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Kieran McKenna High-Intensity Training Exercises

With Ipswich Town's fairytale journey to the Premier League next season, a lot of attention has (quite rightly) been focused around head coach Kieran McKenna. Since arriving at the club in December 2021, McKenna has made headlines for not just the results of The Tractor Boys, but also the style in which they play on a weekly basis. In this MSC Breakdown we take a look at some of McKenna's training exercises from Ipswich and his time as assistant coach at Manchester United. We find some unique ways to adapt possession exercises in order to increase intensity, plus a consistent theme of detail and context throughout.

Below is a YouTube breakdown detailing three exercises. If you enjoy this content, please subscribe to our MSC YouTube page.

Please find the information and dimensions for all the exercises below, including a bonus exercise also:

Exercise One :3v3+3 Hexagon Game

  • Twelve players organized into two teams of six players

  • Each team will have three players inside the hexagon and three players around the perimeter

  • Each side of the hexagon is approximately six yards

  • Objective of the game is for the team in possession to use their teammates on the outside and create a 6v3 overload to circulate the ball

  • For every five consecutive passes, the possession team is awarded one point

  • If possession is lost, the roles simply change and the game continues

  • Play 2 minute games and switch players

Exercise Two: 3v1+2 Find the Weak Side Six Game

  • Eleven players are organized into three teams of three players and two neutrals

  • Exercise takes place in a 10x25 yard area with a 5-yard median

  • One possession team start in each zone, two neutrals start in the median, and one defender starts in each zone and median

  • Game starts with a 3v1 situation where the possession team are looking to take advantage of the overload and transfer the ball to the other side, using the 2v1 situation in the median

  • Once ball is transferred successfully, game continues to flow

  • Players are limited to two touches in order to elevate the speed of play

  • After 90 seconds, switch out the defensive team with a possession team

Exercise Three: Build v Press / Attack v Box Defending (Each with a Plus One)

  • Ten players are split into two teams, plus a goalkeeper and one neutral

  • Exercise takes place in an area just outside the width of the penalty box


  • First game starts with server playing into goalkeeper and blue team looking to build with out and play into mini-goals for one point

  • Blue team can use goalkeeper and neutral to create 7v5 overload to score

  • If pressing team win possession, they can score in transition


  • Server now moves to the edge of the box and ball starts with the attacking team

  • Neutral changes roles and plays for attacking team to create a 6v5 overload in the attack

  • If defending team win possession, they can score in mini-goal


3v3+2 Box Crosses Game

  • Nine players are organized into an attacking team of three players, defensive team of three players, two neutrals, plus a goalkeeper.

  • Exercise takes place in the penalty area just outside the width of the six-yard box

  • Server plays into the attacking team (blue) who are looking to score immediately or use the wide players to create a 5v3 in and around the penalty area

  • Wide neutrals are looking for low crosses across six-yard box

  • If defensive team win possession, they can score in the mini-goals in transition

If you enjoy this breakdown, please check out our MSC eBook:Twenty Attacking Training Sessions, designed to help coaches connect the dots between philosophy, tactical flexibility and session design. The book contains twenty full session plans that are broken down into three phases: build-up, midfield progression, and goal-scoring. Each session will contain three exercises so there are 60 exercises overall! With his experience in the professional game as a coach and an analyst, Gary Curneen has designed these sessions to help bring out intensity, tactical understanding and game-like situations, that are enjoyable for both players and staff. Click here to get your copy.

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