Scoring goals is about so much more than a rocket-powered right foot or silky, finessed finish. And even the most lethal striker can’t score on a team that isn’t creating chances.
That’s because attacking, like defending, is a collective responsibility. Every player plays a part. And every player should be encouraged to be both creative and a creator. Here are three drills to help your team create chances and play free-flowing soccer, with dynamic off-the-ball movement and sharp attacking combinations.
This simple and timeless drill is a staple in the library of every basketball coach ever — but that doesn’t make it any less effective on the soccer field!
Divide players into three lines: one at midfield, and one on each sideline. Play starts with the central player: they receive a pass, turn and play the ball into space (5-10 yards ahead) for a wide teammate. The receiver takes a couple of touches forward, before playing a long pass into the stride of their teammate on the opposite side. After each pass, the player immediately sprints to make an overlapping run around their teammate.
Over the course of several passes (three or more), the attacking trio progress forward as a unit. As the ball enters the box, players may shoot on goal (with or without a goalkeeper). Once play is finished, play begins again with a new group.
This drill is designed to mimic a front three on the counter-attack, having received the ball near the halfway line. The constant overlapping introduces concepts of positional rotation and support, while also being a fun way to incorporate fitness into a session. Most importantly, the three-man weave gives players experience combining and creating chances from a free-flowing fast break.
- This drill requires sharp and accurate passes. Coaches should use the three-man weave to illustrate the benefits of different types of passes: driven (on the ground or in the air) lofted, etc.
- Change the width of the field to encourage different types of passes. A narrow field is optimal for one-touch passes and quick combinations. A wider field is ideal to practice long switches of play.
- Remind players to stay behind the line of play to prevent straying offside.
- Specify particular types of finishes to increase the challenge: one-touch, headers, volleys, etc.
- Introduce a time limit if play is progressing too slowly, or set a minimum number of passes if passes are inaccurate or overpowered.
Passing Patterns to Goal
This is another simple, yet incredibly effective drill to help players transform possession into high-quality chances. I particularly like passing patterns because they give each coach an opportunity to demonstrate exactly what a cohesive and coherent attack looks like.
Coaches set out cones over the entire field, to indicate positions in the team’s formation (left back, right wing, etc). Players are then divided into two teams, with one player from each team assigned to start at their position–specific cone.
From there, the teams take turns combining to move the ball forward and create a goal-scoring opportunity. The coach dictates the pattern: each player must simply execute their prescribed pass. Once one attack has finished, the other team immediately starts their own move towards goal.
There is no defensive pressure in this drill — the emphasis is on sharp, accurate passing and keeping the ball moving. The idea here is to illustrate how chances can be created by progressing the ball in a controlled and precise attack.
The real beauty of these passing patterns is in their variability: coaches can introduce as complex or as simple of patterns as they please. To start with, a simple pattern is ideal: up one flank, followed by a cross into the box for forwards to attack. Then you can begin to add complexities like switches of play, one-twos with central midfielders and penetrating passes into a hold-up striker.
- Some of these patterns take time and patience to master. Introduce competition to keep players engaged, with two teams racing to a certain number of (high-quality) goals.
- Be sure that every pattern is practiced on both sides of the field: if the first repetition goes through the right-back, the next repetition will go down the left.
- The biggest coaching challenge here is to keep intensity high. On and off the ball, every movement should be at game speed.
- Once your team has a toolbox of 3+ patterns, vary between the three to keep players on their toes and mentally engaged. You can also have the back-line swing the ball from side to side until you call out a particular pattern for the team to execute.
- Ideally, this drill helps players visualize what an entire attacking movement looks like. When these patterns are realized in actual game situations, be sure to recognize and praise that execution.
Three-Team Possession with Attacking Combination to Goal
This drill is included as a variant in our Trace Passing Guide to Possession Drills, but is good enough to warrant a spot here as well. It’s particularly effective in helping midfielders create chances by finding a pass out of congested central areas and making dangerous runs from deep.
Build a 20yd x 20yd grid about 30yds away from a full-sized goal. Create three teams of four players. One goalkeeper will protect the goal.
Two teams play a 4v4 possession game inside the box. The third, neutral team stays outside the grid, creating a diamond (one player per edge). Once a certain number of passes are completed (the only restriction is that neutral can’t pass to neutral), the attacking team plays an outlet pass to a neutral player.
Two attacking players make runs into the box, while one defender is allowed to follow. The neutral player delivers a ball into the box to create a goalscoring opportunity. Points are awarded for scoring goals.
As soon as the attacking move is finished, play resumes. The neutral team enters the possession grid, and are replaced on the outside by the attacking team.
- If this drill is used to emphasize chance creation, rather than keeping possession, be sure to focus on the quality of delivery into the box, as well as the timing of attackers’ runs.
- Once players understand the drill’s general rhythm, introduce new challenges. Increase the number of passes. Specify the type of finish that must be applied: header, volley, one-touch.
- If practicing crossing and finishing, require that the outlet pass go forward (to a #9, closest to the goal) or backward (to a #6, furthest from the goal). That player can take a touch and then play the ball wide and into space for one of the wide neutrals, who then delivers a ball into the box.
- Emphasize quick transitions to keep the ball moving.
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