Forwards can often find themselves with their back to goal and a defender marking in close quarters, denying them the space to shoot.
When forwards can to turn those tight situations into a goalscoring opportunity, it can make coaches and fans purr with delight.
Remember this classic Thierry Henry goal against Manchester United?
While Henry was quick and strong and could have potentially turned and lost his marker, Denis Irwin, or protected the ball, the Frenchman had other ideas.
His awareness of the situation around him resulted in a memorable moment in this heavyweight Premier League clash.
Henry had spotted his compatriot, Fabian Barthez, in the United goal off his line. His movement and his body shape to receive the pass got Irwin out of the way as he turned and looped an exquisite shot over the goalkeeper and into the net. Delightful.
In this week’s MiMentor coaching focus, we look at an awareness and decision-making practice for those tricky positions, that you can work on with your players to develop their instincts.
It comes from our library of session plans within the course, led by our coach mentors, UEFA Pro Licence coach Ben Garner and ex-FA Coach Developer Jamie Godbold.
The aim is to encourage the attackers, under the watchful eye of a marking defender, to receive a pass on the edge of the area and work the space to produce a shot at goal as quickly as possible.
The practice also gets players into good habits, like receiving and scanning, to have a greater awareness of what is around them, with an opportunity to score a goal their ultimate target.
Their decisions over how to receive the ball, when to turn, how to turn, when to shoot and when to dribble or protect the ball are the initial focus.
You can start as a 1v1 and build the practice up with more players to make a 3v3 or 4v4, providing more decisions as an individual or utilising supporting teammates.
The emphasis in the practice is on how the forward prepares to receive the ball, dropping off the defender into space, and their body shape and awareness of what the defender is doing. The forward must then decide what to do to be most effective, which will hopefully result in a shot at goal.
From a coach’s perspective, it’s important to help the players to be aware of the danger and the space to make the best decision. Encourage creativity and flair, like Thierry Henry’s goal. It’s those moments we remember.
When using these ideas in your environment, always ensure you and your players know why you are doing them. Always take what you need from these sessions and adapt to suit your team’s and players’ learning and development requirements, giving them suitable coaching instructions and information.
If you’d like to learn more about how you can develop players to make better decisions, check out our Decision-Making in Football course.
It’s just £50 to enrol on the course, or you can subscribe to MiMentor for a year – currently just £75 – and access all our great online football coaching CPD course, including our new Principles of Play course, and our full Conditioning For Football pre-season training course.
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