PLAYING BETWEEN THE LINES: Possession to hurt your opponent
Possession in soccer is highly valued by many teams. But possessions for possessions sake is a useless concept. The objective in a game of soccer is to score enough goals to win so possession needs to be used to create scoring opportunities. One of the best ways to do this is to get a player on the ball, playing between the lines, facing forward. If a team can secure possession between their opponents defensive and midfield lines then a whole host of options open up:
- Long range shooting
- Splitting through balls through the seams
- Balls played wide to wingers who have a lot of space as the defense collapses to prevent the options above.
In it’s simplest form playing between, lines means occupying the space behind opposing midfielders. For young players it is often a difficult concept as there is a natural temptation to always think of “showing for the ball.” Many times, of course, this will be the correct option if the ball carrier has pressure on the ball with few options but it provides an opponent with few problems. Marking a player who constantly occupies the space in front is MUCH easier than marking an opponent who constantly drifts away and spends much of their time behind you.
Watch this video and observe how the Spanish national team, one of the finest teams of our generation takes advantage of the space between the lines.
The objective of this session is to help players develop the ability of playing between the lines. The session can be used by teams U13 and older depending on the level of the players.
The warm up we have chosen is a dynamic warm up from Mike Antoniades
part 1 -Playing between the lines
Passing and playing forward
In this part of the session we are providing the players with many chances to turn and play forward – skills that will be vital for success in the session.
- The players pass follow their pass ending with a shot a goal.
- Before receiving players pull off their cones and adopt an open body shape while looking over their shoulders a number of times.
- Work various turns – opening out, receive with one foot and take away with the other, inside/outside of the same foot etc
- For the last variation do not have the players pull off the cones. While it is always preferable to be able to support at an angle to the intended direction of the next pass as this allows the greatest level of field vision this is not always possible. Sometimes when playing in a “window” behind 2 opponents we will be in a straight line between the passer and the opponents goal. The technique for turning is a little different in that situation so we practice it.
Part 2 – Playing between the lines
2 vs 2 with neutral players – pass and replace
- Play 2 vs 2 in the central area
- When a pass is made to one of the neutrals the neutral enters the field and the passer takes their place in the neutral zone.
- The game needs a minimum on 8 players but can easily work for up 12 players.
- It is a very demanding exercise. Play periods should be for 2 to 2 1/2 minutes with recovery periods half the work period. If any group are in the middle for more than 30 seconds chasing the ball then quickly sub them both out.
- For 8 players 5 x 2 minutes with 1 minute recovery would provide a significant aerobic/anaerobic stimulus.
- The objective is to move the ball from one corner to the other. Award a point each team a team is able to do so.
- Ask the nearest player to apply pressure on the ball to the neutral as they bring the ball in.
- As the ball is played from one player to the neutral we are really focusing on the third player. Rather than immediately going towards the ball, if they perceive their teammate to have a little time can they make a movement, as indicated, behind their opponent. If they are able to receive the ball there they will be able to play forward quickly to the far corner which is the objective.
- In doing so their body should be open to the field as they check the position of the player in the opposite corner.
- The player should receive with their outside foot in an open body position.
- If, in contrast, there is significant pressure on the ball the third player may need to come closer to the ball carrier to provide support.
- The main idea we are trying to get across in the practice is for players to look to move to space behind their opponents whenever possible.
Part 3 – Conditioned Game – Playing between the lines
- The team in blue always starts with the ball
- The blue team start in a 1-4-2-3 formation. The team in red start in a 3-2-2 formation.
- There is a neutral midfield player in yellow who plays for whichever team is in possession. This means that there is always a 3 vs 2 overload in midfield for the team with the ball.
- If the reds win the ball they score in the large goal.
- The blue team score by getting a player on the ball in the end zone as marked. Defending players cannot enter this end zone.
- We could also just have the blue team going to goal.
- The midfield players must initially play in the indicated shaded zone. This is to keep the exercise realistic and have them receiving a ball where they are likely to in a game. If this proves too difficult for the players lift this restriction. However, with good ball circulation this should not be too difficult.
- The outside backs are restricted to 2 touches and cannot pass to the winger their side. If they were able to do so all the play would go down the space on the outside and we are trying to get midfield players on the ball centrally.
- The red midfielders should be encouraged not to defend too deep so there is a realistic amount of space behind them to receive the ball . If they play too deep put in a place a line that they cannot drop behind until the ball crosses it.
- To allow midfield players to try and find space between the lines to turn and attempt to find penetrating passes
- To encourage a team to be patient and circulate the ball quickly until it can find an opportunity to play the penetrating pass to the player between the lines.
- Movement and rotation among the blue midfielders. One of them must at all times be behind the opposing midfield, playing between lines, and in a “window” to receive.
- Rapid ball circulation of the ball from the team until they can find the right moment to find the advanced midfielder.
- Good decisions and quality runs from the forwards when the midfielder turns. Do they run in behind for the split pass or pull out a little Wider and deeper if the defense condenses centrally.
- Eye contact from the forwards with the attacking midfielders and the timing and angle of runs.
- Disguise on the passes, especially the balls to the players between the lines.
- Remove all restrictions, make the teams even numbers and play a free game.
You might also enjoy: