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Passing Sequences & Movement Off The Ball

Sundays Academy session concentrated heavily on passing sequences & movement off the ball.  It was a nice session that developed well from the typical drills to offering players a bit more freedom & creativity to develop passing combinations & support play.  We used Barcelona as a prime example.  Their build up play can be patient then all of a sudden carve a team open.  Short passing through likes of Xavi or Iniesta then the through ball to Messi.

As always we filmed the session.  I was happy with everything up to my possession game.  The idea of the possession game was to take the idea of the passing short & keeping possession to a set number of passes before switching the ball to another grid.  I must admit I didn’t get the results from it that I intended but as coaches it is important to realise this & adapt.  Either by making a change to the game or simply bin the idea!  Never continually force the players to do something that is not achieving what you have set out to do.  I quickly assessed this & knew it was time to switch the session.  My Academy assistant had the next stage of the session set up & transferred the players over.

Warm up…

Control Game With Keepers

Control Game With Keepers

Emphasis

Passing, control / first touch, communication & catching for goalkeeper.

Set-Up

Players spread out around half a pitch in a circle.  All players on the outside have a ball.  One outfield player works inside the circle without a ball & with a goalkeeper.

Objectives

In turn outfield players drive the ball in toward the middle player.  They must control for the keeper to combine & catch.  For each successful touch by the outfield player & catch by the keeper they receive a point.

Keeper should throw the ball back to the server.

Progressions

  1. Rotate outfield player in centre.
  2. Operate as a competition.
  3. Set a time limit.
  4. Vary the service.
  5. Limit the outfield player in the centre to one touch.
  6. Condition what part of the body they must use.
  7. Get the inside player to work the keeper by not offering them ‘presents’.  Make them work to catch the ball.

Coaching

  • Quality passing from servers.
  • Good first touch.
  • Communication.
  • Catching technique.
  • Distribution.

Again we operated with a few variations.  We started with the player in the middle taking turn to rotate with outside player while juggling the ball.  This developed to adding 2 players to take it in turn to remain in the middle of the circle to combine together.  This is ideal to work with an outfield player & goalkeeper.

The Technical Bit…

We then got players to work in groups of 3 with 2 balls.  This was to get their footwork & passing going to a nice high tempo.  Nice session to improve peripheral vision & of course when we talk about that the player that springs to mind is Paul Scholes.  Did you know he used to do a warm up with his eyes before every match?!

The Paul Scholes Passing Session

The Paul Scholes Passing Session

Emphasis

Paul Scholes of Manchester United is renowned for his vision.  His ability of passing the ball over 40 yards at ease is superb to watch.  What makes Paul Scholes a world class player is his vision.

This session is perfect to improve your players’ peripheral vision.  This is a part of vision that occurs outside the very centre of gaze.

Set-Up

3 players stand in a triangle.  The player at the top of the triangle stands in between the 2 players with the ball.

You can use cones if necessary.

Objectives

The players with a ball, in turn, pass to the target.  They must pass the ball across the targets body so they pass back with the inside of their foot.

The target player works both feet but should stand with open body looking straight down the middle of the facing players.  They should look to play one touch & increase the speed of play.

The player at the top of the triangle works for 30 seconds – 1 minute then changes.

Progressions

  1. Instead of letting the ball come across your body & passing with the inside of your foot, vary to pass near side & with the outside of your foot.
  2. Increase / decrease distance between players.

Coaching

  • Stand open body.
  • Weight & accuracy of pass.
  • First touch.
  • Peripheral vision.
  • Communication & understanding.

This then led in nicely to our passing drill.  When you watch the video you will see I had 2 grids set up to suit my group size.  This also formed the basis for my development in the Barca Passing Sequence before using the set up for the final possession game.  Use your set up wisely.  No waiting about for players & it doesn’t put you under pressure either!

Passing Drill

Passing Drill

Emphasis

Pass, move & support session.

Set-Up

20 x 20 yard grid with 2 players & one ball at one corner & then another player at each corner.

Objectives

Player passes to next corner & follows their pass for lay off & return the pass, one-two.

