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March 2009


Mar 10/09
Are we sending the right message?

The real essence in a soccer game is the combination play that moves the ball forward.
POSSESSION SOCCERThere is a misconception that keeping possession will just do that.
I came to the conclusion that certain training exercises do not have the objectives a coach might want to portray to his players.
Coming up are two sessions commonly used for warm-ups and possession games.
But are we giving the right message with these exercises?
  • So you have a square laid out and four players on the outside, 1 player on the inside.
    That player plays his heart out to win the ball that is being passed between the outside players across or along the sidelines. What is the message?
    Warm-up, fitness for the 'chaser', ball control for the passer and receiver.

  • So you have 6 players passing the ball inside a square to each other, one player with a red pinnie in hand tries to win the ball. When he wins it, he drops the pinnie and becomes a passer, the looser becomes the 'chaser'.
    What's the message?
    Possession, fitness for all, ball control for all, speed of play, shielding, passing, receiving.

Both examples have their own merits and they are good for the mentioned reasons and many more. However, one very important component is missing.
Passing takes place in a confined space with no real direction. As long as this is the case, only one objective is evident: possession, killing time, preventing the opponent from winning the ball.
What is missing is direction. Every game is a 'north-south' situation, so possession soccer should be taught with the idea of bringing the ball forward, or backward for that matter.
Keeping possession in a counter-attack is the ultimate outcome, other than scoring a goal.
Smart passing and introducing a direction to the exercises above will make the difference in a team's play.

The graphic on the right demonstrates how playing 6 v 6 towards two opposite target players in a 40X40 grid can produce a purposeful possession game.
Keep-away games are, essentially, circular in nature and do not really go anywhere.
Directional possession games give the players a direction and the ball is moved sideways or backwards with the purpose to be played forward.
Soccer is a vertical game and 'penetration' is the first principle of attack.