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Possession

Last Sunday I concentrated heavily on ball retention at my Academy.  The session had a mix of ball mastery, 1 v 1 duels developing nicely to 3 v 1.  Progressions challenged the players but still remained on topic.  You’ll see from the video footage that the set up meant no standing about for the players.  They moved from one session to the next.  Very happy with the session.

The other nice thing about filming the sessions, apart from sharing with you, is that I can review my own session & player performance.  When watching back at the 3 v 1 session I was not happy with the tempo…as I walked around other grids offering coaching points one or two players got lazy in the grid I had started with – the camera never misses a thing!  While I edit the videos to share the session plans I think I’ll not edit the videos so players can watch their performance.  This is perfect to increase their performance & decision making.

Warm Up…

Barca Keepie Ups

Barca Keepie Ups

Emphasis

Fun game for players to ‘show off’ their juggling skills!

Set-Up

Split players into groups.  They make a circle & join hands.  One ball per group.  Mark out an area using cones where groups have to start from & finish.

Objectives

Groups must perform keepie ups & move from one side of the area to the other.  They can then race back to the starting point.

The ball must be kept off the ground while performing keepie ups between each other.

Progressions

  1. Rather than move from one side of the coaching area to the other have groups perform in the same area joining hands.  If a player mis controls they leave the circle.  Play until there is a winner.

Coaching

  • Be confident & comfortable on the ball.
  • Keep body relaxed.
  • Keep eye on the ball.
  • Good control over ball.
  • Communication.

You’ll see from the video we operated 2 variations.  One where the players stand stationary joining hands then develop to moving with the ball.  This is something we will operate on near a weekly basis to improve their juggling & ball control.  Don’t be put off doing these type of games from a young age…you will see improvement on a week to week basis!

The Technical Bit…

My Academy Assistant, Lee Hodge, then performed an excellent ball mastery & passing session.  Watch the ball skills session here & his passing session here.

To increase the tempo we developed to a fun 1 v 1 session that I call Power Ball after the Gladiator game.

Power Ball!

Power Ball!

Emphasis

Like the Gladiators game but instead of carrying the ball & throwing into baskets, players dribble the ball & try to shoot them into mini goals.

The emphasis is on 1 v 1 defending.

Set-Up

The game takes place inside a 30 x 30 yard grid with 6 mini goals placed equally around the outside.  You can adapt the size of the pitch to suit your group.

A large supply of balls is placed inside a small square in the middle of the grid.

Objectives

Two equal teams compete to concede the least amount of goals.

One team play as forwards & continually dribble balls out of the central area aiming to beat the defenders & score.

Defenders must try & stop the attackers.  The session starts with as many balls as possible & in a 1 v 1 environment.

Once it gets down to the last couple of balls the attackers look to combine.  Defenders must also operate as a unit.

Teams change roles for the next game.

Progressions

  1. Players changes roles.
  2. Attackers can change point of attack & dribble towards another goal to see how defender adapts.
  3. Defenders protect one goal so must communicate to pass attackers on to a team mate.  This will help improve communication, understanding, balance & covering.

Coaching

For defenders;

  • Deny time & space for opponents.
  • Pressure first touch.
  • Close down space quickly.
  • Jockey opponents.
  • Force player wide – away from goal.
  • Tackle opponent correctly – not from behind, make contact with ball & ensure correct timing.
  • Don’t go to ground unless the ball is played to a team mate or out of play.
  • Balance & covering.
  • Defending as a unit.
  • When to mark – when to drop off.
  • Showing a player inside – outside.

For attackers;

  • Speed of play – run at the defenders.
  • Turns & skills.
  • Good close control of the ball.
  • Decision making.
  • Quality finishing.
  • Be confident & direct.
  • Follow in shots.

The boys automatically looked to combine with each other in the last game of Power Ball so the overall session developed well with the introduction of 3 v 1.  I had set up four 10 x 10 yard grids with a 5 yard safety area between each.  This offered a perfect 25 x 25 yard pitch for Power Ball then the 4 grids were set up to walk in to.  This is an important factor as coaches…prepare your set up wisely as players hate standing about!

3 V 1

3 V 1

Emphasis

Keep the ball, movement off the ball.

Set-Up

3 attackers play against 1 defender in a 10 x 10 yard grid.

Objectives

Attackers try to keep the ball from the defender for as long as possible. When attacker is dispossessed they replace the defender or have everyone take a go & play a set time.

Progressions

  1. Larger / smaller area depending on ability.
  2. Record set number of passes without interception & compare with other groups.

Coaching

  • Interpassing within a triangle shape.
  • First touch on the ball.
  • Support movement.
  • Quality passing.
  • Communication.

It is essential to develop & challenge the players while keeping a similar feel to each session.  I loved the idea of adding a triangle in the middle to challenge the players work rate & movement on & off the ball while making supporting runs for each other & playing that great through ball.

Movement ‘Off The Ball’ In A Passing & Support Game

Movement 'Off The Ball' In A Passing & Support Game

Emphasis

Focus on improving movement ‘off’ the ball.  Session to work on passing, movement off the ball, fitness & looking for the penetrating pass.

Set-Up

Play takes place in a 15 x 15 yard area with a 4 yard equilateral triangle in the middle made up of cones.  There are 5 players in the activity with one being a defender & the other four being on offense.

Objectives

The 4 players try to maintain possession while also looking to score goals by playing the ball through the triangle to their team mates.  The defender is NOT allowed inside the triangle so they must be constantly working their way around the triangle trying to cut of the penetrating passes.

