Please join Gary Curneen when for a FREE Positional Training Webinar on Monday, November 15 at 4pm EST (9pm UK time). Click here to register for FREE.
Positional training is something I have been passionate about for a number of years, particularly with attackers. Allowing players the opportunity to practice certain situations that they will experience in games is a great way to build confidence levels, as well as connecting with individuals. In terms of exercises and session design, I am a big believer in constantly changing the picture for attacking players to work on in training. It may be adapting the exercise with a different angle, type of finish, or a physical demand, but with so many different variations involved in finishing, I think exposing players to this regularly can help develop skill-sets and engage players in the practice. In this article I will share some of the work and variations of exercises that I have done with the players at Racing Louisville FC. All of this work was done at the end of full training sessions and lasted between 10-15 minutes total. The objective was to keep the quality and tempo high, while at the same time keeping the physical load low. I have just released a new Ebook detailing 25 Position-Specific Training Exercises for Forwards which is based around the work that I have done over the past three years. The book shares exercises and breakdowns on ways to keep sessions fresh and realistic, as well as the principles that I personally adhere to for this type of positional training. You can order a copy of the Ebook here.
Exercise One: Diagonal Pass
Positional training for forwards is not just about ball striking or finishing in front of goal. In order to help a forward to create an opportunity on goal, they be aware of how to time their movement into the right areas. This exercise encourages attackers to read that trigger from the body shape of an attacking midfielder, and then drive through a window between center backs and score. The outline of the first part of the session is below.
Below is an example from the work on the grass. The technical aspects that I would emphasize would be the timing of when to sprint into the space along with the weight on the pass. If the pass is not played in with pace, the forward will be waiting on the ball and the space will close in a game. There are also two progressions in the video below where the run moves towards the central mannequin and into the far space, then finally where the pass is chipped into the space for the forward to run onto.
Exercise Two: Bounce Passes and Finish
The higher the level, the more elusive space becomes in and around the penalty area. One of the best way to unlock a compact defensive unit can be with combination play. The reason why I have added a 'bounce pass' to this exercise is that it challenges forwards to adapt their footwork before they can finish on goal. Simply striking balls over and over again does not provide the same challenge so the objective here is for the forward to lay-off the first ball and then spin into the space to finish. (See below for outline of exercise)
In the video below from the work with the team, you can see the speed and quality required in the initial combination, as well as the angle of finish that the forward faces. With a wider angle, they must now look to finish across the goalkeeper and into the far corner. The technical aspects that I would stress here would be the timing of the run into the space and the quality of the finish.
The second progression below, the forwards now receive the bounce pass directly back to their feet, and now look to cut inside and shoot on goal. Although the angle is more favorable with this action, it is much more difficult to create your shot off the dribble and the player must also avoid the mannequin.
Exercise Three: Multi-Functional Finishing Exercise
This exercise is designed to add more variety towards the types of finishes that each player will work on during the session. It's a bit of a classic activity where players go in groups of three and work together on the final ball. You can see below that we also incorporate a 'box cross' into that final ball and it's more of a driven pass than a traditional lofted cross. As the timing of each movement relies on another, it's important that players are working at a high tempo and looking to execute each technical action with speed and quality.
Below is an example of this on the grass with the team. You can see the speed and tempo of the first two balls, with players accelerating into the space before striking on goal. The distance and the nature of the cross can be more challenging than it looks and we would encourage. As a coach, you can modify the physical demands of the exercise by starting the third ball earlier so that the two forwards in the box have to sprint into the six-yard box to finish.