Compact your team in midfield

This session places an emphasis on midfield units staying compact and being hard to penetrate when out of possession. It identifies specific defensive roles for midfield players making them more compact and difficult to penentrate.

Why use it

Players learn to recognise where small gaps and holes are in their defence, and to plug these straight away or be ready to plug them should the ball position move and they need to react.

Set up

You need balls, bibs, cones and goals. Set up an area 30 x 22 yards with a grid made up of 5×5 yard boxes. We used 16 players in the session.

How to play

Set up the session so you have three midfielders positioned in four squares, patrolled by three defenders in front of them. You also need 2 attackers and 2 defenders in the attacking areas outside the box and 1 wide player marshalled by 1 defensive midfielder. Midfielders can only use the boxes on their side of the zone and only one player from each team is allowed in each box The task is for midfielders to pass left and right until they are able to create an opening into an attacker. Midfielders, who are defending, fill gaps closest to the ball, leaving free the box furthest from the ball. Once the ball goes into the centre-forward, one attacking midfielder and one defensive midfielder release to make a 3v3.


Communication and support play in midfield to keep the midfield compact.

Compact Midfield

    1. Midfielders can only use the boxes on their side of the zone – only one player from each team are allowed in each box
    2. Defending midfielders must close the gap closest to the ball leaving the box empty furthest from the ball

Compact Midfield

    3. By passing the ball quickly the attacking team look to create space to get the ball through to the two attackers
    4. Now one attacking midfielder and one defending midfielder can move into the attacking area to create a 3v3
    5. Here the defenders do not pick up the through ball and the moving midfield player can get behind the defence
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