All posts by Michael Saif

Three Squares Small Sided Game

By Steven Smith

Area Size: Largest grid of 55 yards by 55 yards. Middle grid of 35 yards by 35 yards and innermost grid of 15 by 15. Coach can adjust depending on age of players and objective.
Teams: Three equally divided teams (one for each grid)
Time: Approximately 15 minutes or extended as part of a warm-up

Taking risks and connecting passes can often be counter to each other. This activity will help players find good connecting passes under pressure and in a fairly chaotic setting with many other movements happening at the same time.

This activity emphasizes connecting passes while under controlled pressure (level of pressure controlled by coach). The athletes will need to move to position themselves for connecting passes by short movements. This movement and communication necessary under strict pressure of time and space can have a great effect on connecting passes in game settings.

Two groups of six to seven players occupy three grids one inside the next (see graphic below). The idea is for the group on the outermost grid to connect passes to the group on the innermost grid. Start off with each of the outer players possessing a ball to attempt to pass into the center grid. The middle grid is occupied by defenders who cannot leave their grid but works to intercept passes that come through their grid.

The focus is on the outer grid group of players for feedback from the coach. Their movement around their grid is essential for finding the line of passing that will enable them to connect with the inner grid. This means the coach can give feedback on keeping the head up, keeping the ball moving and looking for opportunities. The key cues essential for connecting passes of posture, eye contact and verbal communication are essential as well and the coach can focus on those cues.

Players rotate grid locations with their group after a time limit or after all of the starting balls have been knocked out of the grids by the defending group.

– Add goalkeepers to the inner group for receiving with their hands.
– Add goalkeepers to the middle defensive group who can use their hands to intercept passes (increases difficulty for the outside group).
– Add competition with consequences for the losing groups by counting the number of completed passes before their balls are knocked out by the defending group.
– Reintroduce balls knocked out and play for time only and count completed passes.
– As balls are knocked out of play by the middle group the players on the outside grid can combine passes together before attempting to pass the ball to the inner grid.
– Players may attempt to dribble through the middle grid and a player in the inner grid must then switch places with the dribbler on outside 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.

5 v 4 High Press Game

By Steven Smith

Area Size: Two fields of 20 by 25 side by side
Teams: Four teams of four to five depending on objective
Time: Approximately 15-17 minutes

Two grids side by side are set up each with full size goals. Field size is 20 wide by 25 long. Two teams on each field set up to play against each other.

The black team with five attacking players compete against four defensive players in yellow. If the black team scores they get 5 points per goal. If the yellow team intercepts the black team tries to win the ball back in four seconds. If they are unable to do so, the yellow team earns 5 points. If yellow can score on goal during their possession then all of the points the black team has accumulated goes to zero. Yellow does not get points for scoring. All play starts with the ball from the keeper of the black team. Always play make it take it.

Every four minutes two players from the black team move to the yellow team. Once every black player has changed a full cycle will have been completed. Run two full cycles.

Black team can only attack the opposite goal from the last one scored on.

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.

4v4+4 Transition Game

By Steven Smith

Area Size: Grid approximately 30X25 Yards

Teams: Three teams of four or other variations of numbers as needed

Time: 12-15 Minutes

The teams are set up as shown with four black attackers vs. four yellow defenders. The red team is lined up on the outside of the field. Full sized goals with keepers.

Teams play four vs. four in the space. The black team attacks the one full sided goal and the yellow team attacks the other full sided goal. The red team is played in by either team but cannot participate until played into by one of the teams in possession. Once possession is lost by either team the red team drops back off until played in again by one of the teams.

AS SOON AS ONE TEAM SCORES, THE RED TEAM TRANSITIONS ONTO THE FIELD AND THE LOSING TEAM MOVES TO THE OUTSIDE. The scoring team gets the advantage of make it/take it and tries to score again during the transition of the red team arriving on the field.

• Coach can restart every ball
• Goal keeper can restart every ball
• Outside team rotates in after every goal or every two goals
• Always play make it take it

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.

Defensive Patterns

By Steven Smith

Area Size: Full width and half field of length

Time: Full progression will take about 12-15 minutes

Two lines of four defenders face each other in a 40-yard gap in functional back third.

Ball is passed from members of the same line and on coaches command the ball is passed to the other line. The movement of the players must shift as the ball in in possession depending on the tactical choices of the coach. Both groups should be moving a ball at the same time.

Have two balls going and number the players by position. Coach calls pass to player number and on whistle the ball is moved to the opposite line.

Coach can number the players rather than allowing use of names to elicit thinking and decision making.

Have a single player from each side call out where the pass is going. Then the player must call out where the ball will switch to when the ball crosses to the other group. Demand that the ball hits the target player and is not sprayed wide or over.

Increase distances between the two groups of four defenders in order to work on clearing distances.

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.

8v8v8 Transition

By Steven Smith

Area Size: Approximately 55 yards of width including space between the grids

Team Size: Groups of 8

Time: 15 minutes for full rotation of all teams

Setup: Two grids are set up 20X20 yards with a 15-yard gap in between them. Teams are divided into three groups of 8 (or other combinations of numbers).

