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4 Ways to set-up a tactical session

In this week's MSC Breakdown, we take a look at the different ways in which coaches can modify their training pitches in order to communicate tactical principles effectively. As always, it depends on the philosophy of the coach and the objectives of the system, but with creativity and skillful planning, there are a variety of ways to develop timing, spacing, and relationships, alongside decision making. An effective tactical training session should communicate principles effectively, allow players to experience specific areas that you are focusing on, and replicate the fluid nature of the game.

Below is a YouTube breakdown detailing four different designs and we also explain the organization of each one. If you enjoy this content, please subscribe to our MSC YouTube page.

Vertical Channels

Using a 4-3-3 system as an example, this visual aid helps gives the players a reference point for a number of different ways. In this example, the front three players occupy the central channels and pin back the opposition back four. The attacking midfielders move into the ‘half spaces’ in order to disconnect the opposition doubles sixes. That leaves the back four and holding midfielder, plus the goalkeeper, able to use maximum width to create an expansive starting point. As well as effective spacing, this set-up also allows you to work on passing angles in the build, particularly against a press. Higher up the pitch, players are able to move into different vertical channels in order to support the ball or find spaces as the opponent are unbalanced.



Horizontal Channels

Again this is a good reference point for build-up and preventing players dropping into one another’s space, or even committing too many numbers to a build versus support higher up the pitch. The three zones can help provide reference points for the center backs in terms of assessing the type of pressure they are exposed to. One center forward pressing allows them to progress without any help, whereas two center forwards (in a 4-4-2 diamond) allows the full-back to drop lower and solve the pressure. Again, timing is key here in these situations and the zones help with patience in reading defensive pressure and understanding when to drop or when to stay. As the ball progresses, the zones also paint a good picture of the possession team moving up together as they progress possession. This allows them to create a good structure underneath the ball if possession is lost and help prevent counter-attacks.


Wide Channels

This is a simple set-up which just creates two wide channels outside the width of each 18-yard box. It can be really helpful in coaching midfield rotations and painting a picture (in the example shown) of how players can move early in the build to create the space (and the central numbers) for a midfielder to drop low. What this does is not specifically progress the ball, but causes the opponent to adapt and over-shift – which then allows the possession team to exploit a switch of play and get the full-backs high.




Double Wide Channel

This can be a simple but effective way to coach the relationship between full-back and wide attacker, particularly in 4-3-3 systems. Having both players on the same line can be challenging when you are trying to progress down one side because the angles are suddenly reduced. But in this set-up, each wide player must occupy different spaces, so it improves understanding and challenges the opposition in how they are going to deal with it. With the opposition back four unbalanced higher up the pitch, it can also help find deeper runners and create goalscoring opportunities.  



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