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Why small-sided games matter

Small-sided games are a fantastic way of getting players to work together to score lots of goals with every single player having a big part to play in the game. Small-sided games are not ideal for coaching player positional roles but they do get players to face match relevant situations.

I like to think of it as groups of player working and covering each other in all areas of the pitch, but what I think players learn most from playing small sided games is individual skills like first touch and also how to make decisions in 2v1 and 1v1 situations.

There has been lots written about the amazing number of touches players get in small-sided games and that is brilliant for first touch and control of the ball, but I want to look here at the other aspects of small-sided games.

One of the things I enjoy is watching players react quickly when they win the ball and swarm forwards creating overloads in the middle areas, so if the attacker loses the ball and the team works quickly they can go 4v3 against their opponents. This opens a whole avenue of possibilities for players to see how they can quickly make use of the overload before the attacker gets back to help.

This is very similar to how midfields work in games, be it 7v7, 9v9, or 11v11. If teams can work quickly at transitions of play or pass into areas behind their opponents then they can use overload situations to create lots of goalscoring opportunities.

The movement during transition will also create a lot of 1v1s so there is a wonderful opportunity for coaches to see the reactions in both attack and defence when making decisions –dribble/pass or press/tackle.

Also in the modern game with the fashion to play with just one strong attacker who can be flanked by a couple of wingers or play on his own, small sided games are great to practice playing in situations just outside of the final third to create space for the striker to get the ball and set up goals.

When playing alone up front strikers will play most of the time with their back to goal. This is an art that needs plenty of practice, and there is a small-sided game on the following page which does just that.

There is also a game that helps with speed of reaction to moments of transition – play both these games and watch how your players reactions are quicker on match days.

And they are great fun too.

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