Using a crossing and finish exercise in a session will typically get a great response from players at all age groups. There's something about scoring from crosses that attacking players love, plus it's a good opportunity for defenders and midfielders to work on passing range and crossing ability, which can be challenging as well as enjoyable for them individually. Making these exercises 'game realistic' can be a bigger challenge however. As more tactical information and data enters the game, coaches are learning more about the most optimal areas to cross the ball and the importance of connecting this to their game model effectively. This week we are going to look at three different ways to bring out this concept of 'game realism' in the session, as well as maintaining the aspects of flow and enjoyment that make crossing and finishing a favorite for many.
This exercise is designed as a crossing and finishing warm-up with players getting exposed to physical work, as well as high levels of repetition. The concepts that make this exercise below 'game realistic' involve the entry pass into one of the higher 'number nines', who combines with the central players and before the ball goes wide. As you can see, the mannequins are brought inside so it's a 'box cross' to finish. This decrease in distance with the wide players should challenge the central players to move at speed into the box for the finish. As soon as one attack ends, the other side goes immediately so the exercise flows continuously. After 2-3 minutes, it's good to change the number nines and give them an opportunity to recover. (See below)
This exercise changes the picture slightly in terms of match realism. Firstly, we are working with two center forwards, which changes the combination play at the start. Secondly, the wide players are working together so it's a great exercise for a traditional 4-4-2 where you are looking at being expansive and fluid in attack. Players work in pairs centrally and play a 4-pass combination together before transferring the ball out wide. Two forwards are getting in the box and there are also mannequins there to challenge them with their runs and communicate the area to cross for the wide players. Ideally, you would like them to hit the space between the mannequins and the six-yard box, with the forwards arriving for the finish. (See below)
This exercise could potentially add the biggest aspect of realism possible for attacking players: defenders. The exercise begins with two defenders entering the area and playing a long ball to the halfway line. The three players in the middle complete a one-touch combination to the wide players, who again combine to cross the ball. The attacking players have a 3v2 advantage in the middle, so the wide player is challenged to find the free player or the optimal solution. This exercise is a great way to build a competitive atmosphere and create an 'attackers vs defenders' element of the session, which players often enjoy. Again, as with all the exercises, players alternate between using the right and left side for the service. (See below)
If you enjoy these exercises and would like additional ideas on the attacking side of the game, please check out our '20 Attacking Training Session Plans' eBook. The book contains twenty full session plans that are broke down into three phases: build-up, midfield progression, and goal-scoring. Each session will contain three exercises so there are 60 exercises overall. Get your copy here!!