wide player should all be making runs into the penalty area, as shown , while one of the central midfielders should make a run to the edge of the penalty area, just in case the ball is cut back.
We set up as before. Again, the first movement is for a deep midfielder to drop between the centre backs to create a back three. The ball is passed across this back three before it is played out wide to a full back in a deep position. The full back receives and drives forward with the ball before crossing into the back post area. The centre forward meets the cross in the air and heads it down into the path of his oncoming team mates, who are making attacking runs into the penalty area, as shown .
How do I progress the session?
We can remove the mannequins and add live opposition defenders into each pattern of play to increase the difficulty for the attacking players.
What are the key things to look for?
Technically, we want to see quick and precise passing, with players always moving the ball forwards when possible. Off-the-ball movement is also vital, as is the timing of the runs and crosses, and we want to see players making quality finishes with both feet and head.
Tactically, we want to see players creating plenty of scoring chances and demonstrating that they can drive with the ball into the opposition box.
We want to see players passing crisply and cleanly with the ball on the ground and varying the delivery of attacking crosses by using pull-backs, driven low crosses and deeper crosses in the air.
What are the typical mistakes players might make and how do I avoid them?
We sometimes see players waiting on the ball and being too static when we want to see them making effective off-the-ball movements.
Another typical mistake players make is that they can occupy space too soon, when they need to demonstrate well-timed runs.
Players also sometimes lose focus when it comes to the second ball and we need to make them understand that they should react quickly to these second ball chances when the opportunities arise.