#Mexico U15 Boys

Possession and building from the back

Cristian Flores, 18 Oct 2022


Most teams in the game today attempt to build their attacks from the back as it can draw in the opposition and open up spaces in behind. However, it is also during this phase when a team is at its most vulnerable to conceding a goal should players' movement be too static or easy to read.

In order to avoid the risk of losing possession in these areas and being able to evade the press, the attacking team must perform coordinated movements so that space can be opened up for passing lanes. Players should look to make movements that will allow them to lose markers and support team-mates at the same time. 

In this session, Mexico U15 head coach Cristian Flores and assistant coach Adrián Sánchez deliver a series of exercises to a group of U-15s that aim to give them the tools and an understanding of how to build from the back with a solid structure. 

The session starts with a passing sequence exercise that gives the players some movement options. The second exercise then gives the players the opportunity to perform these movements under pressure from the opposition. The session finishes with a 11v11 game where numbers 8 and 10 play a key role in the construction.

Session overview

Part 1 (explanation)
Part 1: passing sequences in a 4-3-3
Part 2 (explanation)
Part 2: 5+GKv1 – attack v. defence
Part 3 (explanation)
Part 3: 11v11 – building from the back to overloads

Key coaching points

Each exercise requires a different number of players. Exercise 1 requires only 12 outfield players, therefore spare players can either work on another exercise elsewhere or some positions can be occupied by two players. Exercise 2 requires ten outfield players and one goalkeeper; therefore, this exercise can be replicated on the other half of the pitch. Exercise 3 requires a total of 20 outfield players and two goalkeepers.

  • Quick precise passing is required for a team to progress the ball effectively through the thirds. Playing into the path of their team-mates on the move can take out the opposition.
  • Before receiving the ball, players should apply the correct body orientation such as keeping their posture open or preparing themselves for the half-turn.
  • By constantly scanning the field and seeking information, players will be able to understand where the space is, where their team-mates are and where the opposition is.
  • When constructing from the back, players looking to receive the ball should try to escape from their marker by any means necessary. They can use feints, short movements or drop "in and out" to achieve this.
  • The full-backs should try to maintain the width so that spaces and passing lanes can open and so that numbers 8 and 10 can receive the ball from the centre-backs.

This session was designed to resolve real-game scenarios, such as how to evade the high press and how to transition into an attacking overload.

Part 1: passing sequences in a 4-3-3

Adrián Sánchez delivers this first exercise, which is designed to give players multiple variations and passing patterns when constructing from the back. By focusing on their body positioning, completing firm passes and using constant communication, the players will become sharper at playing through the press and building an attack when playing in a 4-3-3 system.

  • Use 1 half of a full-size pitch.

  • Split the pitch into 2 separate sections down the middle.

  • Position the players so that there is a centre-back, a full-back, a 6, a 10, an 11 and a 9 on either side of the field (2 groups).

  • The positioning should represent a 4-3-3 formation.

Variation 1
  • Both groups play the sequence at the same time.

  • The ball starts with the centre-backs.

  • The centre-back needs to carry the ball forward and then pass to number 6.

  • Number 6 passes to the full-back.

  • The full-back then passes to number 10.

  • Number 10 needs to lay the ball off first time to number 11.

  • Number 11 plays into the feet of number 9.

  • Number 9 needs to hold the ball up from a defender.

  • After a few seconds, number 9 plays a long pass back to the centre-back.

  • The centre-back has to clear the ball with a header or first-time kick.

Variation 2
  • The centre-back carries the ball forward and plays the ball into the full-back.

  • The full-back passes inside to number 6.

  • Number 6 has to come short to receive and then play a quick pass out to number 11.

  • Number 11 passes inside to number 10.

  • Number 10 turns and passes into number 9.

  • Number 9 plays the ball back to the centre-back, who needs to clear the ball.

Variation 3
  • The centre-back carries the ball forward and plays the ball into the full-back.

  • At the same time, number 11 needs to make a short move inside.

  • The full-back then plays a short diagonal pass into number 11.

  • Number 11 then lays the ball off to number 6.

  • Number 6 plays a first-time pass into number 9.

  • Number 9 plays a one-two with number 10.

Coaching points
  • The players should adjust their body posture in anticipation and be on their toes so that they are ready to receive passes and move the ball on quickly.

  • Firm passes that are played into the movement path of their team-mates will boost the efficiency of the passing sequence.

  • Prior to receiving the ball, players should scan the field and implement the correct body posture so that they increase their field of vision.

