This book is about you making key decisions in a game of soccer. These tips need to be applied consistently in order to wield effect. This book contains many soccer nuggets of wisdom.
The Holy Grail. Speed is everything. One touch is faster than two touches. Think even before the ball arrives at your feet. There is intrinsic value in fast play. You don’t have to provide a killer pass all the time. Even if you play possession football, you need to pass the ball quickly. The moving ball is fastest than a player running without the ball. Playing fast is a conscious decision. You can learn to develop one-touch passing.
If you can embrace the idea that fast is intrinsically better than slow, you’re halfway home. If you can get an entire team of players to embrace that idea, you’re going to win a lot of games. – Dan Blank
If you can get the job done with one touch, don’t take two. If you can get it done with two touches, don’t take three. – Dan Blank
Slow play is the enemy. Slow play allows your opponent to get organized. Slow play leads to turnovers. Slow play loses games. – Dan Blank
Play from a Spot. Kill the ball so that it close to you and you can do something else with it. This will cause the opponent to require to close you down. Do not take lengthy first touches. If you are not skilful, do not apply a first touch and immediately try to start running. If you are a defender, your first touch is crucial to avoid putting yourself under pressure. The key is to play passes from a spot.
The Impossible Pass. You do not offer help by shouting your teammate who has the ball. Instead, you could say ‘pass it to xxx’. Sometimes, your teammate might not be in a good position. Hence, shouting won’t do any good at all. Your teammate can’t make an impossible pass. If you get shouted at, learn to hold the ball instead.
Passing Angles and Empathy. You must learn to identify proper passing angles. This is difficult when there are players and boundaries. Your teammate must be in the seam so that he or she will be open for the pass. A good player will keep moving to get into the correct seam. Help your teammate by positioning yourself properly in the seam. There is no faster speed of play than one-touch passing. As a play, you should identify seams and empathize with the person with the ball.
Receiving with the proper foot. This should be the foot that is furthest from the defender who will be pressuring you. Ask questions like which foot will help you escape pressure, to play the ball forward. You should learn to play with one-touch or use the first touch to shield you from the defender. You need to demand perfection from your players.
Passing to the Proper Foot. Pass it to the foot where the player is more comfortable with. That can make all the difference in a competitive game. Do not pass behind someone running. Pass to the master foot of your teammate so that they can take a shot etc. If the angle is not good, do not make the pass. Until the ball reaches your teammates feet’, whatever happens is your responsibility. Passing the ball to the wrong foot is bad and must be corrected.
Soccer is full of little big things and this is one of them. It’s astonishing how many potentially great attacks are not stymied by the opponent, but rather by one of our players passing the ball to the wrong foot. – Dan Blank
If the angle she gives you isn’t good enough, don’t pass the ball to her. And if you must pass the ball to her, then don’t aim for where she is. Play the pass to where she is supposed to be. – Dan Blank
Lifting the Tight-Angle Pass. If there is a very tight angle for a ball, consider lifting it instead so that it will not be intercepted.
The 3-Step Rule. When you don’t have the ball, you must help your teammate that has by being in space and available to receive the pass. After your teammate pass the ball, take 3 steps away immediately so that you have a better angle to receive. Learn to play monkey for practise.
Better than Square. Try not to run past the target player as the ball arrives at the targets’ feet. This requires the target player to perform a flick on. Rather, what you should do is to hold your run and give the target a wider angle. Also, you need to read the target’s body language and see where he or she is leaning towards. Make it easier for the target to pass to you. It is always easier to play the way you are facing.
Three Questions. It is important to ask the following: What if? What next? What’s behind me? Your eyes are more important than your feet. For 96% of the game, you are running off the ball. Always be aware of what is behind you. You must make the decisions before the ball even reaches you. Swivel and check your shoulder. Soccer becomes easier if you know what is behind you.
The Unabomber Pass. This puts your teammate with little chance of getting the ball. This means that you take too long to play the pass and the free space that that player once had is no longer there. It is important to keep it simple. Hence, do not hesitate too long when accessing your options. By dwelling one or two seconds, the chance might be gone. Do not give your teammates an Unabomber pass at any cost. Keeping the ball can sometimes be good enough.
Get Proactive. A proactive forward chasing opponent’s defenders down. Running off the ball also communicates to your teammates where you want the ball to be played. Forwards need to learn how to make productive runs.
