What Is Transition?

There are 4 phases in the game:

  • In possession
  • Transition – Attack to Defence
  • Out of Possession
  • Transition – Defence to Attack

'Transition' refers to the moments that occur immediately after the ball is won or lost.

transitions refers to losing the ball. Defence to attack transitions refers to winning the ball back. 

Defence to Attack Transition

This is the moment you gain possession of the ball. Examples in matches might look like this:

  • A quick counter-attack to exploit the opposition being ‘expansive’ or ‘out of balance’. In this scenario the opposition might have lots of players in the attacking half, so a quick forward pass might encourage an overload of attackers to defenders.
  • A simple pass to allow the team to get into their attacking shape, creating width and depth.

A Team to watch is Tottenham Hotspur. On gaining possession of the ball they have quick attacking players in wide areas and look to play into/ahead of them as quickly as possible.

Attack to Defence Transition

This is the moment you lose the ball. At this moment you might be in the attacking half of the pitch and would need to decide whether you:

  • Counter-press? This is trying to win the ball back as quickly as possible whilst the opposition is in a compact state
  • Retreat to get bodies behind the ball?

This decision is normally triggered by the nearest player!

The teams to watch are Liverpool and Manchester City.

Both these teams look to counter-press with numbers in the final third by putting intense pressure on the player with the ball to force them into a mistake or clearing the ball long.

Why Are Transition Moments Important?

Transition is a significant part of the game as teams try to quickly attack the opposition whilst in a disorganised state. However, it is not just positionally we need to consider but also the mental state. Consider for a moment the reactions to giving the ball away of all your players. How many react with disappointment or frustration? A negative reaction can be the difference between winning and losing the game, therefore an area to consider when coaching.

Coaching Considerations

  • Train your eyes to look away from the ball. When your team are attacking, is your team organised to prevent a counter-attack? Equally, when your team are defending, could they counter-attack if they won possession
  • Play until the ball goes dead! How many of your practices end when the defenders win the ball? Transition happens 100s of times in youth football and every practice should include an element of transition
  • Train a positive mentality towards losing the ball! Explain the outcome of 1, 2 or 3 people displaying a negative mindset towards losing the ball. How easy would it be for the opposition to score if everyone demonstrated a negative mindset?

Session Examples

Download our five example practices that you can use and adapt with your team to work on transitions.


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