In recent years the role of the goalkeeper and defenders in possession has gone from them getting rid of the ball as quickly as possible to the need for them to be comfortable in possession. The exercise below is great for developing this ability and confidence on the ball in a small small sided game.
The exercise is 3v3, with a target player either end of the area and two neutrals on either side, all of whom are on the outside of the area. The neutral players on the side will act as full backs when either team is in possession. Adjust the size of the area depending on the age and ability of the players.
The 3 in the middle will set up their triangle with two in the back to act as central defenders and one player in front of them who will act as a deep lying midfielder. The aim of the game is for the players in the middle to get the ball to the target players for a point. When they have scored, they are rewarded by receiving the ball back but now having to attack the opposite end, though they can go back to the target player they just used to score if they are under pressure but it won’t count as a point until they have tried to attack the other end.
The main point of emphasis is the shape of the players. When the target player has the ball, they act as a goalkeeper and pass the ball into either central defender who will have split to the width of the area. The full backs/neutrals on the side will move higher up their line and the central midfielder will offer an option through the middle. If one of the central defenders receives the ball, the central midfielder will check in to offer a passing option, whilst keeping their body shape open. Initially I would allow the defending team to drop back slightly so that the attacking team can get into the correct shape and also allow either central defender to receive the first pass before being pressured in order to build a confidence and familiarity with what movements are required of the players first.
When the “goalkeeper” has the ball, they don’t have to pass to only the central defenders now, they can pass to any player in order to encourage decision making.
The team’s in the middle now have a set direction to attack in.
- Weight and accuracy of pass into the correct foot depending on pressure
- Ensure that the team in possession gets into position quickly to give the target player/goalkeeper quick options to play out from the back
- Open body position to see as much of the field as possible and receive on the back foot
- Make sure that the player has checked their shoulder to see where the space is before receiving the pass
- Decision making – when to play forward and when to pass back, including passing back to the goalkeeper
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