Category: Training Sessions

4vs4+2 with neutral players providing depth

Structure: The playing field is 30 meters long and 20 meters wide. There are two mini-goals placed on both sides. Those can be seen as a pass through the halfspace, for instance.

Rules: The game is played 4vs4 on the mini-goals with a fixed direction of play. The two neutral players support the team in possession of the ball and have a maximum of two touches. Furthermore, they are not allowed to leave their position but can move along their side. Therefore, placing the mini-goals a few meters behind the field would be optimal.

Variation: The players between the goals are each assigned to a team and are allowed to move into the field once the ball is lost. Consequently, dynamic situations arise in which one player presses backwards.

Coaching points: By using a 4vs4 one can basically train all aspects of football. Consequently, all relevant group and individual tactical aspects are present. The creation of triangles, the correct positioning, the support of the ball carrier, or to look for the deepest positioned player are all coaching points. Defensively, it is all about correct shifting, diagonal positioning, isolating the opponent and recognizing pressing triggers.

In case you are interested in our other small-sided games, head over to this part of our website to find all training content:

You can download the small-sided game with instructions here:

Practicing the halfspace switch

Structure: The playing field resembles the wings of a butterfly. On each diagonal side of the field, a mini-goal is placed. I would recommend to use the width of the box and make the field approximately 25 meters long.

Rules: The game is played 5vs5+1. The neutral player supports the team in possession of the ball. Furthermore, a fixed direction of play is established.

Variation: To support the team in possession of the ball, the field could be divided into different vertical lanes, with specific rules for the occupation of each zone. In a further step, the direction of play could be changed. For example, a team could then attack the goals at the bottom left and top right. This in turn leads to more diagonality and interesting interactions, especially in terms of preparing the counter-pressing for a potential turnover.

Coaching points: The main principle we want to train with this small-sided game is the use of switches in order to get access to the centre diagonally. Therefore, the butterfly-shape is used alongside the mini-goals representing a pass into the ten-space. As a consequence, the main focus of this small-sided game lies in the principles of creating pressure and finding the free man facing the opponent’s goal. Fulfilling the principle of creating pressure requires the usage of our sub-principles attract and switch as well as the offer of two passing options for the ball carrier.

In case you are interested in our other small-sided games, head over to this part of our website to find all training content:

You can download the small-sided game with instructions here:

Three-zone game with ice hockey rule

Structure: The field is as wide as the box and is extended to the halfway line. Two mini-goals are placed on the centre line. The field is divided into three horizontal zones. In order to replicate the passing lanes during the build-up phase, the first zone is shaped like a pentagon.

Rules: Yellow builds up from behind and tries to score a goal. Red counter-attacks on the mini-goals. There may always be a maximum of four players from yellow and three from red in the pentagon. The transition to the middle zone can be made by a pass or dribbling. In the transition to the attacking zone, the ice hockey rule applies again. Thus, players are only allowed to enter the attacking zone without the ball.

Variation: To further promote diagonal passing in the middle third, the pentagon shape can be extended to the whole field.

Coaching points: A diagonal structure should always be established in the build-up. Using the 4vs3 numerical superiority requires quick ball circulation with the intent to attract the defenders on one side or in the centre and then quickly switch into open space. To advance, the play over the third-man can be a useful tool, thus should be coached. After moving forward and entering the middle third, it is crucial that the players performing the build-up move forward in order to offer passing options or prepare for a potential counter-attack.

In case you are interested in our other small-sided games, head over to this part of our website to find all training content:

You can download the small-sided game with instructions here:

Practicing pressing triggers

Structure: Once again, we use an octagonal field to encourage diagonal passing. The field is divided into nine zones with two large goals installed. We play 7vs7 plus goalkeepers.

Rules: There is no corner kick or throw-in, but the game starts again and again at one of the goalkeepers. The defending team may first position a maximum of one field player in the build-up area of the team in possession of the ball. Only when the ball has been played in the middle third and has returned to the build-up zone may the defending team move freely in each zone. This procedure starts again after each interruption.

Coaching points: We would like to train our principle of high pressing, paying particular attention to the issue of pressing triggers (sub-principle). Furthermore, aspects such as correct steering and the correct use of the cover shadow are focused on this small-sided game. Last but not least, players should get a feel for preparing a pressing situation as well as identifying the correct trigger as a unit.

