#In possession

Build‑up from defence

Angelo Schirinzi, 21 Mar 2023


This exercise works on playing out from the back with short passes. The focus of the exercise is on players building up play patiently from the back, which requires good technical ability and game understanding to initiate the attack at the right time.


  • The exercise requires 8 outfield players (two teams of 4) and 2 goalkeepers. 

  • Use the full pitch and both goals.

  • Set up two ball sources, one close to each goal.


  • Place a goalkeeper in each goal and set up one of the teams in a 1-3-1 formation with no opposition.

  • The sequence begins with a throw‑out from one of the goalkeepers. The aim is for the team to circulate the ball in their own half and wait for the right time to initiate an attack and finish on goal at the opposite end of the pitch.

  • The coach should suggest several formations that allow the team to play out from the back with short passes, while giving the players the freedom to build the attack as they wish.

  • Rotate the teams after each sequence.


  • V1: introduce 3 passive defenders, who should apply low intensity pressure.

  • V2: progress to a 1‑2‑2 formation, with no opposition from outfield players. In this variation, the goalkeeper plays an active role in the build‑up phase. The goalkeeper must combine with their team-mates at least two or three times before the team can initiate the attack.

  • V3: add a defender into each half of the pitch. The defenders may only intervene in their own half of the pitch and may not cross the imaginary halfway line (marked with yellow cones) to help their team-mate.

Coaching points

  • Players must keep themselves and the ball moving at all times during the build-up phase. 

  • Encourage players to make crossover runs and stray from their original positions.

  • Emphasise the importance of communication and remind players to be patient and wait for the right time to initiate the attack.

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