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Quick-footed combination play to unlock any defence


Mark out an area measuring 20 x 20 yards, with four teams of three to five players lined up in each corner. Position a ‘wall passer’ in the centre, who changes every 90 seconds.


On the coach’s command A1 passes the ball into the feet of the wall passer (WP). After making the pass A1 runs towards the B group. WP passes the ball into the path of A1’s run, who controls it in his stride and passes to B1 before joining the back of the B line. This sequence repeats around the square. The drill has to be played at full pace to replicate game conditions. Players should use their first touch to take the ball in the direction they want to head. The pass is all about the weight – hard enough to bypass opponents, but not too powerful to control.



Start the drill with a two-touch restriction on each player – one to control, the second to pass. Once the players have mastered two-touch and feel confident, limit them to one-touch passes.

How it helps

Mastering combination play can help link the team’s units together – defence to midfield, midfield to attack. In the final third it’s especially potent: it can create space for the killer pass, as well retain possession. You only have to look at Manchester United to see how combination play works, especially in the link-up play of the attacking triumvirate of Wayne Rooney, Ashley Young and Nani. Witness the quick, sharp passes on the move as the three of them interchange positions.

Related article: Pass like Xavi

How to execute a combination play in a match situation

There’s no better team at using combination play than Barcelona. They retain possession in the middle, waiting for the opportunity to strike.

 When the opening presents itself they use combination play to rip through the opposition’s defensive layers.

You can introduce this style of play to your game. Work on stretching the opposition by playing across the park.

 This will create gaps in their defence. Use a breakaway midfielder to play the ball into the space for a striker and then continue to a more advanced position to receive a pass.

Repeating this action will enable your team to execute combination plays on autopilot. Players have to be mobile, quick-thinking and comfortable with short passes.

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