It is the little things that add up to make a player special. Here are 5 things, little or not, that can help you make a greater impact on the game.
1. Passing to the correct foot
Passing the soccer ball to the correct foot is HUGE. Playing to the correct foot allows the player receiving the ball to play forward if they have space and keep possession if they are under pressure. By playing the wrong foot it slows the game down when it shouldn't. Playing to the correct foot can mean the difference between a striker turning and going to goal or losing the ball to an aggressive defender. Here are examples of playing to the correct foot:
2. Pass with the correct weight
Similar to passing to the correct foot, playing the ball with the correct weight is the difference between many things for the player receiving the ball. If I am playing into the target, do I want to rifle the ball or play it in with enough softness to allow the target to get it under control or lay the ball off? The latter!
The longer the distance between you and the player you want to pass to, the harder you need to strike the ball. It needs to get there with little chance of being intercepted and remember the slower the pass the quicker the defense can shift and adjust. Crossing it? If the defender is near the attacker put some more oomph on it. If the player is free, lighten it up. Check out the weight of Xavi's passes:
3. Finishing with finesse over power
Many of us get near the goal and we want to smash it into the back of the net. Like most things in life, the more power is attempted to be generated the less accuracy. Think golf put versus a long drive. One is soft for accuracy and one is hard for distance and power. Often times it just takes an opening of the hips and a pass into the side of the net to score. Adjusting the body and using the biggest surface area of the foot is also very important. Laces might look cooler, but the instep on a ball coming towards you fast probably has a better chance of staying on frame. Hit the corners. Low and far post all day baby. Thierry Henri at Arsenal was a great finesse finisher:
4. Drawing defenders on the dribble
Yes, sometimes the early pass is the one to make. Definitely yes. However, often times around goal we need to keep dribbling and draw a defender out of the mix freeing up our teammates or teammate. Once the defender commits to you, you can fake a pass and keep dribbling (selfish asshole! jk) or use some deception and dish the ball to a teammate. Many players panic and will take an early shot that gets blocked or is too far out, or pass to the player when it makes the defending easier for the opponent than if you kept running at the defense to again, make THEM commit or make a decision. Check out what I mean in these combos:
5. Demand the ball
I have had the bad habit of asking for the ball even when I am not exactly open. I am not recommending that. However, demanding the ball helps me get out of my shell and play with less fear of making mistakes. I think we should all WANT THE BALL. Sometimes if you are wide open a player on your team may not see you. Make some noise and let them know you are open. Try to do it calmly so as not to startle them, since they are with the ball and we want them to make their best play. I cant stand it when I hear coaches or teammates from the sideline yelling frantic instructions as a player is running with the ball in the final third. "Take him on Jimmy!" Jimmy knows.
There you have it, 5 things great soccer players do.
MUCH RESPECT TO JOHAN CRUYFF, THE GENIUS. RIP