Attack with pace and width

It doesn’t matter if your team plays six, seven, eight, nine or 11-a-side… you want them to attack with pace.

It’s also important that your players use the whole width of the pitch.

Spreading out when you’re attacking is a basic tactic. It pulls opposition defenders out of position, creates gaps that your players can exploit and gives them time to shoot.

Principles of play: How to attack

The session plan below was designed to improve an U11s team’s speed of play and use of width in attack.

It won’t turn your team into Barcelona overnight but it should help them attack faster and penetrate defences more easily. And they’ll score more goals too!

Session objective: Attacking with width and pace.

Number of players: 12

Age group: U10s and upwards

Equipment needed: Flat cones to mark the playing areas, two small goals, training vests to differentiate teams and several balls.


Divide your players into groups of four and give them numbers: 1 to 4.

Create a 20-yard square playing area for each group and place them adjacent to each other.

Players jog around the playing area passing in sequence, 1 to 2 to 3 etc.

After a minute or two, change the sequence so that players are passing in reverse numerical order: 4 to 3 to 2 to 1.

Coaching point

Emphasise the need to move immediately after passing. No standing around admiring your pass!

Activity 1: Keepaway

One player in each group becomes a defender. The other three attempt to keep the ball away from her.

Challenge each group to make as many passes as possible before the ball is intercepted (in which case the player who last touched the ball becomes the defender) or the ball goes out of the playing area.

Make the activity competitive. Challenge each group to make five, 10, then 20 passes before making a mistake.

Coaching point

Ask your players to tell you the best way to keep the ball away from the defender. The answer is to pass and move quickly into a place where you can receive a return pass.

Progression 1

Add another defender.

Add a second ball.

Specify the number of touches each player is allowed to take before passing.

Progression 2

After five minutes, take away the dividing lines between the playing areas so that you end up with all 12 players in one, big playing area.

Now play keepaway with three defenders.

Coaching points

If your players find it easy to keep the ball, add more defenders.

If they are finding it difficult to keep the ball away from the defenders, make the playing area bigger or play with fewer defenders.

Remember to set your players a target number of passes to complete.

Emphasise the need to move immediately after passing but also ask the question: Where do you need to move to? Aimless movement should be discouraged.

Activity 2: Attacking in threes

Move all your players to a 50 yards long by 30 yards wide playing area with a goal at one end and divide them into groups of three.

If you have a spare player, put her in goal. If not, you or a parent can be the goalkeeper for this game.

The groups of three go to the end of the playing area opposite the goal. Players in each group are assigned positions on the field: Centre, left and right.

The ball is kicked out by the goalkeeper to one of the players in the first group.

Each group attacks the goal at match pace, passing the ball at least four times before a shot is taken. Players must maintain their positions relative to each other and each player must touch the ball.

Note: If you have an assistant, use two playing areas with two groups of three in each.

Coaching points

Your players will probably begin by passing the ball to feet and moving very slowly up the field.

Ask them why passing to feet slows the attack – because the player receiving the ball has to slow down or stop to control the ball – and if there is a better, quicker way of passing. The solution is to pass in front of the player so they can run on to the pass and control it in their stride.

Once they start to pass in front of the running player you should see a big improvement.


Add a defender who tries to disrupt the attacks.

Add a “no-go” line five yards in front of the goal. Attacking players now have to complete the move and shoot before they get to the line.


Put a second goal in the playing area. Two of the teams now play a 3v3 game.

To further encourage wide attacking play, the two waiting teams should act as side supports.

The first goal wins the game.

Play winner stays on and see which team can win most games in a 10-minute period.

Coaching points

Congratulate players who pass in front of running team mates and applaud attacking moves that use all three players.