Improving attacking play and the involvement of a striker

Structure: The game is played in an octagon with large goals at the ends. The field is divided into three horizontal zones of equal size. Thereby, the central zone is further divided into three zones (one very large and two small). In addition, the central zone consists of three vertical lanes.

Rules: The game is played 8vs8. The team in possession of the ball must always occupy the small horizontal central zone on the border of the attacking zone (as the blue team in the picture). Furthermore, all vertical lanes must be occupied at all times to secure the proper structure for quick switches. The attacking third may only be entered without the ball (ice hockey rule). However, before entering the final third, the team in possession had to pass the ball to the striker in the small zone.

Variation: The small horizontal zone may be flexibly occupied, as long as it is occupied.

Coaching points: The idea is to improve attacking plays involving the striker. Thus, trying to play the deepest possible ball as well as provide layoff passing option is crucial. Runs behind the last line to take advantage of the play over the third / fourth. Equal occupation of the space and positioning on different horizontal lines. Creating diagonal pass lines.

You can download the small-sided game as a pdf-file here:

Small-sided game to improve information processing and decision-making

Structure: The shape of the small-sided game is a circle. The reason is fairly simple. By taking a circle-shaped playing field, one takes away one reference point for the players – the sideline. Consequently, they have to focus more on the other reference points instead and learn how to position according to those. Within the field, three mini-goals are placed which are all marked by a different colour.

Rules: The initial game is 4vs4+1 with the aim of keeping the ball. It is the coaches task to indicate a colour either by shouting it, using a code or using coloured cones. For instance, we often use calculation tasks where a certain result indicates the colour. Furthermore, by naming an object or a football club, the players first have to process this information before arriving at the correct solution. The team that wins the ball must then counter-attack on this mini-goal and is awarded two points. If they counter-attack on one of the other mini-goals, one point is awarded. 10 passes in a row for the team in possession of the ball add up to one point as well.

Variation: In a further step the coach can also hold up a coloured cone as a signal instead of calling out the colour. As a result, the players have to constantly look around and wait for possible new information.

Instead of using cones, three neutral outfield players can be used. All wear different coloured shirts. Once the team in possession passes the ball to the neutral player with the yellow shirt, the team in possession is allowed to attack this goal.

Coaching points: Constant scanning of the environment, information gathering and processing. Quick decision making. Correct structure in possession of the ball. Staying connected to reach every player and mini-goal on the pitch is crucial. Besides, a good structure in possession allows for a quick recovery of the ball after it is lost.

Small-sided game: focusing on quick counter-pressing

Structure: The game is divided into nine zones. The entire playing field forms an octagon. On the diagonal sides, mini-goals are placed. The game is played 8vs5.

Rules: The red team gets one point if 10 successful passes are played in a row. The blue team gets one point if, after losing the ball, they manage to counter-attack quickly on one of the 4 mini goals or to play 5 successful passes in a row.

Variation: The aim of the red team is to transfer the ball from one side to the other. Therefore, a direction of play is created for the red team.

Coaching points: Quick counter-pressing. The aim is to reduce the space near the ball. Diagonal pressing and the conscious steering of the opponent, plus working in triangles for mutual protection are different sub-principles. Furthermore, individual details such as the correct use of the covering shadow can also be trained within this small-sided game.

Small-sided game to practice the use of the cover shadow in pressing scenes

Structure: 5vs4 is played in a 25 meter wide and 40 meter long field. In addition to the large goals at the ends of the field, two triangular mini-goals are placed in the centre.

Rules: The team in possession of the ball tries to score a goal. Scoring a goal is rewarded with one point. A successful pass through the triangular mini-goals counts as an additional point. However, the triangular goal may only be played through by the direction of play. Passing back through the triangular goal is not rewarded with a point. In the first step, the red team constantly attacks, while the blue team counterattacks on the big goals – the triangular goals can’t be used by them.

Variation: The game is played in both directions. Consequently, a neutral player is installed (4vs4+1) and the triangular goals become diamond-shaped goals.

Coaching points: Use of the covering shadow to keep the opponent from being out of the pressure situation, depending on the direction of pressure. If the goal is directed outwards, the diagonal pass into the centre should be prevented. If the shadow is directed inwards, the diagonal pass should be directed outwards.

