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Pressing Issue

I’m a massive fan of possession type games in training.  All my teams over the years have been drilled with hearing, ‘KEEP IT’, ‘KEEP IT’, from me which relates to keeping control of the ball.  Keeping possession of the ball insures you keep control of the game.  This obviously leads you along the way to winning games by adding creativity in the final third & of course scoring!

Communicate to work as a team to press or screen

Although at a recent session of mine I had a player scream with frustration to his team mates to ‘press’.  The other team were keeping the ball so well but his team didn’t work as a unit.  While he was closing down players his team mates were not.  This made it easy for the team in possession but very frustrating for the player working so hard on his own!

I love asking my players open questions to get them thinking.  The age group varies from 11-13.  I asked the player what the problem was.  He answered correctly by informing the group that he was pressing the ball while his team didn’t.  With this in mind the following week I planned a session around it.

I love my teams to play with speed so I not only wanted to create a session that encouraged teams when to press or screen but if they were to win the ball encourage a point of attack developing to counter attacking.  One of the best examples in the Premiership is Manchester United that attack at such speed.  They win the ball & look to hurt & punish teams on the counter attack.  With the speed of the attacking players in front of the defence from Ashley Young, Nani, Cleverley, Rooney & Hernandez along with the pace of Evra & Fabio can rip teams apart.  So I wanted to add this into my session.

Warm Up

As my players arrive they each get a ball & go for a dribble.  They perform tricks, turns & juggle the ball.  This is their time to get warmed up & have a chat with their team mates.  I often then do group keepie up challenges & some 3 v 1 keep ball.  To lift the intensity we had a quick game of dribbling tag…

Dribbling Tag

Dribbling Tag

Emphasis

Fun dribbling warm up played like ‘TIG’.

Set-Up

Use cones to mark out a 20 x 20 yard area. Everyone has a ball. The person who is ‘IT’ carries a bib.

Objectives

The player who is ‘IT’ has to carry a bib & dribble their ball to try & catch someone as quickly as possible.

For younger players call the person who is ‘IT’, ‘TIGO’ (pronounce it T-GO.) I find it adds to the fun & banter!

Other players should avoid ‘TIGO’ & perform skills to get away from them. If ‘TIGO’ catches someone they simply pass the bib to them to carry & the game continues.

Progressions

  1. Make more than one person ‘TIGO’.

Coaching

  • Dribbling skills.
  • Turns & tricks.
  • Keep head up.
  • Awareness.
  • Attack space.
  • Change of speed.
After some stretching, water break & Speed, Agility & Quickness we got straight into the main session.  I always like to break sessions down, especially when working with children.  You can get the key message across then build the session up.  It is essential as coaches that we build & develop a session smoothly.  There is nothing worse than a session that jumps from one thing to another.  Pick your topic & build it up.
Press or Screen

I wanted to work on a session that allowed flexibility & communication for players to operate as a unit.  I wanted them to be disciplined.  A lot is made of Barcelona that they work to a strict 6 second transition game.  If they lose the ball they hunt in packs to win it back within 6 seconds.  If they fail to win the ball they retreat back into their positions & ask the opposing team to break them down.  They are disciplined & patient.
This game offers exactly that.  When to hold, screen to stop teams playing through the midfield unit & when to press & win the ball.  I was very pleased with the outcome.  Feel free to adapt.  I also carried the session out with 3 players across the middle…adapt to suit your system & players.

Press Or Screen

Press Or Screen

Emphasis

Decision making on when to win the ball & when to hold as a unit.

Set-Up

Set up a 20 x 15 yard area.  4 v 4 midfielders 5 yards apart with a forward centrally located outside the grid at either end.

Objectives

Object is to gain possession & pass the ball forward to forward before opposition.

Play starts with one group of midfielders simply passing the ball from right to left.

Progressions

  1. Vary the player who communicates in the centre.
  2. As the group develops make the area larger.
  3. Move the ball at different speeds & ask the attacking team to start switching, etc.

