All posts by Michael Saif

Breakout to Attack Rondo

By Matthew Carroll

The Breakout Rondo activity is a warm-up drill in which players focus on that moment of transition from a defensive posture to an offensive one. The speed of transition forces players to remain focused at all times and find/defend passing lanes in tight space.

Players form a rondo circle (5-8 players) with 1 player in the center. For every player on the inside another player stands 5 feet behind them, creating a larger outer circle.

The Breakout Rondo activity starts as a regular rondo with the rondo circle players passing among themselves, and the single defensive player in the middle attempting to win the ball back. When the single player is able to retrieve the ball their goal is to pass to one of their teammates on the outer circle.

If they complete their pass to the outer circle player, the player in the inner circle that was in front of the outer circle player is now in the middle of the rondo, the passer moves to the outer circle, and the outer circle moves into the inner circle. In doing so the defender in the middle must quickly transition from a defensive player to an offensive player seeking a pass to breakout out of the press.

The inner circle players transition from offensive to a defensive posture blocking passing lanes and opening their bodies up to get in position to check their shoulders to see both the ball and their assigned outer circle player. The outer circle players must transition from a defensive cover position to an offensive posture where they will need to receive a pass that breaks the inner circles lines.

Variations can be made to the number of players in the middle so that the players in the center of the rondo collaborate in breaking the press.

To add complexity to the two player variation additional passing patterns can be added such as the outer circle player who received the pass must then play to another outer circle player, and then both players involved go into the inner circle, both inner circle players go to the center of the rondo, and both defenders go to the outer circle.

By Matthew Carroll

Killer Pass Transitions

By Matthew Carroll

The purpose of the “Killer Pass Transitions” activity is to create a high tempo simulation of play just beyond, or just in the box, in which players use short passing to break the defensive line and create an opportunity on net.

One grid is established in the middle of the field. Grid size is determined by the number of players available. 3v3 grid should be around a 15×30. Depending on the age of the players the goals are placed 10-20 feet away from the long side of each grid. Players are divided into even teams (at least four), and placed on both ends of the short side of the grid (2 per side if there is four teams).

Two teams start inside of the grid, a coach then either rolls, passes, or throws a ball into the grid. The players must settle the ball and complete a set number of passes (normally 3) in order to leave the grid and take a shot on either goal. The final pass in the series can be a pass out of the grid, simulating a killer final pass towards goal.

If the shot is saved, both teams re-enter the grid and the goalie plays the ball into the grid to be played. If the shot is a miss that goes behind the net that player’s team is “off” and goes to the sideline to be replaced by a new team, and the coach restarts the activity by playing a ball in. If the goal is scored the scorer’s team stays on and the team that was scored on is replaced.

Game ends after a team scores a predetermined number of goals or the time limit is reached.

A number of factors can be changed based on skill level, age, number of players, etc. including:
Grid Size
Goal Distance/Size
Number of Players in Grid
Time Limit/# of Goals

The side in which players can score can be altered as well.

By Matthew Carroll

Transitional Possession Into the Attack

By Sean Pearson

Area: 36 x 40 yards
Time: 20mins
Players: 5v5+2

• To be compact while defending and then quickly spread out when possession is won
• To connect passes in a composed manner in a tight area in front of goal.

Set Up:
The playing area one large area with 4 goals, 1 in each corner. The team in possession I spreads out on the outside of the area with 2 CB’s, 2 Wingers and a striker, the 2 neutrals are always the CMs. The defending team stays compact and presses when appropriate as well as aiming to cut off passing lanes.

The team on the outside combines with the two neutrals to maintain possession they should move in accordance with their position. They are also allowed in the main area to receive a ball, however you they should mainly be on the outside so the team is spread out. The 2 CMs in the middle should always be at angles to one another and never be on the same horizontal or vertical line.

If the defending team wins possession they can go to any of the goals to score, the team on the outside must stop this by coming into the main area to compact the space around the ball. If they manage to win possession back they should transition back to being on the outside of the area.

If the defending team wins possession and scores, then the teams switch and they become the team on the outside looking to maintain possession.

• Team in possession can score with a number of passes
• Team in possession scores in a goal after a certain number of passes
• If you have an extra player on each team leave one player in the middle to be an extra CM

By Sean Pearson. Sean is also the author Coaching Team Shape in the 3-3-1, Coaching Team Shape in the 4-2-3-1 and Coaching Team Shape in the 4-3-3

6v3 Possession and Transition

By Sean Reed –

This is a session that focus’s on possession with an overload and the transition in gaining and losing possession.

