Transitioning Drills in Football

Transitional play in soccer gets easier as players gain experience and awareness. Young players have an obsession with taking the ball forward at all costs. While there is merit in running the ball forward at times, there is also a higher risk of losing the ball. Teams will generally increase their chances of scoring by maintaining possession and this means developing their transitional play.

What is Transitional Play in Football?

Transitional play in football is advancing the ball from the rear to the front or from defence to attack.  Teams adept at transitional football will display defence splitting passes, angled running and awareness of the location of defenders and team members. They will quickly change modes when possession is won and move into a position to receive the ball creating options for their team.

Transition Drills in Football

2 v 2

This is high tempo is a great warm up towards more sophisticated transitional drills. It allows for some individual evasive skills as well as teamwork to score against opponents.


  • Set up a 25 metre x 20 metre mini field with goal and goal keepers at each end
  • Two teams of two play against each other with 2 other teams ready to go, 1 team behind each goal behind each goal
  • 2 agility poles are used as gates either side of the field half way along the field
  • When a player scores, that player must run back into the field through the gate before they can defend
  • When a team scores, their opponents alternate with the team behind the goal
  • When the ball goes out, both teams change with the team who didn’t have the last touch starting with the ball



Players become proficient at moving the ball up field in a 2 v 2 scenario, beating defenders and shooting or passing to set up their team mate for a shot on goal. Pressure is applied by defenders either chasing or approaching.


Use mini goals or make the field larger if required, depending on player proficiency.

 6 v 3


This great drill encourages players on both teams to consider transitional football. Players must win the ball and then quickly pass and support their team mates to maintain possession.


  • Set up 2 x 30 metres x 20 metres grids adjacent to each other with the 30 metre side a common boundary (Grid 1 and Grid 2)
  • 10 players, 4 in blue, 4 in black and 2 neutral red players (whatever colour bibs you may have is fine)
  • In Grid 1, the 4 blue players start with the ball and the 3 black players try and win it. The 2 red neutral players support the team with the ball, creating a 3 v 6 format
  • The 4th player in black remains in Grid 2 by themselves
  • The 4 blue and red players can move anywhere in Grid 1 to keep the ball away from the black team
  • When the black team wins the ball, they must quickly pass the ball to the team member in Grid 2 and run into that grid to support them, with the 2 red players now supporting the black team. 3 members of the blue team are now trying to win the ball from the 4 black and 2 red
  • One member from the blue team now remains in Grid 1
  • Once the blue team win the ball, they pass to their team mate in Grid 1, run to support them with the red neutral players while three black players are now trying to win possession in Grid 1
  • The video gives great detail


Encourage players to be aware of a team mate in space, win the ball from the opposition and transition quickly from defence to attack, supporting their team mates in the process.


Depending on player proficiency, make the grids bigger or smaller or alter neutral player numbers.

3 v 2

In this drill, we have a variation of 5 v 5 where in each half of the field, 2 defenders contest 3 attackers.


  • Set up a grid 30 metres x 30 metres with 2 mini goals at each end
  • Split 10 players into 2 teams of 5
  • At one end 2 members of one team are defenders, with 3 members of the other team are attackers – these players cannot go past the half way line
  • In the other half, the same format 3 v 2
  • Attackers at each end have a numeric advantage however when defenders win the ball, they must transition the ball to their attacking team mates rapidly
  • Defenders cannot score from their own half


Players develop skills to win the ball in defence and transition to attack rapidly.


Make the field larger depending on player proficiency or allow one attacking player to come back over half way to defend and assist transition.

Transition from Defense to Attack

Teams that transition well, generally condense when defending. Meaning, when the ball is being driven down let’s say the right side of the field, the left side players usually come into the centre of the field.

As a result, should the right side defenders win the ball, the left side players then drift wide at speed to take advantage of the space that has been generated by the condensed defense.

Sending the ball wide to the transitioning outside players also reduces the risk of losing the ball in a dangerous position central to the goal.

More often than not, teams that possess strong transitioning skills will have an excellent scoring record.

Transitioning at speed is where goal scoring opportunities can be maximised. When your opponents are moving forward towards the defenders and the defenders similarly are preparing to meet the attackers, once the ball goes in the opposite direction, the team that had been defending is now moving away from the attackers whilst the attackers have to stop and change direction.

This video shows some of Europe’s traditional super powers doing what they do best, transitioning up field with speed, causing panic amongst their opponents.

If you have any tips or advice for transitioning in football, I would love to hear from you.


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6 thoughts on “Transitioning Drills in Football”

  1. This is indeed a really nice post I must confess. I believe this can help the senior football teams of the world to play a better game. I’m particularly interested in the defensive aspect because in my prime I was a right back. And I must commend the drills you gave on defending. If I had seen such tips on defending then, I’d surely be a better player than I was. Thanks for sharing this useful knowledge 

  2. Having players with exceptional pace is also integral to transitioning defence to attack. I personally like it and I have integrated it to my team a lot and it does affect the way my team takes shape in line with the formation and tactics. Though I only know of a few of the drills involved, thankfully I have added another one to my collection and these would br incorporated from the next training henceforth. Thanks

  3. Transitioning in football seems like a very important aspect of the game. According to your explanation, I think that Chelsea fc former coach sarri was one of the coaches who took priority in transitioning the ball from defence. He really knows how to link that up real good. Some clubs use the left side and make sure a winger is up on the right and at a given space changes the flank that is less saturated making for better play up front at that side. This drills you put up here are really effective.

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