Category Archives for Coaching

Long Pass Accuracy and Aerial Control

By Sean Pearson

Area Size: 42 x 36 yards

Time: 20 mins

Players: 4 v 4 + 5


  • To decide the where, when and how to play a long aerial pass
  • To decide early which body part to use to execute a close control of the ball (chest, thigh or foot)


1 large area with 4 areas in the corner with a neutral in each area. 4v4 with a neutral in the middle and spare balls around the outside of the area.


In my opinion 1st touch is the most important technical skill in soccer. In order to do everything else good close control from your 1st touch is essential. It’s what allows players to build confidence and be calm when receiving the ball under pressure.

As often and as early as possible use the overload in the middle to find space to use your laces and aim for a neutral in a corner at a distance the individual player can make. You can also use the neutrals in the corners to pass to on the ground to keep possession if there are no other options to pass to. The neutral receiving the ball has a 5yard area to control the ball with, using a body part which is suitable compared to the height of the ball when being received, which to start with no one can challenge them in. When this is successful you can give the team a point.

The neutral then looks to play out to open players on the team including the neutral in the middle if they are available. When receiving this ball, if possible can this player then play another long pass into a different neutral. You want as many repetitions with long passes and aerial control as possible so don’t be concerned with adding a set number of passes after or before each long pass.

When a neutral has the ball, they can also find a long pass option straight away. This could be to 1) another neutral in the corner if they can reach 2) The neutral in the middle or 3) a player on the team in possession. Eventually allow pressure into the areas where the neutral has possession or as the ball is travelling towards them to increase the game realism.

This allows all players to benefit from playing and receiving long passes to work on their aerial control. You can swap the 3 groups as often as you want to become neutrals on the outside. Once the defending team wins possession they aim to score points the same way.


  • Add goals to go to after a successful aerial control
  • Increase/decrease the area & numbers depending on your team’s/player’s age & ability
  • Only allowed to play long passes with 1 touch (advanced)
  • Have to pass the ball to a team mate with 1 touch (advanced)
  • Add curl to the passes with the inside or outside of the foot (advanced)

By Sean Pearson. Sean is also the author Coaching Team Shape in the 3-3-1, Coaching Team Shape in the 4-2-3-1 and Coaching Team Shape in the 4-3-3

Mauricio Pochettino Formations at Tottenham

By James Lambert – Author of Tactical Series Mauricio Pochettino

This 1-3-4-2-1 playing system fits the Tottenham team Pochettino is building with positional profiles matching to perfection.

Lloris is a sweeper keeper who as great distribution, with good feet and an excellent shot stopper.

Rose and Walker are flexible to play in a back 4 and a back three system, but in a back three, they have even more license to push on and take the width.

Vertonghen, Alderweireld and Dier are all very mobile defenders with very good distribution long and short.

Holding Midfielders have the characteristics to screen, win balls but also have the technical skills to support the attack. Dembele is a complete footballer who is excellent in possession and often starts positive moves with his ability to run with the ball and change the tempo of the game.

Wanyama screens and breaks up play, he excels when the other team counters to slow or stop the counter attack. Wanyama is one of the best defensive midfielders in the game today.

The two deep lying creative players Alli and Eriksen have more freedom in this system, and it is this freedom that can add elements of surprise and creativity to the Tottenham attack. When Son is brought on he also give the team something different, he is excellent in tight areas. Positioning himself in the last line with perfectly timed runs or simple body shape to break the last line.

With Kane playing striker they have mobility, strength, a great team player and of course a goal scorer.

Tottenham also use a two striker system to fir in Janssen and Kane, this gives Dembele freedom to work with Alli, Eriksen, Winks or Son. The roles of Rose and Walker are the same, often pushing high to take the width.

When they have fall behind in games they have switched to the 4-2-3-1 to try and overload the central areas.

On the right side Eriksen plays inside inviting Walker to take the width, Son mostly plays out on the left but at times he may move to the right wing allowing Rose to push forward. The system is not rigid, it is very flexible with many central rotations to try and break down the opponent.

This article is an excerpt from our new book by James Lambert – Tactical Series Mauricio Pochettino 

Possession with Transition

By Steven Smith

Over the River

Objectives: Increase possession skills while training fitness and transition. Increase the ability to defend in small groups.


This activity is designed to increase possession skills while focusing on transition, fitness and defensive pressure. It is perhaps one of the most challenging fitness possession games for a senior level team.

