Tag Archives for " small-sided games "

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

Small-Sided Game for Finishing

By Sean Pearson

Area Size: 35 x 20 yards (Scoring Zones: 10 x 20)

Teams: 3 v 3 + 1

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 idea of this small sided game is to increase the number of chances in front of goal per player. The more chances, thus repetition of similar scenarios, a player is able to experience the calmer they will be when presented with the same chance in a game.

Composure in Front of Goal (1)

Calmness or composure in front of goal is critical to scoring. Many times players panic because it is a pressure situation, players think ‘don’t miss’ instead of ‘score’. Players can’t handle defenders chasing them down and breathing down their neck, the GK rushing out to stop them. This all leads to two things that happen, generally players result to power and the ball goes straight at the GK or high over the crossbar.

When in the team of 3,players spread out as wide as possible, the neutral keeps advancing, if the defenders do not close them down then they can run with the ball into the scoring area and take a shot themselves. If a defender does close them down the neutral passes to the side the defender came from. The receiving player has a positive first touch and quickly enters the scoring zone. To begin with no defender is allowed in so it is like a 1 v 1 scenario, just the attacker and GK.

The attacker pushes the ball to the middle and their body is to the side of the ball, the shoulder, of the side that is shooting, points behind the ball to open the hips. the attacker aims to ‘pass’ the ball into the corner, low and with curve to get around any potential save attempt from the GK. If the GK is too far to that side, shoot near post.

Composure in Front of Goal (2)

The next scoring scenario is when the ball is too close the GK to find the spaces to shoot. Realizing this the player looks to use their body to fake a shot, ‘selling’ the GK to move one way and then calmly pushing the ball past them to pass into the open goal.

Composure in Front of Goal (3)

The repetitive nature of going through 1 v 1 gives players the chance to experience the scenario often so in games they can recall their positive experiences and have a higher chance of keeping their composure and scoring.


Eventually you can allow one defender into the scoring zone, then 2 to really increase the pressure.

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