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Thomas Tuchel - Attacking Verticality Exercises

In September I wrote an article with some ideas around structuring a session where verticality in possession is one of the key principles of the game model. One coach who jumps out to me in particular with this aspect of the game is Thomas Tuchel, so I decided to spend some time researching some of his training methods. Below is the full video that I made for our YouTube audience. Please subscribe to the channel for more session content. The objective of this article is to spend a little more time breaking down the specific exercises and discussing the different types of objectives and organization set-ups.

Exercise One:

The first exercise is a game with three teams of seven players each (21 'field' players total) and then two goalkeepers. Two teams play 7v7 inside a narrow pitch, and then the third team work as neutrals for the team in possession. The interesting aspect of this exercise for me is the specific set-up for the neutrals. Two players are located on each side of the goal, offering a 'bounce pass' option when players are in possession. There is also one player on each sideline that can move vertically in relation to the ball. The last neutral is inside the zone, offering players the option of an overload in the middle. With the restrictions of space, this player is often required, especially in attacking transition moments. Below is a video of the exercise using TacticalPad.

Below is Tuchel's Chelsea team doing this exercise as a pre-game activity before a UEFA SuperCup tie in Belfast. The aspects that jump out to me is the obvious speed of the game, and the quality of the outside players, who seem to be limited to just one touch. Yes, there is a huge overload for the team in possession, but the narrow space restricts options to take advantage and create opportunities on goal. The players do an excellent job of solving the constraints around space.

Exercise Two:

This exercise is a directional 5v5+3 game which, although very simple with the idea, it is extremely effective in communicating the importance of verticality to the players. Teams are organized into two teams of five players inside approximately a 15x30 yard area. There are three neutral players used with one on each end-line and one in the middle. The objective of the game is to transfer the ball from neutral to neutral on the outsides, using the overload in the middle. If possession turns over, the roles simply change. Below is a video of the exercise using TacticalPad.

Below is Tuchel using this exercise with his Mainz team and you can again see how the narrow field draws out certain challenges with the vertical nature of the game. Body shape and speed of play are immediately demanded in order to utilize the overload and maintain possession of the ball. I also enjoy how, at the end of this short video, the Mainz players bounce two passes off the same outside player that slows the game down and unbalances the defensive team, which then opens up space higher up the pitch.

Exercise Three:

This game seems to be specifically designed around two teams having different scoring objectives, but still remaining consistent in the idea of transferring possession through intense defensive pressure. Two teams of six play against one another, with two goalkeepers used as well. One team will use the goalkeepers as a numerical overload to keep possession and try to score in any of the four mini-goals in the outside. The other team will press the ball and then upon winning it, look to score in either of the main goals. Below is a video of the exercise using TacticalPad.

Below is Tuchel using this game with his Mainz team. The intensity of the game is extremely high and this challenges the 'possession team' to escape pressure and utilize the overloads on either end of the pitch (goalkeepers). The transitions are challenging as they ask questions of the attacking team to find the best available goal to attack before the defensive team can recover. It also looks like the coaches are instructed to restart the game immediately if a ball goes out of play, which again adds to the speed and intensity of the game.

This article was written by Gary Curneen. The majority of content posted by MSC is FREE for coaches to enjoy around the world, but we need your support to continue. If you do enjoy it and would like to continue seeing articles, podcasts and webinars, you can support Modern Soccer Coach in two ways.

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