  • The players should move toward their team-mates before receiving a pass so that shorter passes can be played throughout the sequence.

  • By focusing on communication, the players will be able to help their team-mates move the ball into the right spaces quickly.

Passing sequences in a 4-3-3

Part 2: 5+GKv5 – attack v. defence

In this exercise, the construction patterns and movements learnt from the first exercise are put into practice with the added constraint of pressure from the opposition. In order to play through the press effectively, the attacking team must make coordinated movements and constantly look to open up passing lanes.

  • Mark out a 40x50m pitch.

  • Cut the 4 corners of the pitch at an angle of 45 degrees with marking tape so that the pitch becomes octagonal-shaped.

  • Position a full-size goal at one end of the pitch.

  • At the other end, place 2 mini goals on each of the angled lines.

  • Position a goalkeeper in the full-size goal.

  • Divide the players into 2 teams of 5.

  • Organise the attacking team into a formation so that they have 2 centre-backs, a 6, an 8 and a 10.

  • The attacking team plays with the goalkeeper.

  • The ball starts with the goalkeeper.

  • The attacking team has to play through the press and score in either of the mini goals.

  • The defending team has to apply pressure and try to win the ball to transition and score in the full-size goal.

  • At any point of the play, the coach can introduce a second ball to the defending team. The attacking team must transition into defence immediately and stop them from scoring.

Coaching points
  • Using the goalkeeper throughout the build-up will give the attacking team a numerical advantage, which helps to create space and open up passing lanes to find team-mates.

  • If players are struggling to receive the ball or find space, they can feint and move "in and out" so that they deceive their opponents and create space for team-mates.

  • Due to the lack of full-backs, there will only be 2 players in the containment area of the pitch. Therefore, number 6 should drop in to create a line of 3, opening up spaces and allowing numbers 8 and 10 to drop deep and contest as a duo.

  • The defending team should maintain a high press throughout the exercise and aim to win the ball as high up the pitch as possible.

  • Good communication combined with intelligent movement can create space in areas of the pitch that the team in possession can take advantage of so that they can progress play forwards.

  • When trying to score in the mini goals, if the play in front of them is congested, the attacking team should switch play quickly and target the other mini goal.

5+GKv5 – attack v defence

Part 3: 11v11 – building from the back to overloads

This final exercise focuses on transitioning from the construction phase into creating overloads in the opposition's half. By using the previously practiced variations, the players should now be able to combine quickly and with precise passes so that they can get into the opposition’s half with numerical superiority.

  • Use a full-size pitch with 2 full-size goals at either end.

  • Place a goalkeeper in each goal.

  • Mark out a central zone with 2 lines. Each line should be 5 metres from the halfway line on either side of the pitch.

  • Set up both teams with a 4-1-2-3 formation.

  • Set up an attacking unit versus a defensive unit in each half.

  • Designate a number 8 and 10 in the blue team.

  • The ball starts with the goalkeeper of the blue team.

  • The goalkeeper can pass to the full-backs, the centre-backs or to number 6.

  • Once the goalkeeper has made the pass, the blue team must decide on a variation and build from the back whilst the orange team press them.

  • To advance into the attacking zone, the blue team must first pass into either number 8 or 10, who need to drop into the central zone to receive.

  • As soon as number 8 or 10 receive the ball, the attacking phase can begin, and 1 of the full-backs has to join the attack.

  • Only 6 attacking players can occupy the attacking zone at any one time.

  • The blue team must use the numerical advantage to combine and try to score.

  • When attacking, the blue team should reorganise so that the other full-back tucks in and creates a 3-1 defensive structure.

  • If the orange team win the ball back, they can counter-attack but only use the 5 players that are already in the opposition's half.

  • The blue team's full-back who pushed up must get back quickly and help the team defend.

Coaching points
  • The central zone has been designed to promote the occupation of space in central areas, which can then open up passing lanes for numbers 8 and 10 to find.

  • When the goalkeeper or centre-backs have the ball, the full-backs should stay wide so that passing lanes can be opened and the ball can be played into number 8 or 10 inside the central zones.

  • The team in possession must circulate the ball from side to side to create spaces and allow team-mates to find space so that a penetrating pass can be played forward.

  • When entering the attacking zone, the full-backs should make overlaps or stay wide so that the opposition becomes stretched and spaces open for the attacking team to penetrate.

  • Once an attacking sequence has finished, the full-backs must get back into their defensive position as quickly as possible.

11v11 – building from the back to overloads

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