Master the counter attack


This fun transitional exercise places a huge impetus on a player’s ability to recognise where space is, be progressive in possession and create goal scoring opportunities in a game-like situation. There is an additional focus on making good decisions with the ball (scanning, receiving in good positions, movement off the ball to create separation from the opponent, how to create overloads and play in behind, around or over the opponent).



Set up the area depending on the number/age/ability of your players. Here, we’ve set up a 60×40-yard area, split into a 30×30-yard central area and two 15×40-yard final thirds, with two goals. Teams play 5v5 or 6v6 in the central zone, with goalkeepers. The wide areas of the central zone are blocked off to start with. Progressions will allow these areas to be used by neutral wingers.



Players have to complete a minimum set number of passes in the central zone (e.g. five or six) and then play a through-ball for a teammate to run onto in the final third and get a 1v1 with the goalkeeper. If the player leaves the centre zone before the pass is made, they are offside. Defenders are not allowed to chase back. Teams can attack in either direction.



Players should remain patient in possession and look for the right time to play a penetrative pass. This will rely on team-mates being aware of opportunities to exploit space and make a third-man run off the ball, on the blind-side of defenders where possible. Encourage players to either play a straight pass onto an angled run, or an angled pass onto a straight run, and be aware of the positioning of the goalkeeper. Teams can look to play through, around or over the opposition.

1. Set up a pitch with a central playing area and two end zones. The central area also has two wide channels marked out, which players aren’t allowed in

2. Teams of five or six play in the central zone, aiming to complete a minimum number of passes

3. Once teams have completed the minimum number of passes, they can play a through ball into either final third end zone, to go 1v1 with the goalkeeper. Encourage third-man runs on the blind side of defenders



If the goalkeeper saves the shot and keeps possession, they can play into the opposite team quickly to create an overload in the central zone. Encourage the players to play quickly and counter-attack by recognising where the space is, relative to the ball and the opponent, and where their team-mates are in relation to them.



Neutral wingers can be added to the wide areas of the central zone, to use as supporting players. They too can break out into the final third after a minimum number of passes, to provide a cross for an attacking runner. You can progress the game further to allow one defender to recover back into the end zone. You can also designate one goal for each team to attack to make the game more directional, rather than having teams attack either goal. The game can also be adapted to give one team the objective of playing a minimum set number of passes to score a goal (e.g. six or seven), including the neutral wingers, while the other team can attack either goal as soon as they win possession. Play for 10 minutes then switch the teams’ objectives.

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