Topic: As players get more comfortable on the ball and have gained an understanding of how to fill the role of the 1st and 2nd attacker, different combination plays can be introduced. Combination plays can help a team unbalance a well-organized opponent and create number up situations getting in to the attack.
When U9 players are introduced to 6v6, 7v7 or 8v8 games the focus of the coaches is heavily on the first principles of play. In order for them to be successful in possession of the ball the focus on the shape of the team in possession of the ball is needed. A team in the right shape will create space for its players to get open for one another. When players are able to get open for one another of the ball, the player on the ball will find it a lot easier to make the right decision on the ball.
It takes players a while to get gain a good understanding of these basic, but very important concepts. Once players are more comfortable playing in the right shape and have a decent understanding of the roles of the 1st attacker (decisions on the ball) and 2nd attacker or attackers (support off the ball) they can be introduced to some basic combination plays. Combination plays are very useful going forwards when a team is trying to unbalance the opposing teams’ defense. A lot of movement of the ball is needed to successfully complete combination plays, but once players start to get an understanding of the different types of combination plays they can most certainly use them in their advantage going forwards. Please note that it is very important for players to have a good understanding of the basic principles/concepts outlined for our U9 and U10 players. If your players still struggle to play in the right shape and have a tendency to bunch up around the ball they are most likely not ready for these concepts yet.
The 2 types of combination play addressed in this clinic are the wall pass/give and go and the overlap. These are the 2 most common types of combination play used and can be very effective especially when an opposing team is capable of regrouping underneath the ball. If your team struggles to outplay the opponents through maintaining their shape and a decent speed of play, a little bit more is needed to be successful.
The exercises included can be used going to the goal or, as in 1 example, towards end zones. Going towards the goal might make it a bit more game realistic and gives players an opportunity to finish on goal as well. Before going to the goal it is not a bad idea to play some of the 2v2 / 3v3 games (potentially with a neutral) to end zones. The advantage of using end zones is that the final pass in to space needs to be really good and the timing needs to be perfect.
Both the give and go or overlap can be introduced using the same exercises worked out for this topic. It would be helpful, to ensure players gain a good understanding of these combination plays, to introduce 1 type of combination play at a time. It takes a couple of sessions before players really get a new concept down, so don’t rush anything and give players the opportunity to get familiar with the different combination plays.
As always, if anyone has any questions don’t hesitate to contact me.
Director of Coaching – Westfield Soccer Association