This practice is designed to focus players attention on passing forward to create opportunities and score. In possession, the session is particularly valuable for central midfielders and strikers, but can be adapted for a variety of player numbers and positions. Out of possession this practice provides a great chance for defensive central midfielders or centre backs to work together in combination to stop the attack and play forward. Realism is reduced by creating a fairly small playing area and allowing for offside rules to initially not being in play.

About the Video

In the video below, Dave will talk you through the structure of the practice, various outcomes and how you can adapt it for your players.

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Additional Information

The structure of this practice lends itself to a number of outcomes, including:

  • Forward passing
  • Combination play
  • Creating and scoring
  • Screening and blocking
  • Attacking/defending centrally

Key elements to observe and encourage are:

  • Movement of players in possession to create forward passing opportunities
  • Timing of movement
  • Weight, shape, type of pass
  • Patience of defenders and clinical forward passing when winning the ball

Practice Overview

Topic: Combination Play

No. of Players: 4-12

Goalkeepers: Optional

Practice Type: Skill practice

Offsides: Optional

Pitch Size: 30 x 15

Timing: 20 mins

Age Group: 7+

Interpreting the Diagrams

The key below outlines what the images mean on the diagrams.

If you have questions about the practices, contact the PDP Team or share your views on the Player Development Project Coaching Community.

Key For Diagrams
soccer training diagram


passing forward
An example of the practice set up with 6 players. The coach could act as a server, or a seventh player could fill this role. The two red defenders are initially locked into their zone and focus on screening, blocking and intercepting. Blues aim to find a forward pass for the striker to score. Defenders cannot recover initially and blue attackers cannot run forward meaning the striker must go 1v1.
playing forward
Blues successfully play a split pass between the red defenders for the striker to run on to. Realism is reduced given that defenders are locked in their zone and cannot recover, but this allows blues to get success initially. If reds had intercepted, they can pass or dribble into the mini goals. If you don’t have goals, use cones to make gates.
forward passing soccer
In this progression we now ramp up realism by allowing the defenders to decide whether they hold and screen, or come out and press the attacker. If reds win it, they score in the goals. This will create more realistic scenarios and increase decision-making.
playing forwards in soccer
In this example, we now progress the practice to allow a defensive an attacking forward run beyond from the midfield players.
Reds have decided to screen and the blue midfielder makes a forward run into space. The coach has discretion as to whether to allow defenders to track and recover.
moving up the pitch
An example of the same practice with more players. In this picture we feature a centre back, two central midfielders, an attacking midfielder and a striker for blue. For red, they have a centre back, two defensive midfielders and an attacking midfielder. If you wanted to include width, neutral wide players (possibly on limited touches) could play for both teams.


This practice is designed to provide players with opportunities to practice combination play, forward passing and breaking lines with passing and movement. The coach can adjust the constraints to restrict players to only playing forward with a pass (no dribbling) and progress to allow forward supporting runs.


Set up a rectangular area with a zone for the defenders to start in. Mini goals provide an incentive for the defenders when they win the ball and transition to attack. If you have no goalkeeper, a scoring zone for the striker to drive into, or limited touches (e.g. two touches to score) could add value. With younger players, try and expose them to a variety of roles, and with older players this has real value as a position specific practice. Ensure a good supply of footballs and players who may be on non-contact or lighter training load could be used as a server. Alternatively, rotate players through positions every 3 sets.

Observations & Interventions

What you might see

  • Players playing forward too quickly
  • Players being conservative and playing slowly

Actions you might take

  • Start the practice by saying both midfielders must touch the ball before going forward.
  • Reward players if they can score in less than a given time (e.g. 8 seconds)

Adaptations: Is the session too easy?

  • Make the space smaller – less space to pass through
  • Allow defenders to press
  • Add a defender to go 1v1 with the striker

Is the session too hard?

  • Make the space bigger – more space to pass through
  • Create an attacking overload (e.g. 3 midfielders + striker vs. 1 defender blocking)

Would you like to know more about planning sessions?

You might be interested in our foundations of session design course created by UEFA A Licensed Coaches, Dave Wright and Dan Wright. They will teach you everything you need to know about designing world-class sessions that your players will love.

Foundations of Session Design
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