SWITCHING THE PLAY: Attacking the area least well defended
Some of the earliest advice given to young children is to move away from the swarm to space. Shortly after will follow the instruction to play the ball away from the pack to the player in space. Sounds simple. But when you look at most teams play it’s obviously easier said than done. Rather than switching the play if no central penetration is possible the ball tends to get stuck on one side of the field. From there it’s a pretty safe bet that possession will be lost within a few seconds.
By contrast top teams understand the importance of switching the play. Guardiola has made it an important part of his philosophy with the concept of “pass to attract” – the team pushes a number of players into a relatively small area meaning the opponents must do likewise to avoid being outnumbered. After a few passes when sufficient players have been attracted, the ball is quickly switched with a long pass to a player on the weak side in a lot of space. It’s a very simple strategy but can be devastatingly effective when executed correctly.
This is the first of three sessions and works on switching the play. The session is good for players aged 12+ although younger teams of a high quality could certainly use the session. The next 2 sessions gradually increase in difficulty.
Start with a thorough dynamic warm up.
End the warm up with 4- 5 minutes of long ball practice in pairs. Strive for accuracy but not full distance.
Switch of Play with Aerobic conditioning:
The first part of the session is a game that rewards switching the play but is also a high intensity aerobic exercise that will provide a significant fitness stimulus.
- In the example below the game is 8 vs 8 with 2 neutral players. Adjust the numbers according to the needs of your team.
- A team score a goal by having a player running into any of the four corner zones (marked below). This player cannot be in the zone as the ball is played.
- If a player receives the ball in any of these zones the team retains the ball and tries to score again. They cannot score in the same corner zone 2 times consecutively in the same possession.
- Play 4 x 4 minutes with 2 minutes recovery between each interval.
- Awareness of where the space is. Can the players switch the ball from crowded areas to the corner zone least well defended.
- Have the players take their hear rates at the end of each interval. Aim for a heart rate that 90-95% of their maximum (approximately 220 minus their age)
- Recovery should be active. A simple low intensity passing drill or juggling in small groups of 3 or 4 would be appropriate
Long switch of playing leading to crossing and finish:
- The players start in the positions shown below.
- Rotates new players in after each repetition.
- The objective is to simulate a long aerial switched ball over the opposition defense.
- Once the long ball is played the two defenders become active and the 5 blues go to goal.
- As much as the finishing practice the drill is about planting the idea in the heads of the players that this is a very effective pass. With much play being possession based sometimes the players forget that there are times when a quality long ball is the best option.
- Switch sides after a certain number of repetitions.
- Quality long ball at the correct angle. In front of the winger for them to run onto but not so far in front that the goalkeeper can come and claim it.
- Good decision making (go to goal or cross?) and quality execution in crossing and finishing.
3 goal game with neutral players (goalkeepers) on the side:
- Each side can score in any of 3 goals as indicated.
- The goalkeepers play on the side as shown. Depending upon their ability with their feet they can be restricted to 1 touch.
- Having the goalkeepers on the side means that a long switched ball is always available.
- Awareness at all times as to where the space is and which goal to attack.
- Quality long balls on the switch of play.
- Rapid movement to support the long ball.
- Upon winning the ball quick transitions to attack the unguarded goal