Grid: 35×30 yards
Instructions & Key Points: The blue team of 10 players are restricted to 1-touch. The first red team of 5 players works hard to win the ball for 90 seconds as the second red team of 5 players rests outside the grid. The coach is located to the side of the grid with a large supply of balls. He will play in a new ball as soon as the red team creates a turnover. After 90 seconds the red team of 5 who were resting become the new defending team against the blue. The idea is to always have a high intensity energized defending team forcing the team in possession to make quick 1-touch decisions. Make sure players are using proper supporting distances and angles in possession. Triangles and diamonds should be apparent all over the grid. Encourage players in possession to scan the field constantly so they can make instant decisions in order to keep 1-touch possession.
Progressions & Variations: Try 90 seconds as a starting point and then increase the time frame for the defending team as long as the intensity level stays high. Count the number of turnovers in 90 seconds to make the drill into a competitive environment. The team in possession with the least turnovers is the winner. Another variation is to allow the defending team to try and keep possession after winning the ball. Give the defending team unlimited touches as the team of 10 has 1-touch only. Try having your center midfield players stay central inside the grid to simulate their role in an actual game. Feel free to create and improvise with any of the exercises. Each condition or variable should make the players think differently and adapt. By making the players adjust they become better problem solvers. Ultimately the players are the ones on the field and they must have the ability to solve problems.
The reason I wrote “High Tempo, High Pressure Soccer Possession Training” is because one of the ways modern soccer is developing. Teams from the college level to the highest professional level are either pressing intensely or countering. Barcelona under “Pep Guardiola” was one of the many modern professional teams that brought pressing and the “6 second rule” to the forefront. Whenever Barcelona lost the ball they immediately pressed with numbers trying to recover the ball back within 6 seconds after losing it. They resembled a swarm of bee’s attacking the ball as soon as they lost possession. Borrussa Dortmond and Bayern Munich pressed each other at such a frantic pace in the “Champions League Final”, neither team connected more than 3 or 4 passes for the first 10 minutes, due to the intensity and discipline of their pressing. In the college game here in the United States, it is common to have teams press non-stop and play very direct once they win possession. Many of these teams focus more on the weight room and running than developing possession. The reality is that teams who are fit, strong, athletic and disciplined can pose a major problem against possession-oriented teams. In order to play attractive and effective possession soccer against athletic pressing teams, coaches must train their team under realistic similar “pressing” circumstances. If players are not forced to overcome intense pressure in training they will not be able to keep possession during an actual game under high pressure.
As a coach, I personally like my teams to play attractive possession oriented soccer. I want my players to develop the possession skills that will allow them to keep the ball if needed, instead of just knocking the ball long every time a team decides to pressure us (if the counter attack is available we may look for that longer ball if it is on). It is important that my team learn to problem solve and think for themselves during these games and not hit the “panic button”. If a team presses us all out, we may look to play more direct to a forward running into the space behind the oppositions back line (especially for the first 10 minutes of a half). The forward would need to recognize our player is under pressure and time his run into space behind the back four. The outcome may be an instant counter attack or we may end up having possession in the other teams half. At the very least a long ball to the channel can allow us to press our entire team up the field and play in their half. Another option to break a press is to play short and then immediately switch the field to relive pressure while keeping the ball. Switching the field can often disrupt and break the press. When teams commit to pressing us, I tell my players “high winds don’t blow all day”. I have yet to see a team on any level press for 90 minutes at the same high intensity rate. Eventually, the pressing team will become tired or their team shape will be lost (if even for a few moments) and space will open up. However, every game is unique and will end up taking it’s own course. Each game will present its own different problems to solve; which can be effected by personnel, field conditions, motivation levels, home or away, tactics, fitness levels, skill levels and much more. I know if my team can keep the ball under high pressure it gives us options when attacking. We don’t become that predictable team that just thumps the ball into the channel or the box for a target man. I place a high value on being able to penetrate by passing and dribbling. Defenses will find it very difficult to defend against both the pass and the dribble.
What happens if the opposition chooses to drop deep and sit ten players behind the ball? At that point it is also important the team be able to possess the ball in small tight areas during the attack. Playing little 1-2 combinations and moving the ball quickly will open up small gaps in the compact defense. Opening up those small spaces will create shooting and scoring opportunities. Attacking a team that drops deep is a different aspect of possession then breaking a press, but both phases of possession are equally important. The bottom line is the ability to possess the ball under pressure in tight areas is a skill that will bring your team to the next level.
I hope you enjoy the “10 for 10 Soccer Coaching Series”, I would also recommend you read my other soccer coaching books that cover a wide variety of material in detail. I hope you enjoy the information and as always feel free to email me any questions, comments or thought at firstname.lastname@example.org