Execution: Black team in one grid and Yellow team in the other grid. The red team remains outside of each grid with 4 players from the red team Execution at each grid. Coach serves the ball into one grid and the four red players enter to defend and stop the black team from connecting 8 passes.

If the red team knocks the ball out of the grid they exit the grid to the waiting point again and the coach immediately serves a ball into the yellow grid. The reds waiting there must do the same thing and keep the yellow group from connecting 8 passes.

If the teams are successful in connecting 8 passes and sending the ball to the opposite grid, then the yellow defenders must switch to defending the opposite grid. See diagrams. Two minute games and then rotate defensive group colors.

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.

Reverse Goal Transition

By Steven Smith

Area Size: This activity can be done on a full-sized field or in smaller spaces depending on the needs of the coach and team sizes available for training. The two diagrams represent the two approaches.

Teams: Two teams of various sizes depending on the space used

Time: 15 minutes

Setup and Execution:
Full size field (or smaller depending on numbers) is set up with two full size portable goals twenty-two yards from the end line facing the end line (opposite of normal goals). Two teams are evenly divided and attack the opposite goal just like a normal full sided game.

Players set up to play a full sided game, however, the goal is facing the opposite direction and a set number of players must transition beyond the goal before a shot can be taken on goal. The whole team must be on the same half of the field but perhaps 7 of them must be beyond the goal. Coach can vary the number for transition beyond the goal before a goal can be scored.

• Coach can determine how many must transition to beyond the opposite facing goal.
• All players must cross midline on attacking team in order for a goal to be scored.
• The coach can adapt this full-sided game to a small-sided game with mini goals and no keepers as shown in the second diagram.

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.

High Pressure to Force Long Passes

By Luca Bertolini

Liverpool have scored lots of goals this season as a direct result of their high pressure defending tactics.  There are a number of benefits that can result from high pressure defending.  This article takes a look at just one of the aims of those tactics…forcing the opposition into long passes from their own half of the field.

Looking at Klopp’s history as manager “no playmaker in the world can be as good as a good counter-pressing situation”; this means that a side by side passes move often requires slow build up play, and that, on the other side, the counter-pressing can create chances within seconds.

The organization behind it is the key, as Klopp’s pressing isn’t simply a closing down but a group of players all functioning as one to smother the opposition, as they look to launch a counter-attack.

The first interesting factor is that the team recognizes when they have enough players close to the ball, who are able to press the opponent with the ball and the area around it.

The players who are not involved in the pressing around the ball must ensure that a potential long kick from one of the opponents can be controlled and they must be able to press again a second receiver, if the first pressure doesn’t work. They also have to be in a position to potentially win or intercept a wrong pass from the counter pressure, to recover the possession with the chance of organizing a counterattack of their own.

All the other players placed on the other side of the ball, recover immediately and quickly, either to join the pressing swarm or to recover goal side of the ball and to be placed in a position to be one of the covering or interceptor players; if these players are in possession, usually the moves are built up with pass combinations rather than with direct counterattack.

As we already found out in the first part, an important objective of the high pressure is to close the short pass lines and to force long ones toward the midfield area; the same happens when Liverpool’s forwards are placed inside or near the opponent’s penalty area.

After the forced long pass toward the middle third, win the second times and the wandering balls.

So forcing the opposition into long passes, gives you the opportunity to win back possession of the ball and start a quick counter attack.  There are many other benefits of high pressure defending too.  Klopp, Guardiola, Conte and more of the world’s top coaches have figured this out.

This is article is just a short excerpt from the book Scoring More Goals Through High Pressure Defending by Luca Bertolini.

Do Spain Play With a 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1 or Both?

By Stevie Grieve, author of Modern Soccer Tactics

Spain’s formation is a source of great debate and intrigue. Is it a 4-3-3? Is it a 4-3-3-0? Is it a 4-6-0? Is it a 4-2-3-1? Is it a 4-2-4-0? Is it a 4-2-2-2?

I think it’s a combination of the above. Some matches they will ensure they have a central striker, generally Cesc Fabregas, who will rotate this role with David Silva, with Xavi and Iniesta floating around the space between midfield and defense. They play with a narrow attacking 4-2-3-1 or a narrow 4-3-3 as Alba and Arbeloa do a great job or providing width very high up the field and allowing Spain to regularly outnumber teams between defense and midfield, allowing them to play between the lines frequently.

In the final where Spain played undoubtedly their best football of the tournament, they played a combination of 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1, and Xavi’s position dictated the shape. In some attacking phases with the ball in the opposition half, he would drop deep and 2 of the 3 of Silva, Iniesta and Cesc would play in between the defense and midfield with Alba and Arbeloa the full backs on the outside, with the other of the front 3 staying as a central striker. In some defensive transition phases, Spain would revert to a 4-2-3-1 with Alonso and Busquets screening the defense, with Xavi, Iniesta and Silva pressing in front, with Cesc as the main striker. When they win the ball back, they would stay in this formation and confuse the opposition as players positions and the marking responsibilities have changed again.

Xavi and Iniesta switch positions – 4-3-3 inside opposition half

Xavi drops into a 4-3-3 as Silva and Iniesta drop off from the front to offer passes from midfield. Xavi passes wide to Alba andContinue reading