By Nils Poker
This training game focuses on changing the rhythm of the game abruptly after circulating the ball in a calm manner beforehand. For that we add a space outside of the playing area to the classic 6v6+2 drill. This space can be attacked through passes and runs into depth, which is only possible after a certain number of passes is achieved.
Both teams and the two neutrals start the game within the zone next to the halfway line. This zone should be quite wide to give enough good possibilities to actually play a deep pass. With the help of the neutrals the teams try to execute 5 successful passes in a row without the opponent intercepting the ball. Only after that, a pass directed towards the space in front of the goal (guarded by a goalkeeper) can be played. The outside boundary of the 6v6+2 field also serves as offside line.
After this happens, both teams are allowed to leave the initial playing area in order to attack the goal or to defend it respectively. If the defenders successfully prevent a breakthrough, the attackers can counterpress for a certain amount of time. If this is not successful or impossible, the game starts again in the original 6v6+2.
Implicit requirements for the players and explicit coaching points
To have success in the first part of the game and achieve the required number of passes, the team in possession of the ball needs proper spacing on the field as well as good and precise orientation. Thus, it’s helpful to coach different principles of positional play, for example positioning in relation to team mates or counterpressing after giving up possession of the ball.
But overall this drill is less about ball circulation that merely serves as a requirement for the following transitional moment, the main focus of the whole game. The players of both teams need to always be ready for the moment when the playing area changes and the depth of the field is attacked. You should always be aware to only execute a deep pass in fitting situations and to not just boot the ball away blindly, once you completed the fifth pass.
The player in possession needs to decide, whether he can already pass into depth (first look needs to go there) or if he switches the play to a team mate in better position to execute this. Additionally, this obviously requires well-timed complementing runs. If you run before the pass is actually played, there’s a big danger of being offside or it at least you have to slow down/completely stop the run. You cannot attack the free space with the necessary dynamic advantage.
After the deep pass is played both teams should directly follow the movement of the ball in the highest tempo possible. These situations after a successful pass in behind the back line are usually quite rare in the “big” game, but potentially extremely dangerous. That’s why it’s worth focusing on such scenarios in a bit more detail. On the defensive side it teaches managing quite an extreme situation in which you need to catch the opponent or at least cut the direct way towards the goal for him.
Breakthroughs in behind the back line often lead to a destabilization even when they are not exactly directed towards the goal. The defenders focus on coming as close as needed to their own goal as fast as possible. Their field of view and the orientation as a whole is directed backwards, so they are particularly vulnerable in the space behind their backs.
Not only the timing of the runs and the deep pass are important, but the follow-up actions of players coming from behind can be decisive as well. That’s the same like in the attempt to finish attacks in the real game. Oftentimes, it won’t be possible to directly attack the goal in a 1v1 with the goalkeeper.
In these moments it’s particularly important for the players starting further back to push up in a certain way. It should be done dynamically and with some staggering between each other to not only occupy the last line but also the space behind it. Especially when breaking through the flanks, crosses or cut-backs can be valuable, if you occupy the box and the space around it properly. Since many of these situations arise, you will have enough examples to coach this in a detailed manner.
If you want to change your focus towards the positional play and want to create less transitional moments, you can of course change the minimum number of passes before escaping the initial playing area in whatever way you like.
A more game realistic variation of the drill would include 1 or 2 additional center backs for the defending team who get involved once the ball is played to a target player of the attacking team who is positioned outside of the original playing area. In this variation, the depth of the field wouldn’t be as open as in the basic version of the game. With this you can also train the behavior of your center backs against quick attacks. On the other hand, the attacking team learns to make use of lay-offs on the counter.