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Possession With A Focus On Width

UEFA A Licence Coach, Tim Wareing, operates his Academy in Belfast.  The ex Academy Director of Irish League side, Lisburn Distillery, shares his latest elite session with The Soccer Store.  All the equipment that Tim uses can be purchased direct from The Soccer Store.

As soon as the players report in for training they each get a football.  The first 10 minutes is for them to juggle the ball, dribble & perform skills.  It also offers time for them to catch up with team mates.  The Academy is open to all players & many will play for different clubs across Northern Ireland.  After this period I will come in & increase the tempo.  On Sunday I put them through the ‘Ronaldo 7′ which is a series of 7 skills performed stationary with the ball.  We then played a game of ‘Every Man For Themselves’.  Simply half the boys will have balls to dribble & protect while the other half attempt to steal & keep.  This insures maximum exposure with the ball & increases the tempo.  After some stretches & water the players went through S.A.Q. (Speed, Agility & Quickness training using speed ladder, hurdles & hoops) before I progressed the session.

I wanted to keep the high tempo but at the same time recreate game like scenarios.  The below session comes from the outspoken Dutch man, Raymond Verheijen, who is a master on periodisation training.  Many of my sessions will focus on possession type games.

5 V 2 Periodisation Game

5 v 2 Periodisation Game

Emphasis

Ball possession based around periodisation.  Overload then build up to 5 v 5.

Set-Up

Session takes place on a 20 x 20 yard area.  5 attackers v 2 defenders.  Have 3 players waiting to be fed into session to build up to 5 v 5.  The coach should have a supply of balls to keep the game moving.

Objectives

Simple possession game where players develop their skills of passing & supporting each other.  Players in possession should try to pass to teammates.

Simple, early passes should be delivered & after having delivered the pass, players should adjust their positions so as to receive a return pass if necessary.

The team that starts with 2 players receive an additional player every 30 seconds.  The coach lets them know when to join in every 30 seconds as follows;

0.00 – 5 v 2 (2 touch)

0.30 – 5 v 3 (3 touch)

1.00 – 5 v 4

1.30 – 5 v 5

Progressions

  1. Set target of passes to be awarded a goal.
  2. One / two touch play.
  3. Add target players on the outside of the grid.
  4. Rotate groups to suit squad size, i.e. 3 groups of 5, work 2 & rest 1.

Coaching

  • Movement on / off ball.
  • Work rate on / off ball.
  • Create angles.
  • Protect ball.
  • Communication.
  • Quality passing.
  • Positioning.
  • Passing combinations.

Another important factor to remember is to keep a similar theme to your session so you build it up nicely & each session relates to the last one.  To develop I focused on a session I viewed from Arsenal Football Club.  This starts to add a bit more shape & encourages the central players to be the playmakers linking in with the wall players.  You can offer an opportunity for all players to sample each role or if you have an established team or working with an adult team simply play each player in their position.

Arsenal’s 6 V 4 + 2

Arsenal's 6 v 4 + 2

Emphasis

Keep ball game with play makers linking with wall players.

Set-Up

Session takes place in a 30 x 25 yard grid with a supply of balls on the outside.

Full build up with 12 players involved.  Positional game with 6 outfield players, 2 midfielders in the middle against the 4 defenders, represents a real game-like environment.

Objectives

6 wall players look to keep the ball through linking with the floaters (play makers) in the middle.

Encourage your players to think about the set up.  From the bottom of the diagram to the top you can see the basic formation of left back, centre back & right back.  In front of them left & right winger with forward at the top…playmaker / centre midfielders working to link all in the middle.

Keep score.  1 point for 5 successful passes, bonus 2 points for a split pass made between the defenders & 5 bonus points for a nutmeg.

Likewise, if the defenders win the ball they get a point.  If they keep it for 5 successful passes in the middle they get a bonus point & the same points for a nutmeg!

Progressions

  1. Change players roles throughout.
  2. Limit outside players to 2 touch.
  3. Floaters in middle only allowed 1 touch.
  4. Change scoring system.

Coaching

  • Work rate on / off ball.
  • Movement on / off ball.
  • Communication.
  • Quality passing.
  • Passing combination.
  • Use the whole area.
  • Shape.
  • Positioning.
  • Losing the defender.
  • Receiving the ball side on.
  • Defenders should stay compact – play in a diamond shape.  They should play pressure, 2 support players & a cover man (sweeper).

The goal of my session was to build into a game.  The game below works perfect as it keeps the theme of possession going but encourages width.  As always don’t get too caught up in the training game.  For example, although you want to encourage the ball to go wide if the ball is played through the centre encourage the forward player to have an attempt at goal rather than always going wide to the winger.

Wingers Game

Wingers Game

Emphasis

Encouraging attacking play through the wings.

Set-Up

Play takes place on half a pitch with 2 full size goals & goalkeepers.  A channel is marked out with cones on either wing & separated in two.  Also divide the pitch in two.

