PRE-SEASON | WEEK 2: tactics and techniques

| WEEK 1 | WEEK 2 |

The second week of pre-season is a lot more than just shaking off the cobwebs. Now it’s the real thing! Some of your players may not be ready to move up the gears so it is up to you to motivate them using the activities and advice below.

At the top end of the game players focus on high-intensity interval training – in layman’s terms – workouts that challenge them to perform short, sharp explosive actions like sprinting, jumping and shooting, over and over again. You can mirror that with your team.

So this is where the hard work really begins. Now is the time to extend thinking, develop ideas and deliver a programme that will see your team flourish.

And it’s important to remember that pre-season is as much about you, the coach, as it is your players. If you’re not mentally prepared for the campaign that lies ahead, you can’t expect your players to be either.

Warm ups

By session two fitness levels should be on the rise again, so don’t be afraid to add in a few sprinting and speed warm ups. No need to make them too focused on sprinting you don’t want to make the slower runners upset! Try some mind games and games that use the soccer brain. Remember to monitor fatigue, allowing sufficient recovery time, but use this rest period to your advantage by firing across extra motivational messages.

Game tactics

Possession football is a massive physiological conditioning tool, and is great for brushing up on technique. Use one ball and construct a game situation where one side has a strong overload – for instance a 7v4 in a 15×15-yard area.

Play for two minutes, seeing if the team with fewer players can dispossess their opponents.

Enlarging the playing area will alter the relative difficulty level for the chasers, while for the passing team the principles of ‘pass and move’ rehearsed in the first pre-season session should be practised here. This game is great for conditioning without players actually realising how hard they are working.

Keep changing the team numbers – be extravagant and go for an 8v3, or even a 9v2. And remind players to use all parts of their bodies as well as both sides of each foot in order to control the ball. They should use the side of
the foot for accuracy and the instep for power, bending the ball with the insides and outsides.

Try these two drills for great ways to play possession football:

Game techniques

Now move on to individual attacking and defending practices. These should be simple quick sessions that remind players of their responsibilities in the key areas of the pitch (work on more detailed practices will come in future weeks).

These two sessions are ones I prefer to use:

Thinking tactics

Towards the end of the second session you want to develop things, moving from ‘specific phases’ of play (players following individual and team actions) to ‘open phases’. This is where tactical thinking is extended. So after
players have perfected passing, possession or dribbling skills, recommend they take a shot or lay a precise through-pass to a team mate.

Try some simple pass and move drills that make your players think about where and when to run and to work on passing and shooting technique.

Small-sided game

And remember to always finish the session with a small-sided game, asking players to showcase the techniques they’ve learned in the drills.

Great games to use are ones that involve all players and they have to use the techniques worked on in the training session beforehand. These two are brilliant for that.


No.3: Holding your nerve 
Sports science experts agree that jump-starting the central nervous system quickly in training is essential. Doing this means getting players primed and ready for intense soccer training. You can achieve this by setting up ladder drills and mini-hurdles to promote mental agility which can be transferred into physical agility as the season progresses.

Pre-season woes?

A lot of players hate the intensity of pre-season. When he was at Manchester City Yaya Toure said: “Pre-season, is not something I like at all.”

“But, we need it because we need to prepare well for a long season.”

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