Pre-Meditated Patterns of Play: Building from the Back in a 9 v 9

Please watch your games and ask yourself:

  1. How many times does your team try to build out of the back?
  2. How many times do they play Boot-Ball from back to front?

9 v 9 is at the younger ages; and not wanting to baffle them with science too early; we will choose far fewer ways to build out from the back than we do at 11 v 11.

But we will establish patterns of play they can learn to do that are very simple; but also very effective when done correctly; and we will change the boot ball mentality many clubs follow; and teach the game correctly without fear of failure. 

Mistakes will occur when we build from the back because we are taking risks, but that's okay, players will learn from them.

Yes, it's much safer to boot it long to the fast striker to run and score but that teaches exactly nothing for the long term development of our players; plus all that the midfielders and defenders get out of are stiff necks from watching the ball go over their heads from back to front.

The striker gets all the glory but it means nothing; and as they get older; long term the one who suffers the most is ultimately the striker who learnt absolutely nothing but "running fast or dribbling in a straight line."

As the players get older, defenders are faster, stronger and more cleaver. The fast dynamic striker is no more. So let's teach the game correctly now; for everyone to succeed. I want EVERY player to learn, improve and succeed. That includes the striker as much as anyone. Good strikers are worth their weight in gold but they have to be trained correctly like everyone else.

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Distribution from the keeper and Playing from the back

We use the numbers we would use in an 11 v 11: 1, 2 , 3 , 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11.

If we are beyond needing to do shadow plays we can start with an overload for us to train to pass out from the back so we have initial success. As we improve we can make it a 9 v 9 and an actual game situation. Here we start with a 9 v 5.

We are not saying these will work all the time and we will make mistakes. Sometimes we will get them wrong. Sometimes the opponents will work out what we are doing and stop us. And sometimes it will work great. But they WON'T work if we don't try them and just boot it long and play safe.

9 v 9 building from the back

Perhaps use cones instead of actual players to practice in a shadow play to make it work initially and to gain confidence (better still use Mannequins).


1. Developing play from the back in a 9 v 9 through the Center backs / Wing backs

Now (3) breaks wide to receive the ball and escape being marked in the middle. The same can happen with (2) breaking out to the right also with (6) who stays central.

developing play from the back

We must ALWAYS try first of all to play out from the back. The ABSOLUTE last resort is for the keeper to kick it long. This is Great preparation for playing the 11 v 11 and developing the game from the back. Players must spread touchline wide both sides to offer up the largest spaces to play in as they can. Keeper has 3 choices here and the ball must be passed on the ground for ease of reception.


2. Distribution from the keeper thru Wide Midfielders/ Strikers

They push 3 up we get out through our wide strikers. Have opponents make different choices to force the keeper to make relevant decisions in training. Here we would NOT try to develop play through the back three players as each one is marked. Therefore we go to the next line of attack to get out.

distribution from the keeper

3. Rotation of wide players to get free

Here a simple rotation between (3) and (11) opens up a passing lane for (11). Opponent (D) follows our (3). If (D) stays then we don't pass to (11) but rather try something else.

rotation of wide players to get free

Introducing 2 player rotations like this is important as we can eventually make this happen all over the field of play. The sooner they learn this the sooner it is embedded in their soccer DNA.


4. Rotation of wide players to get free

Here a simple rotation between (11) and (3) opens up a passing lane for (3). Opponent(D) stays in the space (11) runs into so perhaps (3) can get free?


5. Distribution from the keeper through a central midfielder rotation

They push 3 up we get out through a rotation with (6) and (8). Have opponents make different choices to force the keeper to make relevant decisions in training.

(6) Sprints forward and takes his or her marker with them, in this case (B). This opens up space where (6) originally was for (8) to drop in unopposed to be free to start the play. In this if we do it quickly enough (8)’s marker may not see it in time and (8) will get free.

distribution from the keeper

6. Inverted runs inside by Wide Midfielders/ Strikers

They push 3 up we get out through our wide strikers. Have opponents make different choices to force the keeper to make relevant decisions in training. Here we would NOT try to develop play through the back three players as each one is marked. Therefore we go to the next line of attack to get out. Buildup to 9 v 9.

inverted runs inside by midfielders

7. Rotation of front players

Here a simple rotation between (9) and (10). (9) goes towards the ball and brings defender (A) with him or her. (10) pushes on into the central space created. If (A) lets( 9) go and stays centrally then we can pass into (9)’s feet to receive and turn.

rotation of front players


Various rotations practiced at the same time

Here we make opponents make different choices b your movements OFF the ball to force the keeper to make relevant decisions in training.

Potential Off the ball movements.

  • (6) And (8) interchange so (8) gets free to receive. (B) tracks (6).
  • (2) And (7) rotate and (C) tracks (2) leaving (7) free to receive.
  • (11) Takes defender (E) wide then cuts inside with an inverted run to receive in open space and free of (E)
  • (3) Runs wide to the touchline and defender (D) runs to mark him or her, this opens up a passing lane inside for the keeper to pass to (11) as shown.
  • (9) Goes short to receive and takes defender (A) with them leaving (10) filling the space left free to receive as shown.

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