Possession to Penetrate

By Eric Clermont - 

Over the last few years, with the continued success on tiki taka and the possession style game, many youth coaches have taken it upon themselves to develop a syndrome I like to call a possession-itis. While many coaches teach the possession style along with it’s many coaching points, they have given their players the ability to receive off the back foot, the understanding of how to create supporting angles around the ball with speed and the quality to ‘start’ again and switch the field when necessary. That being said, many coaches forget to teach the most important part of the game (in my eyes). This important area, is the ability to penetrate in possession. These simple exercises below will give coaches some ideas on how to ‘bring this out’ in their own sessions.

Warm Up

Organization- Rondo activity with a 4 v 2 + 1 set up in a 10 x 10 grid and a 3 x 3 triangle set up with flags in the middle. Depending on numbers and quality of players, this can be changed to a larger grid or maybe a 4 v 1 + 1 or even a 5 v 3 + 1 for high quality teams. The principles stay the same. The four on the outside of the grid must circulate the ball and attempt to find their player in the middle of the triangle inside the grid. Play for 2 mins and then switch the defenders.

Coaching Points

  • Speed of play and technical quality to circulate ball quickly from side to side (create space to penetrate).
  • First touch move if possible (try not to stop the ball dead)
  • Angles of support from players out of possession

Article 6A

Small Sided Activity

Organization- A 3 v 3 +4 is set up in the playing area (20 x 20 grid). There is a 3 v 3 on the inside of the grid with 4 neutral players playing on the outside. The 4 neutral players are limited to two touches and support the players in possession in an attempt to play from North to South or from South to North to the neutral players. They win one point every time they are able to do this.

Progression- Neutral players cannot play to each other.

Neutral players must now play one touch.

Coaching Points

  • Mobility (checking towards and moving away from the ball)
  • Speed and angle of support. Players on the outside MUST move!
  • Decision whether to keep the ball or to penetrate must be correct (based on windows open and risk v. reward)

Article 6B

Extended Activity

Organization- Field split into quarters (4 zones) with the entire zone being a 30 x 50 yard. Two end zones are 30 x 10 yards each (with three mini goals set up at the end of them) and the middle zones are 30 x 15 yards each. 4 v 4 + 2 target players. The team in possession look to circulate the ball in an attempt to penetrate the defensive line of the opposition to find their target player. The target player then has two touches to score into the mini goals.

Progression- Players inside main grid play two touches, target players play one touch.

Coaching Points

  • Speed of play and ability to circulate.
  • Disguise of pass to find the target player.
  • Mobility of target player to find windows (maybe moving in the opposite direction to the ball).
  • Ability to play one touch into the player in the grid.


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By Eric Clermont - NSCAA Premier Diploma, USSF A License Candidate

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