Football session on keeping the ball in different situations

The direction of modern football seems very much about making it become as free-flowing and multi-dimensional as possible. The game is increasingly being built around ball retention, superior technique, lightning-quick passing and the ability to utilise wide open spaces on the pitch.

“Receive, pass, offer, receive, pass, offer,” is how Barcelona ‘s Andres Iniesta recalls his soccer education.

And while few will replicate the achievements of that “grade A” student, the principles work for anyone looking to maximise possession play to its greatest advantage.

That’s because “receive, pass and offer” is a way of playing that would benefit every youth team in the world – and it’s something you should be trying to get your team to do.

How to set it up:

  • This is a session for 12 players ideally.
  • Create a playing area measuring 20 yards square.
  • You will need balls, bibs, cones and goals.

Getting started:

  • The session begins with a simple 2v1 challenge. For this, split your group into four sets of three players.
  • Two attacking players pass and move around the square while the defender has to try to win the ball. If he succeeds, he replaces one of the attacking players, who now becomes a defender, and the game continues.
  • To advance this game, tell the team of two that each player can only have two touches on the ball before he must pass. Once players have taken on board the basics of the game, add more numbers to make it a 3v2 or a 4v2.

Developing the session:

  • Now advance to 6v6. Enlarge the square so it measures 25×25 yards.
  • You need to position a player from each team on each outer edge of the square, with a 2v2 in the central area of the square. The team that starts with the ball must keep it for as long as possible, using team mates on the edge of the square to construct one-two passes.
  • Any player who receives the ball on the touchline can either return it to a team mate or run into the square with the ball himself. The player who passed to him therefore has to take his place on the outside. Until possession is turned over, the team trying to win the ball must persist with their two working players.

Moving into a game situation:

  • Construct a 6v4 overload – 4v4 in the middle with two players on the outside of the pitch who only play for the attacking team. This numerical advantage should make it easier for attack-minded players to pass the ball and move towards goal.
  • Play until a team scores three goals, then swap the outer players.

Why this works:

  • The aim of the session is to encourage players to keep the ball in a number of different situations.
  • If teams can master this skill, they will have a greater chance of winning the game, but they do need to move the ball into danger areas which is why the small-sided game succeeds in showing the real rewards of possession play – namely, scoring goals.

This session originally appeared in Soccer Coach Weekly.

Dave Clarke

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