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Transitional Decisions

By Sean Pearson

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

Objective:
• 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.

Execution:
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.

4

Variations:
• 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

Objective:
• 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.

Execution:
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.

Variations:
• 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

Making Play Predictable

By Sean Pearson

Area Size: Quarter or Half field (depending on age of players)

Teams: 15 – 20 mins

Players: 7 v 7

Objectives

  • To stop forward penetration
  • To force sideways and backwards passes

Set-Up

2 teams set up in a 2-3-1 formation in a scrimmage like scenario.

Execution

The aim for this session is for your team to work together defensively by stifling forward progression of the opposition and frustrating the other team into backwards and sideways passes until they become frustrated. Your team must stay close together to stop penetrating passing lines into the feet of players further up the field. They cut off angles so the only available pass is one of backwards or sideways.

The defending team does not have to sit right in front of their own goal for this tactic to work. It is more effective to perform it in the middle of the field. As the opposition pass wide, the defending wide midfielder gets across to pressure the player on the ball so they can’t move forwards, the rest of the team slides across, compacting that side of the field, leaving the opposite wing open. The striker drops down to stop any balls into the center of midfield.

As the ball travels back to the CB the striker of the defending team presses the CB to force them to make a quick decision, again not allowing forward penetration. The obvious pass is sideways to the free CB. The team again slide into the middle to compact the area directly in front of or around the ball.

Now we have a little change of shape, because we don’t want to be so compact that passes out wide can break the defensive lines. Again the focus is to stop forward penetration by cutting off forwards passing options. As the ball travels to the opposite CB, the striker drops down to stop passes into the CM. The wide midfielder stays narrow to stop passes into the striker’s feet. The FB comes across to pressure the WM when they receive the ball and the CB and opposite WM slide across to cover and keep defensive shape.

As the ball arrives to the WM the FB is close to Pressure them, the WM has dropped down to block the pass into the striker’s feet again and striker drops to stop passes into the CM again, this leaves a pass backwards to the CB as the only pass available.

Players need to understand that they are working as a team to stop forward progression and not become individual and start to run all over the field. If players can win the ball when pressing then absolutely go for it, but the aim is to frustrate the other team going forward and giving the ball away by trying passes that are not on.

When the other team wins possession the defending team aims to frustrate and stop forward progression just like they experienced.

Variations

  • Add neutrals to challenge the defending team and increase the difficulty
  • Allow only 1 or 2 players to communicate to teammates to help build leaders in defense

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