Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

Possession and penetration


Here’s a session, divided into two parts, that benefits players in three core elements.

At the heart of this is possession, but keeping the ball is only really useful if players know what to do with it, and that’s where patience and penetration come into play.

This practice also allows players to rehearse passing, receiving, turning, screening, one-twos, running with the ball and overlaps.

How to play it

Non-directional practice

This is an ideal start for getting younger players using combinations without having to get the ball to a designated target. It really cements the basics of support play, with overloads helping to create confidence in maintaining possession (see the top picture).

  • Set this up so attackers have a strong overload (I use 11v5 in a 30×15 yards area, but you can use a smaller area with a 9v4 or a 7v3).
  • Both teams must try to win the ball and keep possession of it – they’ll do this by supporting and communicating well with team mates at all times.
  • Play for five minutes, switching players so that all get to work with and against the overload.

Directional practice

Now, the objective for both teams is to pass the ball to either of the target players, who are positioned in five-yard channels at each end of the area. Moving in to a directional practice replicates match-like demands of retaining possession and finding an end target (see the middle and bottom pictures).

  • In the example given, this is 6v6 in the middle, plus two floaters (F) who always play with the team in possession (to make 8v6).
  • If a successful pass is made to a target player, he passes the ball back to the team previously in possession and the other end is attacked.
  • If play is turned over, the other team can now use the floaters in an 8v6, and attempt to feed the ball to either target man.
  • Play for five minutes.

Technique and tactics

  • Look for the creation of space (wide and deep), as individuals and as a team.
  • Pass selection is important, with the focus on accuracy, weight and timing of the release.  

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