Play 3 v 2 in either half (+ goalkeeper).  4 wide players are positioned in the channels, 2 playing in the attacking half for each team.

Objectives

The objective is to play the ball from the back, where the 3 defenders should have comfortable possession against the 2 attackers.

The ball should be played to one of the forwards who passes wide to one of the unmarked wingers.  The cross is then delivered to the 2 forwards who look to finish at goal.

Progressions

  1. A defender can join the attack along with the other winger being allowed to leave their zone & come into the central area.
  2. Change roles.

Coaching

  • Quality of crosses.
  • Movement of forwards.
  • Movement – check run, make space in front to receive.
  • Technique – stop just before receiving the ball.
  • Strength – shield the ball from the defender.
  • Awareness.
  • Quality passing.
  • Timing of run.
  • Quality finishing.
  • Communication.

The football played was terrific.  I always allow the players their own time at the end to play a game with no restrictions.  It was encouraging to see the main points we worked on carried out.  Some of the football was a joy to watch.

Another important factor is to be flexible in your sessions.  I had no goalkeepers present so used 4 mini goals (2 either end) & positioned them 5 yards in from each touchline.  This again reinforced width & switching.  Likewise adapt to suit the players you have in.  Although the above game is based on 14 outfield players I only had 12 present.  I simply played with 1 wide player on each wing who played as a neutral player.

Enjoy the session & let us know how you found it!

Periodisation, Possession & Switching Play

Sundays Academy session was influenced by Raymond Verheije (current periodisation coach for Russia) & notes I’d found on some session plans from Jose Mourinho.  I adapted them to suit my group & to keep the session along the same feel so it had natural progressions.  The players enjoyed & responded well to the session.  It challenged them which is always the outcome we want as coaches for them to problem solve.  The quality improved as the session developed.

We always have to remember we are coaches & we need to plan a session but also have the freedom to change or develop where need be.  At this time of year it is difficult to establish how many players I will have to work with.  This sometimes bugs the life out of some coaches but we should be able to adapt.  Always remember the fun stories of Paul Cooper (from GUBOG) when he told us about the coach that had the 12 players for his session then little Jimmy walks over the hill & he is pulling his hair out as he is ‘one player over’.  Crazy.  The session plans I will share with you below allow many changes from playing 5 v 5 to 8 v 8 in sessions to adding a neutral player in the session.  Always adapt.  For the record I had 15 players in.

After my initial warm up of dribbling & ball familiarisation exercises we performed a series of group juggling games.  The first 20 minutes is light & allows players to loosen up which is important as they are different ages & have different needs.  Some have also started the pre-historic ‘pre’ pre-season sessions of 3 hours of physical abuse!  So we have to be careful.

5 V 2 Periodisation Game

5 v 2 Periodisation Game

Emphasis

Ball possession based around periodisation.  Overload then build up to 5 v 5.

Set-Up

Session takes place on a 20 x 20 yard area.  5 attackers v 2 defenders.  Have 3 players waiting to be fed into session to build up to 5 v 5.  The coach should have a supply of balls to keep the game moving.

Objectives

Simple possession game where players develop their skills of passing & supporting each other.  Players in possession should try to pass to teammates.

Simple, early passes should be delivered & after having delivered the pass, players should adjust their positions so as to receive a return pass if necessary.

The team that starts with 2 players receive an additional player every 30 seconds.  The coach lets them know when to join in every 30 seconds as follows;

0.00 – 5 v 2 (2 touch)

0.30 – 5 v 3 (3 touch)

1.00 – 5 v 4

1.30 – 5 v 5

Progressions

  1. Set target of passes to be awarded a goal.
  2. One / two touch play.
  3. Add target players on the outside of the grid.
  4. Rotate groups to suit squad size, i.e. 3 groups of 5, work 2 & rest 1.

Coaching

  • Movement on / off ball.
  • Work rate on / off ball.
  • Create angles.
  • Protect ball.
  • Communication.
  • Quality passing.
  • Positioning.
  • Passing combinations.

This was a nice session & due to timing the session we worked in periods of 2 minutes with recovery.  Quality rather than quantity.  We started with an overload 5 v 2.  The first group was slow to get going as their decision making & poor movement off the ball to create an angle for team mates was lacking.  With having 3 groups of 5 players there was opportunity to work 2, rest 1 & the quality improved second time round.  The group that wasn’t involved worked with my assistant 3 v 2.

I always like to have my coaching area set up so there is no waiting for the players.  The first 2 parts of my session worked easily in a 20 x 20 yard area in one of the corners of my 40 x 30 yard pitch.  After concentrating on possession I wanted to continue the theme but encourage a point of attack along with the focus on switching.  This worked perfect.  With my group of 15 I had the option of playing with 10 (3 v 3 with 2 sets of outside players) & rest 5 players then rotate.  Rather than doing this I decided to adapt & play 5 v 5 in the middle with one neutral playing with team in possession.  They looked to combine & attack either side of the pitch to their wide man.  The person that made the pass to the side player replaced them keeping the game competitive & played to a high intensity.

