Academy Week 5 Focus: Small-Sided Play & Formations

The focus of the final week of Skills Academy is the application of skills taught in class to match-like situations. Since our class is taught on an indoor pitch, the field is smaller and therefore limits regulation play. However, playing on a smaller pitch is the perfect environment for players to understand how their new skills can be applied in a game. With small-sided play, up to about five players should be on pitch at a time for each side. With lower numbers, every player gets more touches on the ball, and the game is much faster. The ball moves quickly across the surface, so players must be on their toes when receiving or making an accurate pass. There isn't room to dribble around, so players must make passes and runs very quickly to maintain possession. 

A variety of small-sided games can also be played with different formations. 1v1 and 2v1 games highlight attacking and ball handling skills. 2v2 and 2v3 games are great for applying the principles of defense such as how to position the body for defending and how to cover your teammates. All games should be directional and played on goal with a keeper in net.

The game of soccer is a tactical game with a variety of team formations such as 4-4-2, 4-3-3, and 4-2-3-1 (starting from the back line). A player's role will change based on the formation that the team is utilizing. For example, in some formations, an outside fullback will have more space to make overlapping runs because the wingers have the option to move centrally during an attack.

Some formations will include two strikers that can support each other during the attack and make opposite runs to confuse the defense. Formations with a lone striker will require them to become more central and make dynamic runs to create an impact on the play.

Central midfielders will find their roles changing quite frequently with different formations. They can often find themselves in a diamond or triangular formation, and this will dictate which players they support in rotations and how they make runs off the ball to maintain possession. It's important for all players to understand how their role and responsibilities change with different team formations.

Videos & images courtesy of Nike Academy.