Progressions

  1. Change of direction to use other foot.
  2. Skip out the return pass & play direct to the next corner, i.e. play ‘give & go’.  (See diagram.)

Coaching

  • Good passing.
  • First touch & lay off.
  • Movement, don’t wait on pass.
  • Timing & weight of pass.
  • Communication.

This is what I call my boring passing drill.  It simply was to get the players used to playing the ball…also checking before receiving & some basic combinations like ’1-2′s’ & ‘give-&-gos’.  This developed on to the next development that allowed the players a bit more freedom.

Barca Passing Sequence

Barca Passing Sequence

Emphasis

Emphasis is based on pass & move that the great Barcelona demonstrate with the likes of Iniesta, Xavi & Messi.  Looking for the short pass, short pass then killer through ball.

Set-Up

Set up as per diagram, 2 cones facing each other approx 20 yards apart.  Have a supply of balls at either end.

Objectives

First passing sequence with the red players;

  • Player A makes the first pass to player B who has checked & moved away.
  • Player B then lays the ball off to player C.
  • Player A then over laps player B to receive the pass in space from player C.
  • Player A then passes to player D.
  • Player D operates the same sequence but as a mirror image.

Second passing sequence with the yellow players;

  • Player A makes the first pass to player B who has checked & moved away.  Player A then follows their pass.
  • Player B then lays the ball off to player C.
  • Player B then over laps player C to receive the pass in space from player A.
  • Player B then passes to player D.
  • Player D operates the same sequence but as a mirror image.

Progressions

  1. Vary distance & technique of pass.
  2. Look at creating different passing movements.
  3. Finish with a shot at goal.

Coaching

  • Communication & understanding.  Player should shout, ‘set’.
  • Players should use 1 or 2 touches only & use both feet.
  • Play ‘side on’.
  • Movement on / off ball.
  • Speed of play.
  • Quality passing, weight & accuracy.

Really happy with the session & players find it easy to identify by using pro players / teams to explain.  How many times do you see Xavi, Iniesta & Messi combine like this?  To finish of my part of the academy session I took everything that we had worked with into a possession game focusing on switching the ball.

The Tactical Bit…

Break Out Game

Break Out Game

Emphasis

Possession game encouraging movement off the ball & support play.

Set-Up

Session takes place in a 50 x 20 yard area.  3 sections are divided inside this area.  First section is 20 x 20, second section is 10 x 20 & third section is 20 x 20.

Objectives

Play takes place in the first section with a 5 v 2 possession game.  After set number of passes have been reached the ball should be passed into section 2 for a team mate to run onto.

They then pass & link up in section 3 to continue the possession game of 5 v 2.

For each successful attack the attackers receive a goal.  If the defenders should win possession they receive a goal for 3 consecutive passes.

Progressions

  1. Rotate players roles.
  2. 1 or 2 touch passing.
  3. Ball must be chipped into area 2.
  4. Extra players introduced.
  5. Area made smaller to demand better control & movement.

Coaching

  • Work rate on / off ball.
  • Quality passing.
  • Look for space.
  • Width & support.
  • Look to switch.
  • Communication & understanding.

With being a player short I operated 4 v 2 in each end zone.  Although this offered no real incentive for the defending team.  I adapted the game so we had 3 teams, i.e. 3 teams of 4 players.  The focus was still on 4 v 2 in each end zone.  If the orange team kept the ball for 5 passes in their zone they would transfer the ball to the yellow team in the other end zone to do the same.  If the 2 players from the blue team won the ball from the yellows the other 2 blue players would switch from the other end zone to join them while 2 yellow players would switch grids, i.e. it was the yellow team trying to win the ball back as their punishment while the blue team tried to complete 5 passes before combining with the orange team.

The players found this quite confusing & as I was not getting the results I wanted from the game I decided to finish this part of the session early.  As coaches never be afraid to change or move on.  Don’t force players to continually do something that no one is benefiting from!  My Academy assistant was then ready to transfer the players over to work on playing through the midfield.  We then finished with some free play.

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.

Let me know how you get on if you use with your own team.  Always feel free to re-post & share as long as you link back to my blog.

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