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Commentary Oct 15, 2015

COACHING: Why Arsenal crashed Manchester United, increase goal scoring chances with this practice activity

Editor’s Note: This is the latest in our series of youth soccer coaching advice and practice sessions provided by ClubSportal. Read more about them at the bottom of this post or visit for more information.

Looking Arsenal’s recent 3-0 win in the Barclays Premier League over Manchester United the game was defined by Arsenal’s early goals. These goals came when the London side employed High Pressure in the Attacking and Middle Thirds of the field to win the ball closer to United’s goal, and were able to transition quickly.

This is not new as an Arsenal tactic, but in this case it was highly successful thanks to their quick Transitions from defense to offense, as well as precision finishing past one of the world’s best goalkeepers.

All three goals took only 20 minutes to net, while the Gunners possessed the ball 63.4% of the time in the opening 25 minutes without allowing a single shot on Petr Cech’s goal.

Winning the ball in the attacking end quickly and then creating immediate chances on goal is one of the components Arsenal tried to improve compared to last season.

Speaking a few weeks ago on the topic, midfielder Jack Wilshere explained how Arsenal works on this component at training, “We work a lot on first 5 seconds to win it back after we lose the ball. We try to win the ball on the offensive half of the field as quickly as possible. In this case we get an opportunity to play penetration balls because skill of our individual players is very high. By getting the ball on the offensive half of the field, you will get the opportunity for a dangerous play most of the time.”

For those that follow the team, it is clear there has been a big improvement in this area for Arsenal, and it certainly worked very well against United on October 4th.

Of the three, the first goal is an ideal illustration to what Wilshere was saying – winning the ball in front of opponent’s goal, and Arsenal had enough players in that zone to create a scoring chance.

The transition from defense to attack is the natural progression from winning the ball quickly and when done well, and in the attacking end, can lead to more scoring opportunities. To improve in this area with your team, work on your players’ mentality to win the ball immediately after it was lost. The quicker the team wins the ball, the better offensive transition can be as that is the moment when the opponent is out of their own defensive shape the most. It takes a lot of energy, team compactness and focus to force mistakes that lead to winning balls in the attacking end. Truly team effort is required!

This Club Sportal training activity works on this mentality of winning the ball quickly by applying team pressure and, and transitioning quickly by finding a dangerous first pass to move out of an area of high pressure.

The more team practices these ‘transition’ situations, the more comfortable players will be and the more ‘aggressive’ mindset team will have.

High-Pressure to Win the Ball, then Counter

Activity Summary: High-Pressure in Attacking or Middle Third, Apply as a Team, Win the Ball and Counter Immediately
Ages: 11 – 18
Objective: Apply Team High-Pressure, Win the Ball and Counter Immediately


  • Two teams of 8 players.
  • Team in possession (Blue) tries to keep the ball for a period of 30 seconds without losing the ball.
  • Defending Team (Red) has 4 players in the middle grid and 4 players in outside gates.
  • If the Team in Possession keeps the ball for 30 seconds, they get a point.
    Coach resets the possession after Blue loses the ball and Red counters or after 30 seconds.
  • The goal for the defending team (Red) to win the ball, play the ball into one of the gates to the teammate and counter attack immediately with a ‘killer’ penetration pass.
  • ‘Killer’ penetration pass is made into the attacking third for the support player to finish 1 touch on goal. No player for the Team in possession can leave the middle area.
  • Teams switch after interval of 5 minutes or after Defending Team wins the ball 5 times and takes 3 shots on goal.


Coaching Points:

  • The activity rewards team pressure that can win the ball
  • Once the player on defensive team wins the ball, he/she has to find a penetration pass and transition into a quick counter attack.
  • If you cannot pass to an outside player, find a teammate in a position who can.
  • Activity teaches the Defending Team to apply pressure at the right moment and win the ball within first 20 seconds after the ball has been lost.


  • As soon as the ball has been played into the outside gate, allow players from both teams to enter end-area to attack/defend. This teaches transition from attacking to defense and defense to attack.
  • Limit players in the gates to 2 touches.


About ClubSportal: ClubSportal – the Ultimate platform to ensure consistency and continuity of training, player development, monitoring and progression in clubs, academies, teams and associations. It provides tools to create, maintain, share and reuse Curriculums, Training Cycles, Complete Season Plans, Evaluations and Assessments. Tools for Video Analysis, Parents Education, Training Content Management, Club Communications, Events Scheduling and other. Visit for more information.

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