Posts tagged ‘Systems of Play’

Organizing Small-Sided Teams – Part II

Last week I gave examples of formations that you can use in the 6v6 format that is used in many areas of the US for U9 and U10 teams. You don’t have too much flexibility when there are only six players on your team.

With the 8v8 format you can do a number of things to play to the strengths of your team or the weaknesses of the opponent.

The most common line-up I’ve seen is a 3-3-1. This formation gives you Continue reading ‘Organizing Small-Sided Teams – Part II’ »

Organizing Small-Sided Teams – Part I

There are many books and dvds that discuss the different formations that can be played in the 11v11 game but I haven’t seen that much discussion about how coaches organize their players when playing 6v6 or 8v8. While there are some areas that use 7v7 and 9v9, the former are the two most common formats for young players in United States.

Players that are U9 and U10 generally play 6v6 I’ll focus on this post. I’ll discuss the 8v8 format that U11 and U12 players progress in next week’s blog.

It could be that this subject isn’t discussed often because the focus at this age is on players developing their skills.  This is true but they also need to learn how to play the game and understand the responsibilities of each position.

I keep it very simple most of the time with the Continue reading ‘Organizing Small-Sided Teams – Part I’ »

Creating a ‘False 9’

This excerpt is from one of our most popular titles, ‘The False 9‘. This is a unique offer of both an eBook and videos that compliment each other very well. Detailed diagrams and descriptions from the eBook are followed up with video analysis that present a complete picture of the techniques and tactics that are necessary to create a dynamic False 9.

This section is from the chapter on Functional Skill Exercises. These types of exercises are important to use in whichever system you use but the ones presented here are especially useful in training the skills necessary to play in the False 9 position.


How to Create a Functional Skills Exercise

Functional Skills Exercises are passing exercises and drills that work the individual technical action. These are exercises that work specific actions within different size grids to create repetition with the technical action.

Functional Skills exercises are used to zoom in on a specific technical skill to create more repetition on that Technique. This could be players working with a ball, passing in twos or threes, or a full team with a number of balls passing and moving whilst repeating certain technical actions. Functional Skills Exercises are not built within tactical shape – they’re designed around, and are expected to focus on, a specific action.

Functional Skills Exercises are limited to 15 minutes and should not be used for a full session. These exercises are based on repetition and unless the session is progressed the learning outcomes are often poor. By progressing the session the player, will have opportunity to try out these skills progressively by receiving more pressure. The failing with using Functional Skills alone is the player can look technically sound but often they cannot reproduce the skill under pressure. If we progress the session, the player will also develop tactical knowledge. This will assist them in their movement, positioning and when to practise the given technical act or skill.

My reason for including Functional Skills is to not isolate many technical trainers who prefer using this type of training. I do however, recommend this is not over-used and is just a starting point to the training session.

146 How to create a functional skills session footage 1


Functional Skills – Circle Passing

147 Functional skills session circle diagram

Timing of movement and explosive actions.

Exercise Description:
This game starts with 1 ball then we can add up to 3 balls. This covers a straight pass into 9 with a one-touch through ball and explosive actions. Outside player to move towards the ball and the player on their left will explode and receive the pass.

Coaching Points:
• Speed dribble – Head up with lots of small touches
• Striking the ball – firm pass side-foot into selected end player
• Drop-off Pass – Move towards the ball and strike through the ball into the path of the runner

Explosive run – Break quickly, do not slow down, keep looking at the passer so you can see the pass.

Functional Skills – Creating opportunities

148 Functional skills session creating opportunities diagram


Improve passing options, ball speed, game tempo, timing of movement.

Exercise Description:
1. Players passing straight lines and follow the pass
2. Players pass to the diagonal cone and follow
3. Players pass a straight pass, bounce back then up

Coaching Points:
• On the balls of their feet
• Move towards the ball
• Slow down to cushion ball
• Standing leg slightly bent
• First touch out of the body
• Move towards the ball
• Head up and strike the ball back to teammate

This is only a very small part of a comprehensive look at the False 9. The eBook and videos go into great detail on the history of the position, the players that have made the most of the role, the teams that use it and how they use it as well as the training sessions and methods you can use to create this same success with your teams.

Whether you want your team to play with a False 9 or simply want to train players to be as versatile and dangerous as the most notable False 9 like, Cruyff, Messi, Fabregas and Eriksen this book will provide you with the blue print.

Have a great day!



Defending Against the 4-2-3-1

More and more teams at every level of the game are playing with a 4-2-3-1 so it makes sense to work with your team on how to defend against it. Using a 4-3-3 formation to counter a 4-2-3-1 can be an effective tactic. Teaching your back four and defensive center midfielder to deal with the striker and three midfielders of the 4-2-3-1 is a good place to start.


This session is taken from our book, ‘Beating the 4-2-3-1’ by Stevie Grieve. The book includes main real examples from games at the highest level and training sessions to teach the concepts to your team. Continue reading ‘Defending Against the 4-2-3-1’ »

Training Sessions for the 4-3-3

One of our latest books has generated a lot of interesting. Both the hard copy and the eBook version of ‘Training Sessions for the 4-3-3‘ have been a very popular choice of coaches visiting The book is a guide that provides exercises, drills and small-sided games that teach players how to perform the roles and responsibilities of each position in a 4-3-3 formation.

Continue reading ‘Training Sessions for the 4-3-3’ »

Changing the Game

When the game isn’t going our way and what we’re trying to do just isn’t working, I look for ways to change the game. There are a few things that I look at and will discuss here but there are countless ways that changes the coach and players make can alter the game.

The first thing I look at is tempo. Is the other team stopping us and creating attacks of their own because they are playing more quickly than we are? Are they putting us under pressure because they are keeping possession longer and building up against us? Are there one or two areas on the field where they are just quicker than we are and we need to change who is playing in those areas?

If the other team is just working harder than we are and investing more into the game we need to raise our game match their intensity. I don’t believe this is often the whole problem. Coaches who just Continue reading ‘Changing the Game’ »

The False 9

Our latest book explores how some of the best teams in the world play with a withdrawn forward, also known as a False 9. The number 9 relate to the classic number given a the striker.