Game-related possession game in the hexagon

Structure: The game is played in a hexagon divided into four zones. By means of the field form, vertical passes along the line are to be prevented. The field is 20 meters wide at its widest point and 35 meters long, depending on the level of skill of the players. The aim of the small-sided game is to make the ball circulate from one side to the other.

Rules: The game is played 5vs5+4, with the neutral players always being positioned in the smaller zones at the ends of the field and not being allowed to leave these zones. For the offensive team, both central zones must be occupied by at least two players.

Variation: It does not matter who occupies the end zones as long as two players from the team in possession of the ball do so. Dynamic swapping is allowed.

Coaching points: creating diagonal passing lines; occupying different horizontal and vertical lines to make quick changes of sides; creating depth – looking for the deepest positioned player.

Conceptual of 4-2-2-2 /4-D-2 defense

In 2012, Austrian football team Red Bull Salzburg surprised the world with exciting football using the 4-2-2-2 shape. Ajax and also Bayern München had a hard time with the 4-2-2-2 ball oriented defense developed by Roger Schmidt and Ralf Rangnick. In this article, I will analyse the 4-2-2-2 pressing from a new perspective based on basketball defense tactics. First of all, I would like to explain some basic principles and rules of basketball.

What is a good defense in basketball?

Don´t let the opponent player short or pass easily. And to be able to immediately prepare a double team for the opposition dribble motion.

What is the best defense against the ball handler?

Shoot, Pass. Dribbling. Which play should a defensive player avoid most? The most dangerous play is to allow an open shot. Next is the pass. If the opponent pass the ball quickly, the will find a free player and hence an open shot.

The final one, Dribbling. Dribbling allows oppositions to move forward. However, from another perspective, the opposition´s ball handler can´t pass or shoot while he dribbles. It can be understood that the furthest state from the shoot is a dribble. The defensive player will be able to actively ball challenge to the dribbling player using an overload.

Basketball tactic “Pack Line defense”

Before explaining football, let’s introduce one of the basketball defensive tactics, “Pack Line Defense”. This tactic was created by Dick Bennett of University Wisconsin(USA). However, the model of this tactic was born long ago. So it’s also one of the most classic basketball defense.

What is a “Pack Line”?

The “Pack Line” is a virtual line about 1m behind the 3-point line (Fig.1). The concept of pack line defense is to compactly protect the area inside the pack line. It is a kind of man-to-man defense, but it has a unique point.

Fig.1 Pack Line

“Don’t go outside the pack line”

For example. Fig.2 shows the situation that # 1 has the ball. In a common man-to-man defense, the defensive player positions in the b’and c’. These positioning is a little like the cover shadow in football. But, in the pack line defense, they are positioned at B and C.

B and C are positioned on the edge of the shadow created by A as if the ball is the sun. At this time, B (C) can point to both ball-man # 1 and mark-man # 2 (# 3). This stance is called a “pistol stance” because it is similar to holding a pistol in both hands. And, the position overlooking the ball-man and the player who next ball-man is called “Gap” (next the next is “Help”).

# 1 can easily pass to # 2, but it is difficult to shoot with a dribbling straight ahead.

Fig.2 Gap position

Close-out of B is an important action (approach quickly to the opposition from the gap position is called close-out). Due to the close-out, #2 can’t shoot and pass to the far side. It is also difficult to dribble inside.

Fig.3 shows the pass from #1 to #2.

Under no circumstances do we let the opposition drive the ball baseline. We need to force the dribbler towards the middle of the floor where our help defenders are located.

Fig.4 shows the pass from #2 to #4.

And finally pack oppositions dribble-man!

Only three actions are allowed to the oppositions player with the pack line defense.

  • Pass to the both side player.
  • Shoot outside the 3 point line, in our close outs pressure.
  • Dribble toward the middle of the floor, but we must not dribble or pass through the five points (Fig.5). Because it ’s easier for the opponent to shoot with free.

Fig. 5 Protect 5 point

The 4-2-2-2

Let’s talk about football!

