The transition from 9 a to 11 a side can be one of the most difficult for young players to adapt to as well as coaches. The increase in the pitch length and width as well as the change in goal size too is one that takes place as young players begin entering a stage of their development where growth and maturation can vary. Therefore, as coaches we need to be patient with our players and provide them with the support that they need to adapt to this change into 11 a side football. In this piece, we are going to explore some of the differences between 9 a side and 11 a side formations and how you may support players with this transition.

Whilst there has been a change in pitch size, goal size and also the number of players on the pitch when you enter 11 a side the principles of play do not change both in and out of possession. Therefore, when working with your players it’s important you keep consistent with your messages on how you want your team to play both in and out of possession. For more information on the principles of play, visit:

1 – 3 – 3 – 2 to a 1 – 3 – 5 – 2

The change in this formation is the addition of both the number 7 and 11 which are wing backs within the 1 – 3 – 5 – 2. In 9 a side, the 6 and 8 will be required to cover distances out wide due to the width of the pitch being smaller to support both the full backs defensively as well as help with the team creating space as well. In 9 a side, if both or one of the full backs joins into the attack, midfielders may look to cover the space left by the full back to ensure the team maintains balance defensively. The addition of both the 7 and 11 will also be of great benefit to your number 9 and 10 who will now have more opportunities to receive crosses from wide areas as well as additional support by runs into channels from the wing backs increasing the number of options when they have the ball to combine with. The bolt on of the 7 and 11 now also allow you to maintain width across 5 channels rather than 3 which you’d be looking to do in 9 a side which will help you to get into the half space between the full backs and centre backs of the opposition. As a team, you will now be able to become more compact with the 4, 6 and 8 now having to cover less distances ensuring they can keep 8-10 yards between them particularly when the team defends with a low block which could become a 1 – 5 – 3 – 2. When pressing, your 7 and 11 now may also have the opportunity to press the oppositions full backs or screen/block passes into them which may make it difficult for the opposition team to be able to play out of the back.

1 – 3 – 2 – 3 to 1 – 3 – 4 – 3

In this formation we see the addition of both the number 4 and number 10 to create a diamond within the 1-3-4-3. Alternatively, it may be that you want to create a flat midfield four with your 7 and 11 being narrow and your midfield four covering the width of the pitch. For now, we will focus on the diamond and what the transition from 9 aside to a 11 a side will mean for your players. With the addition of two additional players in midfield, both your 6 and 8 can now look to have more security when moving wide to defend and the opposition. As a pair, or a group of four, when the ball is on one side of the pitch they will still need to maintain good distances between them and provide cover and support when defending. It may also be that you wish for your midfielders to defend within the three channels and that you ask for your 7 and 11 to defend in the wide channels to change your team onto a 1 – 3 – 6 – 1 when you don’t have the ball which will make it increasingly difficult for the opposition to break you down particular if you’re to be in a lock block. When playing out from the back, your goalkeeper will have a number of passing options into the defenders as well as the midfield and the addition of the number 4 will allow them to drop in to allow your numbers 2 and 3 to create width and move higher up the pitch to almost act as full backs giving a different option to what you had in 9 a side. The role of the 7, 9 and 11 do not change a great deal in this formation both in and out of transition which is one of the benefits of this formation as it allows you to defend and attack with a front three.

1 – 2 – 4 – 2 to 1 – 4 – 4 – 2

The transition from these formations is the addition of the full backs which will now provide further defensive support for your team. In 9 a side, both centre backs can become isolated down the channels which requires them to defend wide which can be difficult particular if an opposition team maintains width and switches play quickly. With the addition of full backs, your two centre backs will still be required to cover wide areas, but now only when the ball is played in behind or between them and their full backs. This will now allow your two centre backs and opposite full back to start understanding their roles and responsibilities inside the box to deal with crosses from wide areas. Likewise, the addition of full backs will now provide you with more offensive support with you now able to send one if not both full backs to join the attack. This will help your to begin to start developing the relationship between the full backs and wide players both offensively and also defensively too. Wide players will still be required to recover and track back, but now they will not have to cover as much distance as they’ll not be required to cover the space that was vacant from both the 2 and 3 in 9 aside. Therefore, wide players can now work in a unit with the 4 and 8 and look to maintain good distances when they don’t have the ball to maintain compactness as well as disperse to create space across the 5 channels across the pitch.

To conclude the transition from 9 aside to 11 aside can be a difficult one, however, working with formations that your players are comfortable with and explaining to them how the additional two players will alter things for them can make it much simpler for them. Remember, the key is sticking to your attacking and defensive principles which shouldn’t change in this change of formats which will only support the players understanding at such a crucial stage.

For more information on a breakdown of the 9 a side formations have a look at: