Mertersacker’s ball

When Per Mertersacker played in Arsenal’s defence he cleared balls crossed into the penalty box with ease because he read the cross well and cleared the ball with precision, pushing danger away from the penalty area.

Set up

Use half your normal pitch with a 10-yard crossing zone on either side. We’ve used 12 players. You need bibs, balls, cones, and a goal.

How to play it

Split the players into two teams of five attackers and six defenders with one goalkeeper. The defending players wait behind the goal line, with three on each side of the goal. The attacking team has to score from a cross into the penalty area. Four of the defenders can enter the pitch (two from each side) when the ball is passed into the crossing zone. The defenders must clear their lines. Make sure the defenders switch around so they all take turns.


As defenders enter the pitch at pace they must get the correct body shape so they can see the player they are marking and the ball as it is crossed in. Communication between players is vital as they cover each other. Clearing skills are needed to head or volley the ball away from danger.

    1. The session starts with passes between three of the attackers before the ball goes into one of the wide areas
    2. The ball going into one of the wide channels is the trigger for the defenders to move into position

    3. The wide player must move quickly and try to get his cross in before the defenders have sorted themselves out
    4. The defenders must move into positions where they can see the players they are marking and the player crossing the ball.

    5. Here the wide player has tried to get the ball behind the defence but the defender reads the situation and clears the ball
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