Tag Archives for " small-sided games "

4 v 4 Four Goal Game

By Sean Pearson

Area Size: 30 x 30 yards

Teams: 2 teams (4 v 4)

Time: 15 Minutes


  • To be aware of where your team is and the position of opposing players
  • To understand when, where and why to decide to switch the ball


Place 4 goals in each corner of the area, 2 for each team to score in and defend. You can only score with a 1-time finish.



This practice is about the awareness of your players. I find too many young players have tunnel vision when it comes to soccer or sports in general and just want to go one way and only one way. This practice therefore has 2 goals at opposite sides of the field for each team to allow players to decide on which goal to score on. Their decision is based on the opposition player positioning.

When in possession the team looks to spread out and see which goal has the most opportunity to score in.


If opposition players shift to block 1 goal it is at this point that players must understand that this goal (or direction) is closed off and the team should change directions and switch the play to the other side. So as well as passing and moving, players should also be looking at the position of opposition players.



  • Add a neutral
  • Can only score after a set number of passes, 3, 5, 8 etc.
  • Must dribble past someone before the team can score
  • 2/1 touch max
  • Must be 1 pass with the outside of the foot before you can score

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

Breaking Down the Back Line

By Sean Pearson

Area Size: 18-yard and surrounding area up to 30 yards

Teams: 2 teams (7 v 5)

Time: 20 Minutes


  • To get the ball wide as quickly as possible
  • To beat the full back with pace/skill and find a pass in the 18-yard area.

Sometimes when coaching a game, you will come up a team who wants to sit back and as we say ‘park the bus’. Basically a team get all of their players behind the ball and stops any penetration with the form of a ’block’. This is very frustrating to play against as it takes away a lot of space to attack. We are going to focus on beating the block by going round it, using speed and skill.


Use the 18-yard and surrounding area with 2 goals on the 30-yard line for the defending team to score in. Set the defending team up in 2 lines of 3 or a ‘block’ with a GK. Set up the attacking team with 2 wide players, 2 central midfielders and a central striker.



To beat the block your team will be going around it. It is important that the attacking team moves and passes with speed. If you pass and run with the ball slowly this only plays into the hands of the defending team. A center midfielder passes out wide to the wide midfielder who looks to run with the ball at the full back at speed.


Encourage your players to use skill to beat the full back, but at speed, try not to do to many tricks, remember the focus is speed of play so the defenders can’t get set and organized. The wide midfielder’s aim is to get to the touchline and survey their options. As they do this the rest of the players will move accordingly.


With the wide midfielder dribbling to the touchline, they are looking for 2 options. The 1st being to pull the ball back to the penalty spot area. Because of their position, the defense has congested the area around the GK so there is no space. Because it is natural for players to watch the ball and take their eye off of other players this is when a center midfielder, at the top of the 18 meets the ball at the penalty spot area for a shot. Now the shot may get blocked or saved but the more you do this the more, higher quality chances you will get. It is important that the striker (9) makes a run to the front post to take players away
from the penalty spot area.

The other option for the wide midfielder to consider is to play the ball across the 6-yard box if there is room. This pass will need to have pace on it to beat the GK. It also has the possibility of coming off a part of a defender and deflecting into the goal anyway.


If the defense does well and stops penetration from out wide, instead of forcing the ball through on that side, it is important that your team see this and move away from their current positions to switch the ball with speed to attack from the other side.


If the defense wins the ball then they are to shoot into the goals in the corners, this is to replicate a team who just wants to sit back and kick the ball long.


  • Add more attackers/defenders if you have the players
  • If there is the space allow your wide midfielders to cut inside before the touchline
  • If the defending team sits off too much allow central midfielders to carry the ball forward and shoot

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

Doubling Up in Defense

By Sean Pearson

Area Size: 55 x 42 yards

Teams: 5 v 5 + 3 (Extra defenders)

Time: 20 Minutes


  • To slow the attackers down
  • To realize who is the closest defender and ‘double up’ on the attacker



There are 3 areas, 2 large end areas and a middle zone (5 yards wide) where the 3 defenders occupy their own personal zone between cones. Depending on numbers, separate the middle zone into 2 or 3 equal areas for each defender. 3 defenders and 2 attackers are in each end zone.




The attacking teams are aiming to score in the goals but only the 2 attackers can score. There are no GK but with a 3 defenders it should make it more difficult to score. The team in possession is looking to pass through the middle zone to their strikers. The defenders on the opposite side are not allowed in front of the attackers to intercept the ball as this is not what we are working on. But what you want them to do is to step close to the attacker to deny them the ability to turn and shoot. They should be 1 arm’s length away and side on and their main aim is to slow them down not to tackle them.

Whichever defender in the middle zone is nearest, determined by which cones the attacker is in between, is allowed to help defend and win the ball off the attacker. This term is called ‘doubling up’ on a player making a 2v1 scenario.


