Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

Play Like Juan Mata in Midfield

Encourage your players to be as creative as Juan Mata around the penalty area and teach them the importance of a well-weighted pass and a well-timed run.

Why use it

Creativity around the box is vital to ensuring the creation of scoring chances. The type and accuracy of pass are key, as is a good first touch from players receiving the ball. This session will help players perfect the timing and angles of their runs to support the playmakers.

Set up

Use an area half the size of your usual pitch. Put a normal goal at the penalty area end and place three target goals at the opposite end. We’ve used 14 players in the session.


How to play

The team attacking the main goal has eight players in a 3-2-3 formation and the defending team has five players in a 1-2-2 formation. Attacks start from one of the small goals, taking turns to start from each one, so attacks will go down the two wings and down the middle.

The first pass must be into those areas each time. If the defenders win the ball they can try to score in the three target goals. Rotate positions regularly.


This is about exploiting areas around the penalty box with clever passes, good skills and movement from an attacking overload situation.

It involves three different attacking situations to give match-style variety.

Strikers go 1v1 for a special finish


davidscwnewThis fast and game-realistic training session sets up 1v1 attacking situations that will encourage your strikers to come up with a special finish.

Why use it

This is all about using skills around the penalty area to take defenders by surprise and create goalscoring opportunities. It uses quick combinations but relies on individual excellence and it’s great for development of ball mastery.

Set up

Use half of your usual pitch. We’ve used seven players. You need balls, bibs, cones and a normal sized goal.

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How to play

The attacker takes the ball through a chicane of cones and drives towards the first defender before passing to the server. The defenders cannot move until the server has touched the ball. The server plays a quick return pass and the first defender tries to catch the attacker, while the second defender closes down the attacker.

Once the shot has been taken the attacker swaps with the first defender; the first defender swaps with the second defender; and the second defender swaps with the server, who goes to the attacking line up.


This is all about creating 1v1s at pace so that everything is game realistic. There are different skills to use and when the attacker gets to the final phase, he can try something clever to create space for a shot.

Try these two 5-minute warm ups

Strength and Power

davidscwnewThis is an excellent warm-up that practises good ball skills whilst getting players ‘switched on’ in terms of movement, speed and ball control. Players should get a good feel of the pace of the ball when they take the shot at goal – the ‘race’ adds pressure.

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Arrange the players in pairs and tell them to react to your whistle. You need balls in each part of the warm-up.


Whistle 1 – the players sprint into the first area where the first one to the ball must keep it and hold the other player off. After 15 seconds the coach whistles again…

Whistle 2 – the players leave the ball and sprint into the second area, again trying to be first to the ball and hold the other player off. After 15 seconds the coach whistles again.

Whistle 3 – the players react and sprint to get a first time shot at goal. The players then become servers. The servers now jog back to the starting position. The whistles work on a conveyor-belt effect. On each whistle a new pair is entering an area that the previous pair has just left.

Speed and Agility Ladder

This five minute fitness drill can be used during your training sessions for a quick break to help coaching points sink in, or as an incentive for a drinks break

Speed ladders are excellent for player speed and fitness but if you haven’t got one you can mark out the rungs of the ladder with cones.

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Forward hops – 3 in 1 out

Hop forward on one leg

One hop in each square

Every 3 hops step once out of the ladder onto the other leg

Continue this sequence until ladder is complete

Ground contact on balls of feet. Repeat 5 times.

Rest 60 seconds between repetitions


Score like Aguero in the 6 yard box


If you want your strikers to be as lethal as Kun Aguero around the penalty area, try this session to help them develop that magic touch.This is a fantastic attacking game for getting strikers to make runs behind the defence and to get outfield players to look for space to play the ball into.

Why use it

Timing runs to meet the ball and beat a player is one of Aguero’s main attributes. He is lethal when the ball is played through into space and he can work his magic.

Giving players the chance in training to practise this art will help them to do it in matches.


Set up a 40×20-yard pitch split into a central zone of 20 yards and two end zones of 10 yards. We’ve used 13 players. You need bibs, balls, cones and two normal goals.

How to play

Use two teams of six, with four attackers, one defender and one goalkeeper on each.

Play 4v4 in the central zone plus one neutral player who plays for the team in possession. A defender and goalkeeper start in the end zones.

Players stay in their starting zones until a pass is played into one of the end zones for a player to run onto.

If the pass into the end zone is played first time (one touch) any resulting goal counts as double.

SWITCHED ON: Move the ball into space

By David Clarke

davidscwnewThis session will give players the confidence to use their craft and vision to be able to switch play from one side of the pitch to the other

Why use it

It is crucial for young players to know how to switch play so they can exploit space by moving the ball from one side of the pitch to the other. They can do this either by using a long pass or a series of quick, short passes.

Set up

Create a 30×15-yard area split into three 10-yard zones. Mark out three gates along the two lines that create the centre zone – the gates should be one yard wide and evenly spaced along the line. We’re using three teams of four, one in each zone. You will need balls, bibs and cones.

How to play

In their groups of four, get the players to work out how many ways they can get the ball from one side to the other: one long pass; three short; one short, one long etc. After five minutes split the middle team in two – one pair defends the three gates on one side and one pair defends the gates on the other side. The two outside teams must try to pass quickly in order to find a chance to get the ball through one of the gates. Rotate teams every five minutes.


Having three goals and only two defenders means attackers will be keen to hunt out space to score.

Soccer Coach Weekly


Create goals from midfield session

davidscwnewIf you want your players to create goalscoring chances, try this exciting and fast-moving game and you’ll soon see the benefits.


This is a session aimed at getting players to create and utilise space in midfield. With quick passing and movement, it will help open up the opposition and make goalscoring chances.


Create a playing area 40×20 yards, with two goals back to back across the middle, but just one goalkeeper. We’re using eight players and a keeper for this session, plus a server who can be the coach. You need bibs, cones, balls and two small goals.


Start by serving a ball into the game. Players can score in either of the two back-to-back goals. If the keeper gains possession or the ball leaves the area, serve a new ball in. The keeper puts any balls he gathers into the net behind him. When a goal is scored, immediately serve another ball into the game.


Creating space in a match situation with fast and accurate passing will open up the room for midfielders to exploit. In this game, a quick switch of play allows players to take advantage of one of the goals being unguarded – they must be aware of the position of the keeper at all times.

FEEL THE WIDTH Three different types of cross

davidscwnewThis is a complex drill to help players develop three different kinds of cross.


The session aims to coach players to score more goals from crosses and to show that changing the pace of play and the angle of attack are key instruments in unlocking the opposition. Using wide areas is an important part of attacking play.


Create a playing area that is wider than long by using the width of the pitch you normally play on (mini, 9v9 or full size) and half that size for the length (so mini would be 30 wide x 15 deep and full size would be 60×30). Split it into six equal squares.

You need a goal, balls, bibs and cones. We’re using 17 players in a 9v8 overload.


Players are locked into areas, except for the full backs, who look to join the attack and create situations to cross the ball.


We’re looking for three different types of crosses here: the David Beckham cross, just entering the final third; the Ashley Young cross, cutting inside and swinging it across; and the Leighton Baines cross, running to the byline and whipping it in.

This session came from Soccer Coach Weekly.

Interested in more exercises? Try these links:

1. Pressing in key areas – Steve Kean

2. Defending when outnumbered

3. Tomb raiders