Set Up – Possession
The session is set up within an area approx 15-20yds x 15-20yds. The game is set up as a 6v3. The ball will always start with the team with the greater number. The objective for the team in possession is to maintain possession without the opposition getting contact on the ball or forcing a mistake. The objective for the team out of possession is to force as many mistakes or getting a touch on the ball as possible with the allocated time.
The length of time can be dependent on the physical outcome and the decision of the coach. See Diagram 1

• Restrictions on the number of touches
• Number of consecutive passes will provide an extra goal

Set Up – Possession with Transition
The session is set up as within the previous session. Within this session the objective for the team defending is to win possession either by gaining possession or forcing the team in possession to put the ball out of the area, which would then see the ball played to the team with 3 players. Total number of passes made within the allocated time. See Diagram 2.

• Restrictions on the number of touches
• Set number of passes made to score a goal
• Highest number of consecutive passes made

Set Up – Possession with Transition & Goals
The session is set up as within the previous session. For this session four goals are introduced, one being placed on each side of the pitch. The team that are defending (less players), when they win possession of the ball they are now looking to score in one of the four goals. See Diagram 3.

• Restriction on the number of touches
• Mix up the number of goals available to score in

Some Coaching Points
• Movement to receive the ball
• Quality of passing
• Creating space for self and others
• Angles of support
• Awareness of next touch / pass / movement
• Setting traps to win possession / force the mistake
• Timing and movement to get up to the ball
• First pass on the turnover
• First response to win the ball back when possession is lost

By Sean Reed
Former First Team Coach of Championship team Fulham FC. Sean is a UEFA A Coach with a Masters in Sport Coaching. He has over 15 years of experience working in professional football from Academy through to First team in the Premiership and Championship.

Web –
Twitter – @SeanJReed

Pressing and Making the Field Smaller

By Sean Pearson

Area: 34 x 46 yards
Time: 15 mins
Players: 6v6

• To recognize triggers to press as a team
• To compact the space around the ball to win the ball or force mistakes

Set Up:
The playing area is 3 zones one large middle zone with 2 end zones. Both teams set up in a 2-3-1 (however they can set up in any formation you wish) and if you have extra players use them as feeders outside the end zones to play the ball into the middle.

The aim is to win the ball high up the field as possible and dribble or receive the ball inside the opponent’s end zone.

Look for the triggers of the ball being passed to one center back. As this is occurring the striker cuts of the line to the other center back and presses the ball to win. This small detail should tell the striker to get close enough to the center back to win the ball rather than stop before reaching the center back.

The rest of the team uses the same trigger as the striker (as well as the striker’s movement) to compact the area and restrict space making it harder for the team in possession to retain the ball.

Below we see all players have come over to almost half the size of the playing area. This clearly leaves space on the opposite side for the balls to be hit too, so players must pressure the person on the ball instantly to not allow that to happen. If they are late, then there is a possibility it will happen and therein lies a coaching point for the team/individual.

When either winning possession off of a tackle or a misplaced pass, the objective is to get the ball into the end zone by either dribble or receiving a pass. However, a coaching point should be to recognize where the space is before making this decision. If there is no space, then the team should go backwards to maintain possession.

The press should be applied for a short time period because it is high energy and players can’t sprint flat out forever. I would suggest the Barcelona 6 second rule that if the team pressing doesn’t win it inside of 6 seconds, their defending objective changes from pressing to dropping and containing to deny penetration, either until the team wins possession that way or they see an opportunity to press again.

• Change formations
• Add feeders

By Sean Pearson. Sean is also the author Coaching Team Shape in the 3-3-1, Coaching Team Shape in the 4-2-3-1 and Coaching Team Shape in the 4-3-3

Transitional Decisions

By Sean Pearson

Area: 36 x 44 yards
Time: 20mins
Players: 8v6+2

• To be compact while defending and then quickly spread out when possession is won
• To connect passes in a composed manner in a tight area in front of goal.

Set Up:
The playing area is twice the size of the 18-yard area with the defending team set up in a 4-2-3-1 without the wingers or striker. The attacking team is in a 4-3-3 formation without the defenders. There are two neutrals outside the area.

