Using 4 v 1 to develop basic possession fundamentals

Just when I think I have camp curriculum set a team will present a bit different problem for me to help them solve. Such was the case twice this summer when I found a need to adapt our standard camp fare to more appropriately fit the needs of teams we were working with. In both instances we were looking at increasing pace of play utilizing a possession style.

When working with a group for the first time I prefer to have game film from the previous season to review. I also rely heavily on their coach's description of play including their strengths and weaknesses. Even with decent prep work before beginning camp there are times when we need to adjust on the fly as we seek to establish a baseline we can start from. I often fall back on 4 v 1 as an evaluation and teaching exercise to accomplish this.

I consider 4 v 1 with the attackers on the outside of the grid and the defender inside the grid to be the most basic of possession games that also allows for the teaching of proper touch sequences, establishment of proper angles, vision, decision making and rhythm.

In most instance a 10 yard by 10 yard grid is appropriate to begin this exercise in. It is important to establish immediately that players should be positions along the sides of the grid and not in the corners. If you have the luxury of field space and striping equipment circles ban be even better to play "in" than a squared grid with players moving along the sides of the circle to establish passing angles. 

I really like this exercise to reinforce and give practical application to the two touch sequences of play - Right/Right, Right/Left, Left/Left and Left/Right. If there is a need introduce these sequences you might wish to utilize the breaking lines warm up exercises before moving on to 4 v 1.  I prefer each station work on the same sequence of touches at the same time. A basic element in the proper sequence of touches is found in receiving the ball across your body to the "back" foot. We call this being a back footed player.

When playing 4 v 1 it is essential for potential receivers of the ball to slide along their side of the grid in order to establish the proper angle to receive the ball on the back foot.  One of the rules of thumb that can be emphasized and reinforced while playing 4 v 1 is that when the ball carrier is under pressure teammates need to move closer to him.  The ball carriers eyes will be on the ball at his feet and under actual game conditions his attention might be on shielding the ball from the opponent. Moving closer, while making the playing area smaller allows for the larger angles necessary to safely pass the ball while also allowing the receiver to remain a back footed player.

A basic truth for receiving and passing the ball is that ball movement is predicated on player movement. While we are merely asking players to slide along the sides of the grid this is nonetheless an essential part of the exercise and a building block for the dynamic runs you want to see in games. This is one of the foundations for "being in your teammates vision early"  and "knowing your play with the ball before your first touch."

What we are discussing is properly preparing to play the ball before your first touch on the ball. Setting yourself up to be a back footed player is an example of one fundamental way to accomplish this. In being a back footed player your hips will be open to as much of the field as possible providing you with good sightlines to teammates and allows them to be in your vision early. It is important to stress the necessity for players to be game watchers instead of ball watchers.

As game watchers we can increase both the quality and the rate of our decision making which in turn allows us to establish a rhythm to our attacking play. Remember, attacking soccer is all about rhythm while defending is all about disrupting rhythm. We use rhythm to manipulate the opponents defense in order to create seams to penetrate to goal through.

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