4-2-2-2 consists of four DF, W6er, W10, and 2FW. FW, W10, W6er and CB are inside the PA width as shown. Make a hexagon, like surround the area several meters outside the center circle. You can set the height freely. The fig.6 is only convenient for explaining the width using the center circle. However, the distance between FW and CB should be keep within about 25meter.

Now, let’s draw a pack line and hit five points as in basketball. I think Figure 6 is the best. Draw the Pack line a few meters outside the PA. If “Plug” is located at the edge of the center circle, “Elbow” is in the middle of the half space and “Block (I call Frank)” is about 10m ahead of the offside line.

For example. Opposition’s shape is 4-4-2 with W6er. When the opposition’s RightCB is Ball-man, Left10 and Right6er step on the shadow created by LeftFW, and pistol stance. RightFW and Right10 stand Gap Position with pistol stance (Fig.7).

If oppositions right CB chooses a pass to RightSB, Left10 is closed out to oppositions rightSB. LeftFW and Left6er step on the shadow created by Left10. At this time, Left10 allows oppositions RightSB only three plays. Pass to RightSH and ball sweep past the right side of the body, pass, or dribble. Finally, LeftFW challenges the ball that moves inside the field.

Fig. 7 (left) and Fig. 8 (right)

In this situation, problem is too far between LeftFW and oppositions RightCB for close out. So RightFW move to near the oppositions RightCB.

If oppositions RightSB choose a pass to RightSH, Left6er and LeftSB are close-out to oppositions RightSH. LeftCB and Right6er step on the shadow created by Left6er. (Fig.8)

At this time, LeftSB must never let oppositions RightSH vertical dribble. We need to force the dribbler towards the middle of the field where our help defenders are located. And finally pack ball!

Fig.9 Pack ball

4-2-2-2 Weaknesses and 4-D-2

The weakness of 4-2-2-2 is 3DF with WGB. For example, oppositions shape is 3-4-3.

If oppositions RightCB is a ball-man, LeftFW approaches as shown in the fig.10. If Left10 steps on the shadow created by LeftFW, he can’t close out to the oppositions LeftWGB. Because the distance is too far.

If the Left10 positioned more outside. Oppositions RightCB can pass via Elbow or Frank. This is big problem.

The simplest of improvement is to transform the shape into 4-D-2. 4-D-2 consists of four DF, Pivot, WSH, 10, and 2FW. In 4-D-2, widen the distance between two FWs. 10 must protected “Plug”. So I call 10 “Pluger”.

If LeftFW approach to oppositions RightCB, LeftSH and pluger step on the shadow created by LeftFW (Fig.11). The distance between LeftSH and oppositions RightWGB is shorter than 4-2-2-2 shape. So LeftSH can close-out to RightWGB.

Fig.10 (left) and Fig.11 (right)

Pluger and LeftCB steps on the shadow created by LeftSH.

Finally, as shown in the fig.12, press the oppositions RightFW as in 4-2-2-2 shape.

Exercise Example 7vs6 Game

The purpose of this exercise is to help our defensive players understand tactics and choose the right role.

Fig.13 7vs6 Game

  • Close-out.
  • 2 player step the shadow created by close-out player.
  • Pack.

The blue team tries to connect the ball from A to A’. However, they must go to A’ via B . The red team is defensive. Take the ball and try to dribble through either end line.

Divide the field into three parts in this exercise. Prepare a pack line and 6 points as a mark.

– Special rules –

Blue team can use only 3 people in zone1 (Zone2). Red team has a maximum of 4 people.

Zone 3 can only use B of the blue team. B must not go out of Zone3. As an exception, Red team’s players are allowed to run through within Zone 3. So, Red team can intercept in Zone 3.


4-2-2-2 defense made by Ralf Rangnick and Roger Schmidt is a ball-oriented defense. But my plan is more man-oriented. But very similar. But if you focus on the space occupied by a player. Three things are important in my plan.

  • Is the distance for closeouts good?
  • Are you in the gap position with a pistol stance?
  • Can you take care of the right side of the player who has closed out?

When a team meets these three conditions, the center of gravity of the team inevitably shifts greatly to one side. like their 4-2-2-2 defense.

Finally. Pack line defense is more effective in college basketball than the NBA. Why? Because there are many good 3Point shooters in the NBA. But, no 3 point shoot in Football. So, I think this 4-2-2-2 / 4-D-2 defense plan has great potential.