What makes this such an interesting activity is the required movement off the ball by the offensive players.  On every pass they are moving in order to get into a better position to either make a penetrating pass or receive one.

Play this game for a 5 minute period with each player having a one minute turn in defence.  It gets the players working hard, thinking & competing while having fun trying to beat their team mates.  The player who gives up the fewest number of goals in defence wins.

There is a tendency in this game for the offensive players to get to close to the triangle which takes away the passing angles.  This is easy to correct & is a good learning opportunity for the players.

Progressions

  1. Change to 4 v 2, or 2 v 2 v 2.  Keep the overload initially until players get good at this before you move on.  Experiment with numbers increasing the difficulty of the session as you go.

Coaching

  • Creating space for yourself or for a team mate by movement off the ball.
  • Quality of passing (weight, accuracy & timing.)
  • Quality of control & first touch.
  • Effective maintenance of possession,
  • Communication.

The Tactical Bit…

Now we wanted to take what the players had worked on & develop it into a tactical game then some small sided games focusing on ball retention with good movement off the ball.  This then assisted in better 1 v 1′s, passing & all the other components we wanted like support, depth & penetration.

Target Passing & Possession Game

Target Passing & Possession Game

Emphasis

Passing & possession game to play to target player.

Set-Up

Play takes place inside a 35 x 35 yard area with a smaller 6 x 6 yard square in the centre.

Objectives

The 5 yellow players pass the ball & look to keep possession from the 3 red players.  The object is to pass the ball to the 2 yellow players inside the square.

The 3 defenders work as a unit to stop the attacking players passing to the smaller square.

Apart from the 2 players inside the square, no one is allowed to enter the smaller area.

Progressions

  1. If the defenders win the ball offer them a goal for set number of passes that they retain possession.
  2. Players inside the smaller square follow their pass out of the square & the player making the pass replaces them.
  3. Play 4 v 4 with both teams looking to play the ball into the smaller square to the target players.

Coaching

  • Keep possession – be patient.
  • Pass & move.
  • Good supporting angles.
  • Work rate & movement on / off the ball.
  • Communication.
  • For defenders look to press.
  • Intercept / block passes.
  • Anticipate.

The players really got the concept & played some terrific football.  With having the 6 small goals still placed around the outside we developed the game & set a challenge for each team.  As you can see from the video the orange team had to pass to their play maker & then he was able to accelerate out of the central area & combine to score in any 1 of the 6 goals.  If the yellow team gained possession they could attack & score in any of the goals.

I always want the players to take that focus into small sided games.  I also feel after 75 minutes of listening to us coaches it’s important for them to have some free time to simply play.  We will on occasion offer coaching points & communicate with players but generally we let the game be the teacher & offer them some free time.

The 4 Goal Game was great as it worked on all aspects & switching.  The Real Madrid game is one of my favourite small sided games along with the players!

Small Sided Games…

4 Goal Game Encouraging Switching Of Play & Width

4 Goal Game Encouraging Switching Of Play & Width

Emphasis

To improve width, support & switching of play.

Set-Up

20 x 30 yard pitch with 4 mini goals placed in each corner of each wing.

Have a supply of balls in each goal.

Objectives

Players are encouraged to switch the point of attack from one side of the pitch to the other.

Don’t force play, if one goal is well defended look to switch at speed & attack the other goal.

Progressions

  1. Adapt the size of the pitch to suit the ability of the group.
  2. Introduce a neutral player.

Coaching

Attacking

  • Relaxed on ball.
  • Quality dribbling, skills & turns.
  • Quality passing – correct weight & accuracy.  Vary passing, pass into space.
  • Angle of pass.
  • Attack at speed.
  • Don’t force – look to switch.
  • Use the width.
  • Good technique.
  • Work rate & movement on / off ball.
  • Decision making.
  • Communication & understanding.

Defending

  • Win the ball back as quickly as possible.
  • Work as unit – offer cover in the space behind.
  • Look to close the player down but don’t dive in.
  • Look to close the space & hunt in packs forcing the attacking team into errors.

The Real Madrid Game

The Real Madrid Game

Emphasis

Excellent game encouraging players to go wide.

Set-Up

40 x 25 yard pitch with 2 mini soccer goals.  4 v 4 is played with goalkeepers being an added option.

The 2 mini soccer goals are placed in the centre of the pitch, back to back.

Have a supply of balls in either goal & around the perimeter.

Objectives

The big difference with this game is that the goals are positioned in the centre of the pitch, back to back.

One team defends the goal that is facing south & score in the goal facing north.  The other team do the opposite.

You must have at least one player in each half at all times & you can’t kick the ball over the goals into the other half.  The ball must be played around the goals.

The game encourages players to take up wide positions to get around the goals.  Players naturally form into a diamond shape with two players going wide, one attacking & one playing out from the back.

The game also encourages playing from the back as the keeper can’t kick it long over the goals.  Also, with the unusual pitch lay out & goal positions it really makes the players think.

Progressions

  1. Introduce more players.

Coaching

  • React quickly when your team first attacks & look to get an early shot at goal.
  • Always follow in for rebounds.
  • Shooting technique.
  • Shape – width.
  • Diamond shape.
  • Play from the back.
  • Concentration, vision & insight.
  • Team work.
  • Understanding.
  • Communication.

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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  1. [...] Tim had a good session plan for working on Possession.  I think I will use the Four Goal Game and the Real Madrid game from this session with my U8 team [...]

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