Football pressing drill – Press and cover

by Pablo M23rd Jun 2022

Drill created with TACTICS MANAGER

Pressing is a popular strategy to recover the ball. However, it can expose the defending team to counterattacks. This post describes a football pressing drill that will help your team to press in an organised manner.


This routine is a competition between your defence and your offensive players. Therefore you need a good number of players: 4 defenders and 8 offensive players. Because this drill emulates a back line of 4 players, you need 3/4 width of a football field and 3/4 of one-half of the field to emulate the opposition midfield passing the ball to their forwards. If you are using a football field and have a considerable number of players, you can simultaneously run 2 to 3 groups along the field.

In addition to an actual field, you will need cones and balls. If you can’t get hold of a full pitch, find a park with enough space and use cones to mark the playing field.

You can still run this drill if you have a low number of players turning up to training, but you need a minimum of 9 players: 3 defenders and 6 offensive players. Instead of 4 lanes, you use 3 lanes. In this scenario, you can still emulate a backline of 3 players. A variation with fewer players (e.g., 2 defenders) won’t simulate a real scenario.


Pressing is a strategy in which the defending team presses over the player with the ball instead of holding back (waiting to intercept the ball or for the opposition to make a mistake). Teams can use this strategy anywhere in the field and in many different ways. This football pressing drill focuses on the defensive line and is particularly useful for teams that press the opposition using a high line tactic. Therefore the instructions below are designed for practising pressing while covering gaps that may expose your team.

The progression and rules of the game are as follows.

  • Attacking players:
    • move inside their square only.
    • are only allowed two touches.
    • can pass the ball to a teammate in a contiguous square or on the opposite side of the field.
    • get 1 point every time they successfully pass the ball to the other side of the playing field.
  • Defending players:
    • can move everywhere in their lane, including the square of the attacking player, but can’t change lanes.
    • discount a point from the attacking players when they recover the ball.
    • are not allowed sliding tackles.
  • A ball is considered recovered when it is controlled. Therefore, deflecting the ball or kicking it out of the game is not enough to regain possession.
  • If a player breaks one of the rules above, a point is awarded or discounted from the opposite team.
  • If the attacking team still have points at the end of a set time (e.g., 10 minutes) wins the game.
  • The defending team wins if the attacking team has no points at the end of the set time.

Be creative and add your own rules. But, whatever changes you make to the base game, maintain the spirit of the drill.


This football pressing drill will improve your team’s organisation when defending. However, this routine also improves possession of the ball and finding gaps in the opposition defence. In summary, this exercise will improve:

  • Accurate passing. The only way to win this game is by players improving their passing technique.
  • First touch. Because the number of allowed touches is restricted, players must improve their first touch to control and pass the ball.
  • Teamwork. This drill encourages teamwork over individual efforts. Defenders must coordinate their movements to press and cover gaps.
  • Positioning. Defending players have to position themselves to close passing lanes.
  • Patience. Offensive players must circulate the ball to find the killer pass and avoid rushing a pass.
  • Patience when defending. Not allowing sliding tackles forces defenders to be patient. Defenders practice how to recover the ball, avoiding reckless defending.
  • Fitness. This game is physically demanding for the defending players.

I hope you find this drill helpful. If you like this post, please share it with your friends and take a peek at our other drills.