When the attacking team start with the ball all players must stay in the boundaries of the 18-yard area. The defending team stays compact to stop penetration and frustrate the attacking team. When they win the ball, there needs to be instant transition to open up the field. The FB’s are allowed outside the area to stretch the field but no other players are. The CB’s should drop down and out to get into as much space as possible.

It is important that the player that wins the ball, because the team is in the defensive third, is careful with their pass selection.

1) Pass out wide to a FB
2) Pass down to a CB
3) Pass to another player who is open

The connection of these passes is critical not just of the first pass but until the team is able to play the ball forward to either the neutrals or up to the level of the neutrals while still in control of the ball. What you are trying to educate the players on is to move instantly for the player on the ball into areas where pressure can be released while remaining composed and not rushing the decision.

Encourage the attacking team to press when they lose the ball to simulate game speed and scenarios. It is then up to the team in possession to maintain their cool and play simple passes to release the pressure from their defensive third.

1) There should always be the option of playing back to the GK and because the FB’s are allowed outside the area the GK can switch the ball to the opposite side. The FB can then dribble up. Make sure the defensive line also pushes up to simulate the game.

2) The player on the ball can either find the neutral on the ground or clip the ball over the top of the pressing attackers.

3) If the pass has not gone to the FB straight away, the FB’s need to understand that they are an outlet and move again to be available for the team to play forward.


• Allow all players to move outside of the width of the 18-yard area once the defending team wins possession
• Add the neutrals to the attacking team to play 8v8 and increase the difficulty of playing out
• Vary the formation of both teams and the starting point of where the attacking team starts

By Sean Pearson. Sean is also the author Coaching Team Shape in the 3-3-1, Coaching Team Shape in the 4-2-3-1 and Coaching Team Shape in the 4-3-3

Stopping the Change in the Point of Attack

By Sean Pearson

Area: 30 x 44 yards

Time: 15mins

Players: 6v6

• To understand the roles of specific players in stopping the switch
• To compact the area around the ball and cut off passing lanes

Set Up:
Both teams play with 2 central midfielders, 2 wingers, an attacking midfielder and a striker. There are 4 gates, 2 on each corner of the area and a line of flat cones in the middle to help the player visualize their objective.

The aim is for the team that starts with the ball to score in one of the goals by dribbling through it. The defending team condense the area to pressure the attacking team into making a mistake as well as restrict passing options. The striker cuts off the pass to the other center midfielder, the winger presses while cutting off the pass to their winger. This gives the player on the ball less time to make a good decision.

The attacking midfielder steps in front of the opposing attacking midfielder the central midfielder on the opposite side comes across to cut the pass to the striker off and the opposite winger tucks in to help compact the space around the ball.

When the defending team wins the ball, they can attack and (1) dribble through the gate if it is on, to give them 2 points or (2) pass centrally and dribble pass the line between the gates for 1 point.

When the defending team wins possession, the objective is then transferred to the team who has just lost possession to stop the now attacking team from changing the point of attack. They do this by again cutting off passing lines and pressing the player on the ball to force mistakes.

• Increase the size of the area
• Add a neutral to underload the defense and challenge them
• Completely take out the gates

By Sean Pearson. Sean is also the author Coaching Team Shape in the 3-3-1, Coaching Team Shape in the 4-2-3-1 and Coaching Team Shape in the 4-3-3

Target Striker 2 v 2 + 1

By Steven Smith

Area Size: Largest grid is 20 X 25. Inside grid is 12 X 15. Goal is full size and 15 yards from outside largest grid.

Teams: Groups of 2 for possession and individual target strikers (can be midfield target players as well but functionally can be placed further from goal).

Setup: · Field is set up with a 20X25 space as shown in the diagram. A middle field is set up as shown where the players will play 2 vs. 2. Goals can be set up as shown or other arrangements depending on desire of the training session. Three players on each group with rotation groups waiting or multiple fields.

Players play 2 vs. 2 inside the restricted space. After a series of passes or on cue from the coach either team tries to find the striker who has been constantly moving to align himself/herself to receive a pass. After the successful pass to the striker the player attempts to score on full size goal.

• Run a striker at both ends as shown in diagram or only at one end.
• Center players must connect 5 passes without loss of possession before connecting the pass to the striker
• A single center player can break out of the grid to support the striker for any rebounds from the keeper
• Make attacking midfielders a target but place goals further from the grid

By Steve Smith
Steve Smith has been a men’s college coach that holds an NSCAA Advanced National Diploma and a Doctorate in Physical Education.

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