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


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


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.


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


  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.


  • 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


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


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.


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!


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


  • 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


Attacking play through encouraging width & support from full backs.


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.


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.


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


  • 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


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


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.


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.


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


  • 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.

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