As soon as they win possession they must pass to another defender on that side of the field. The middle zone defender then returns to their original position.


Because the attacker is in a different area of the field there is a closer defender in the middle zone to double up. Therefore, the defender behind the attacker slows them down and denies them the ability to turn and shoot and the second defender wins the ball.


When a scenario occurs where there is a large distance between the defenders in the middle zone and the attacker it is then the responsibility of another defender, who is closer, to double up. This gives opportunities for decision making, increasing player’s awareness of the scenario and communication.



  • Depending on numbers have 2 defenders in the middle zone.
  • Allow a player who is defending to move into the attacking area when their team is in possession.

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

Thinking Ahead and Playing Quickly

By Sean Pearson

Area Size: 40 x 36 yards

Teams: 4 v 3 (2 or 3 teams of 3 depending on numbers)

Time: 20 Minutes


  • To be forward thinking in players’ decision making, both by passes or runs
  • To make diagonal runs and NOT straight runs

The 2 main components for this small sided game that you must make you players aware of are first forward thinking, or ‘forward decisions’ so no backwards movement or passes as this should resemble to a fast break in soccer when players are chasing to get back and deny the attackers space. Therefore, the attack must be completed at speed. The second component is no straight runs! Straight runs help the defense out. It keeps them in their shape, they remain organized. It is the attacker’s job to moved them out of position by diagonal runs. Whether on the ball or off the ball, these runs can vary and be at different angles and speeds.

It is also important to get across to your team that players may not get the ball, but because of their unselfish movement off the ball the team was able to create a chance and score. I feel this is very important to portray to the youth of today as they think if they are not the sole match winner or directly involved they do not get the attention and so do not want to do it. It is not the ‘glamorous job’ but it is an important job. This is why when you coach, make excessive positive comments about movement that displaces a defender for a teammate. Even more than the person who may have scored. This emphasizes the ‘team’ before ‘I’ ethos.


One team of 3 acts as a back 3 going across the 18-yard box. 2 other teams of 3 face them as the Left midfielder/striker, central striker and right midfielder/striker. The distance between the defending team and attacking team is 15 yards. This can be increased or decreased depending on preference. Each team wears a different color to determine who is currently involved. Eventually any player will be able to start with a ball but for now you should determine who starts.


Next tell the wide midfielder/striker to drive further inside towards the central defender. The central striker then overlaps them and the opposite midfielder/striker pulls away again. This should do a number of things to the defense. The central defender should begin to come forward (if they back off this gives the player an opportunity to shoot) The full back should come in to support the central defender. The player with the ball then has the option to pass to the overlapping player or through to the opposite wide player.


Now have the central striker start with the ball, but do not run straight. Again you want to move the central defender. The 2 wide players aim to spread the 2 full backs out by staying wide and going around them. As the central defender steps towards the ball, the pass is played to the best option. Again if the central defender backs away there is the opportunity to shoot.


If the gap is too small to pass through, then there is also the option of the central striker taking on the central defender 1 v 1 as the full backs are pre-occupied with the wide midfielders/strikers.


When you feel comfortable as a coach that your players understand their roles depending on who has the ball and what run they are making with the ball allow the players to decide who has the ball.


  • Keep a tally of which team scores the most
  • Instead of keeping the same team defending you can switch each time, after a team attacks, they become the defending team.
  • Even though the attacks should be fast already you can add a time limit from the first touch until a shot. 5 seconds is a good time for this.

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

Creating Opportunities to Cross and Finish

By Sean Pearson

Area Size: 40 x 36 yards (Full Back Zones: 10 x 8) 4 Mannequins

Teams: 5 v 5

Time: 15 Minutes


  • To understand when and where to create a goal scoring opportunity
  • To work on technique of passing the ball into the corner or knowing when and how to round the goalkeeper


The game is about the wide players being positive and attacking the full back 1 v 1. A team must have a player ‘take on’ a mannequin in a full back zone before they are allowed to score.

Attacking the FB (1)

To start with no other player is allowed in this area and the player must have the ball and dribble past the mannequin by using a move, whether it be dropping the shoulder, scissors etc. The attacking play has 3 seconds, once entering the zone to get past the mannequin and either cross or dribble out of the zone again.

First tell the attacker they must go to the outside and use their outside foot to cross the ball.

Attacking the FB (2)

Next tell your attackers to come inside of the full back and look to either shoot into the far corner or aim to set up a goal scoring opportunity. You can swap your wingers over so they are coming on to their strong foot or keep them on the same side so they can work on their weak foot.

Attacking the FB (3)


If you have more players, you can have them as full backs who stay in the full back zone until they are attacked. if they win possession the other team must have 2 players that go into these zones to encourage 1 v 1 attacking.

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