Coaching

  • Concentrate on closing down – ‘PRESS’.  When a player goes to win possession players around them close space – tuck in.  Don’t dive in!
  • Then, ‘SCREEN’.  Basically players don’t allow the ball to be played forward – looking over their shoulder to stop the ball being played to the target.  Adjust!
  • Keep shape, apply pressure while others react & drop off but cover space in behind.
  • Communication.
  • Nearest player pressures the ball.
  • On the call, ‘PRESS’, all players should look to win the ball off the opposition.
Develop

I wanted to develop the session & offer players more freedom but at the same time keep the intensity.   This next session helped keep it game related while setting targets & incentives to keep the ball & also to win the ball.  Again adapt the session to suit your team & requirements.  Possibly set a time limit to win the ball back?

Pass, Move & Support

Pass, Move & Support

Emphasis

Possession game with the focus on a switch of play.

Set-Up

Play takes place on a 60 x 40 yard grid which is split down the middle.

Objectives

6 v 5 in one half.  The team with 6 attackers look to keep possession.  The 5 defenders look to win the ball.

Attackers should pass the ball quickly & accurately amongst themselves, passing & moving as required.  On gaining possession the opponents should switch the ball to the awaiting player & move quickly into the other half to support them.

On loosing possession, 5 players should switch so that it is 6 v 5 again.  This will again leave 1 target player in the other half.

The player left on their own should always adjust their position so to make themselves available.

Offer a goal for set number of passes achieved.

Progressions

  1. Have 2 players wait in the other half to increase success of session, i.e. 6 v 4.
  2. Adjust size of grid to suit players ability.

Coaching

  • Work rate & movement on / off ball.
  • Quality passing.
  • Good support & angled runs.
  • Communication.
  • Speed of play.
  • Pressure.
Coaching in a Game…

The importance of taking everything from your session & applying it into a conditioned game is so important.  On a recent trip to Braga I watched this game with one of the youth teams.  I loved the concept.  It has everything that we are working to.  It also encourages the players never to give the ball away.  If they lose possession of the ball they lose their attack…they have to stop & watch the other team attack & then they have to defend the next time the ball comes into their half.

Regardless whether it is Northern Ireland, England, Portugal or Spain…players hate losing the ball!  One very talented kid was in a team that kept losing the ball.  You could see the frustration in him that his team mates continued to make mistakes.  Although I don’t speak Portuguese I had a very good idea what he was shouting at his team mates when they lost possession of the ball!!

As you develop this game you can then allow the team that lost possession to gain it back before the other team leaves the half.  This keeps it very game realistic & players working very hard in possession of the ball & without.

Braga’s Concentration Of Transition

Braga's Concentration of Transition

Emphasis

To win ball & counter attack at speed.

Set-Up

Play takes place on half a pitch with 2 full size goals & the pitch split in half by cones.

A supply of balls are placed in each goal with a keeper at either end.  Organise 3 teams of 6.  A team of white is in one half with 6 red v 6 yellow in the other half.

Objectives

Red attack yellow.  If yellow gain possession of the ball the red team stop while the yellow team attack the white team in the other half.

Teams continue to attack until they lose the ball.

The session is based around transition.

Progressions

  1. The team that loses possession can try to regain the ball before it leaves their half.

Coaching

Trying to win possession;

  • Concentrate on closing down – ‘PRESS’.  When a player goes to win possession players around them close space – tuck in.  Don’t dive in!
  • Keep shape, apply pressure while others react & drop off but cover space in behind.
  • Communication.
  • Nearest player pressures the ball.
  • On the call, ‘PRESS’, all players should look to win the ball off the opposition.
  • Recovery run.

In possession;

  • Break & attack at speed.
  • Quality passing – weight & accuracy.
  • Decision making.
  • Support play.
  • Work rate on / off ball.
  • Receive ball side on.
  • Head up.
  • Play simple pass or run with ball.
  • Look for space.
  • Use of width & depth.

Cool Down & Debrief…

I always have one of my players organise a cool down from the previous week so they lead their team mates at the end of each session.  This offers them confidence & a feel of leadership.  We then discuss the main points from the session.  Of course before we start the cool down I always offer the players time to play a normal game with no conditions.

Coaches, always adapt.  My diagrams above will show a certain amount of players but if you don’t have enough – adapt!  Adjust the size of the pitch too.  Insure your players enjoy the training but demand a lot of hard work from them at the same time.

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