3 V 3 Playing To End Lines

3 v 3 Playing To End Lines

Emphasis

Possession game focusing on shifting the point of attack & switching play.

Set-Up

Vary the size of the grid to suit your players & what you want from the session.  Larger grid offers further distance for players to cover but smaller sized grid offers less space for turning & keeps the session game realistic.  Players have less time on the ball & will help decision making.

I’ve carried this session out in a 20 x 20 yard grid.  The players have to play quick & always look over their shoulder before receiving!

Have a supply of balls with the players on the outside to keep a high tempo to the session.

Objectives

Team that has the ball tries to keep possession by playing from one side of the pitch to the other.

A point is awarded for each successful pass to an outside player then switch to other side.  Teams can play off same side to keep possession but are only awarded a point for each successful switch.

Keep score to add a competitive side to the game.

Develop so player that passes to outside player replaces them – always rotate!

Progressions

  1. Increase / decrease size of grid.
  2. Limit touches.
  3. Change scoring to encourage passing sequence or certain passage of play.

Coaching

  • Movement.
  • Quick combination play.
  • Change of direction with the ball.
  • Communication.
  • Support play.
  • Decision making.

This was carried out to a very high standard & I was extremely happy with the quality of play.  I wanted to build & progress this along with focusing on the killer pass.  I still wanted to continue the theme of width but wanted to see the ball played into an attacking area that focused on the weight & timing of pass & run.

Switching Point Of Attack Encouraging Width Through Full Backs

Switching Point Of Attack Encouraging Width Through Full backs

Emphasis

Attacking play through encouraging width & support from full backs.

Set-Up

40 x 30 yard pitch, with 5 yard end zone at either end & 5 yard channel for full backs to operate in.

5 v 5 is played in middle with a neutral full back on either channel.

Have a supply of balls around the perimeter of the pitch.

Objectives

5 v 5 is played in the main playing area with 2 unopposed full backs in either channel that are neutral & play with the team in possession.

Score by playing the ball into the scoring zone, player must not arrive before the ball but must time their run to control in end zone.

Attack either end & use either full back to keep possession & encourage width.

Progressions

  1. Rotate players roles.
  2. Restrict touches for full backs.
  3. Add a neutral player in the main playing zone.

Coaching

  • Forward runs.
  • Timing of runs.
  • Create space.
  • Quality passing – weight & accuracy + forward pass.
  • Movement & work rate on / off ball.
  • Decision making.
  • Combination passing.
  • Communication & understanding.

Again I adapted to suit my group size.  I played 6 v 6 in the middle zone along with a neutral player.  With adding the neutral full backs on either side this offered all 15 players involved.  1 or 2 players struggled with the timing of their runs at the start.  For example they arrived into the scoring zone before the ball.  I wanted to keep the session game realistic so added the off side rule for any player arriving into the end zone before the ball.  Again I was happy with how the players performed.  Only on a few occasions did I decide to stop the play to really get across my coaching point.  In most cases it was due to giving away possession too easy through making a difficult pass when a better option was on, i.e. the full back or playing back & starting again.

As always I wanted to take the technical & theme based session into a tactical game.  The introduction of 6 small sided goals still offered the focus on switching play & the players enjoyed finishing with a game.  This also offers players an opportunity to problem solve themselves without a coach going in & stopping it every few minutes.

8 V 8 Game With Focus On Width & 3 Goals

8 v 8 Game With Focus On Width & 3 Goals

Emphasis

8 v 8 game with focus on width & 3 goals.  Team shape & changing the point of attack encouraging play through full backs.

Set-Up

30 x 40 yard area.  8 v 8 + a neutral full back on either side of pitch.  3 mini goals are positioned on either side of the pitch.

Supply of balls spread around pitch & with coach.

Objectives

Each team has 3 goals to attack & 3 to defend.

Look to score in any 3 goals with support from fullback encouraging width & changing the point of attack.

Look for good rhythm in possession, when to switch & when not to.  Also when to penetrate & when to be patient.

Progressions

  1. Rotate players roles & organisation.
  2. To encourage sharper passing limit number of touches on ball.

Coaching

  • Width – look to switch (when & when not).
  • Use of full back.
  • Create attacking options.
  • Decision making.
  • Shape.
  • Work rate & movement on / off ball.
  • Quality passing & finishing – don’t force it.
  • Positional play.
  • Communication & understanding.

After the session we had a quick debrief & cool down.  Always ask your players open questions so they can start thinking for themselves rather than always offering the answers & solutions.  We need to create a new breed of young players that think for themselves & play with flair, creativity & freedom.

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.

Want more info?  You can access over 450 of my session plans by clicking here!  Follow me on Facebook, Twitter or You Tube

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.

Want more info?  You can access over 450 of my session plans by clicking here!  Follow me on Facebook, Twitter or You Tube

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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