The concept is for two teams to keep the ball for 6-8 consecutive passes and then switch the ball to the next grid over (across the river) in the air to complete a point. The level of difficulty is determined by the space of the possession grid, the intensity and numbers of the opposing team and the distance of the gap between the two possession grids (the river).


Two possession grids are set up approximately 25 yards by 35 yards in size with a 20-yard gap between the two fields. Three teams of seven are divided evenly with a black group trying to maintain possession in one grid and complete 6 to 8 passes and then send the ball in the air to the yellow team for possession in the next grid over and past the gap (river) space.

The defenders form the third group and stay outside of the grids until a ball is served by the coach into one of the grids. Once the ball is received by the black team three or four of the defenders must enter the grid to try to break up the possession. If the defenders are able to knock the ball out of the grid, the coach serves to the yellow team and the defenders in that group enter the yellow possession grid to try to knock the ball out of that grid as well. 

The possession group is successful by completing the 6 to 8 passes (coach’s preference on difficulty). Once the predetermined number of passes is achieved the defenders stop but the possession group has a free pass to send to the opposite grid. If the ball does not reach the opposite grid in the air then no point is scored! Once the ball has reached the new grid the cycle of possession and crossing the river continues.


The coach can determine the length of the game by time or by points achieved or number of balls served. Once the end of the game is achieved the defending color group changes with each successive game. A full cycle for the game is three complete games. Always give a reward for the winning team at the end of a three game cycle.


The group sizes can be uneven and therefore the coach can predetermine how many defenders can enter the grid. The smaller the possession group, the fewer defenders that should be sent into the grid.

With groups of seven defenders one person on the defensive team may have to cross the river to help defend if groups of four are required to defend in each grid. The coach can make that person make the transition every time or each person on the defensive group can take turns crossing the river to defend.

By Steve Smith
Steve Smith has been a men’s college coach that holds an NSCAA Advanced National Diploma and a Doctorate in Physical Education.

Making Play Predictable

By Sean Pearson

Area Size: Quarter or Half field (depending on age of players)

Teams: 15 – 20 mins

Players: 7 v 7


  • To stop forward penetration
  • To force sideways and backwards passes


2 teams set up in a 2-3-1 formation in a scrimmage like scenario.


The aim for this session is for your team to work together defensively by stifling forward progression of the opposition and frustrating the other team into backwards and sideways passes until they become frustrated. Your team must stay close together to stop penetrating passing lines into the feet of players further up the field. They cut off angles so the only available pass is one of backwards or sideways.

The defending team does not have to sit right in front of their own goal for this tactic to work. It is more effective to perform it in the middle of the field. As the opposition pass wide, the defending wide midfielder gets across to pressure the player on the ball so they can’t move forwards, the rest of the team slides across, compacting that side of the field, leaving the opposite wing open. The striker drops down to stop any balls into the center of midfield.

As the ball travels back to the CB the striker of the defending team presses the CB to force them to make a quick decision, again not allowing forward penetration. The obvious pass is sideways to the free CB. The team again slide into the middle to compact the area directly in front of or around the ball.

Now we have a little change of shape, because we don’t want to be so compact that passes out wide can break the defensive lines. Again the focus is to stop forward penetration by cutting off forwards passing options. As the ball travels to the opposite CB, the striker drops down to stop passes into the CM. The wide midfielder stays narrow to stop passes into the striker’s feet. The FB comes across to pressure the WM when they receive the ball and the CB and opposite WM slide across to cover and keep defensive shape.

As the ball arrives to the WM the FB is close to Pressure them, the WM has dropped down to block the pass into the striker’s feet again and striker drops to stop passes into the CM again, this leaves a pass backwards to the CB as the only pass available.

Players need to understand that they are working as a team to stop forward progression and not become individual and start to run all over the field. If players can win the ball when pressing then absolutely go for it, but the aim is to frustrate the other team going forward and giving the ball away by trying passes that are not on.

When the other team wins possession the defending team aims to frustrate and stop forward progression just like they experienced.


  • Add neutrals to challenge the defending team and increase the difficulty
  • Allow only 1 or 2 players to communicate to teammates to help build leaders in defense

By Sean Pearson. Sean is also the author Coaching Team Shape in the 3-3-1, Coaching Team Shape in the 4-2-3-1 and Coaching Team Shape in the 4-3-3

What Tactical Formation Did Spain Use to Win Euro 2012?

By Wayne Harrison


The starting position phase formation is approximately a 4-2-3-1; the attacking phase is 4-2-1-3 or 3-3-1-3; and the defending phase is a 4-4-1-1, so we haveContinue reading