Your teammates may be wonderful and talented but they are not psychic. They can’t read your mind. If your running does not tell them where to pass the ball, they’ll never know. You need to be proactive in your running. Your proactive runs let your teammate know where she should play the ball. – Dan Blank
The Unwinnable Race. If the defender has a big head-start, you must understand that you might not be fast enough to get the ball if it is played in-between the defence. If that is the case, ask for the ball to be played to your feet instead. Do not waste the forward’s time for chasing after lost causes.
Two Runs. You must let your teammate where you want the ball. If you want it to be played behind, get on your horse. If you want it to your feet, pull back from defenders. The smart way is to perform a decoy. You can come to the ball first, and then spin away if you want it to be played behind you. Decoy runs are important but not many players do it because it is tiring.
Does she need me? See if the ball carrier is under pressure. If he is, then support him by going near so that he can play a ball to your feet. If the ball carrier is not under much pressure, then you might expect a ball in-behind the defender for you to chase.
The Splits. As a forward, do not simply run in a straight line. Rather, you can interchange positions or make mazy runs. The split pass, between two defenders, is the most tricky for the defence. It is very penetrative in nature. When the defence is flat, make diagonal runs across the defence. This is one of the most difficult passes in soccer. As a defender, you must also learn to counter the seam ball (split).
The Ball in Behind. To get past a fence, you must either squeeze through the gaps or go over it. For this, you must take a risk and be very certain that the ball must get behind them. Do not be too precise until the defenders will intercept it. If the ball can’t get beyond the defence, you have nothing. You must kick the ball hard enough. Not all clearances must be pinpoint.
When you decide to put the ball in behind the defensive line, make sure it gets there. Hit the darn thing! Hit it hard enough to clear the line of defenders because even if it’s not perfect, it puts the defenders in an uncomfortable position. – Dan Blank
The Shallow End. Do not embark on grenade dribbles, where you will get crowded out because there are too many defenders. Keep your composure and turn around instead. Go back to the shallow end. Help your team keep the ball.
No Half-Clearances. Do not try to pass your way out of every situation. Sometimes, hoofing the ball out as far as you can is better and is the best thing to do. It is better to lose the ball in the opponents’ side of the field rather than your own. It is damage control. Make it difficult for the opponent to score if you do that. A clearance over midfield is worth a point.
The World’s Dumbest Foul. If the opponent is facing the goal with the ball with you closing her down, do not swat her down. Do not be impatient and foul the person. She has to make a risky clearance. Do not foul the person.
Pick a Surface. Do not let the ball crash onto your shinpads. Learn to control it with your instep. You should always try to control the ball. Do not trap the ball using your shin pads.
The Toe Poke. American footballers do not like the toepoke. The South American players sometimes use it. However, there is a time and place for it. The advantage is that it is very fast and you can get a shot off even if you are under pressure. There is little prep time involved. Don’t be ashamed to use it if you are under immense pressure from defenders.
The Wall to Nowhere. If the freekick is too far from goal, do not establish a man-wall. If more people are in the wall, you will have less players to contest in the penalty box. Do not simply listen to your goalkeeper. The wall can sometimes obstruct a keeper’s view, rendering it to be highly ineffective.
Throw-Ins. Learn to keep possession during throw-ins. The trick is to cock the ball behind your head immediately. If you hold it in front of your stomach when assessing who to throw it too, that is way too slow. When your teammate is coming to receive the throw, give them a chance by ensuring the ball lands near to their feet and not bouncing upward at the point of contact. The quicker you execute it, the higher chance you can catch the opponent unaware and unprepared.
Don’t Turn into Pressure. In a one-on-one situation, you are not expected to lose the ball.
When you dribble, get your body between the ball and the opponent – immediately. And then, for heaven’s sake, please don’t turn back into her. If you want to cut the ball back, do it to the other side of your body. That will keep your body between the body and your opponent, allowing you to protect the ball. – Dan Blank
The Last Player in Possession Never Gets Tackled. Never! When you are the last defender, do not dribble and lose the ball. It is not worth the risk even if you are a good dribbler. You cannot afford to lose the ball. Make sure the ball is off you and do not let the opponent come to within three yards of you. Do not let the forward get close enough to threaten you.
Clearing the First Wave. Your pass must go beyond the first wave of pressure. It is crucial not to lose the ball to the first player.
When a defender gives a ball away to the opponent’s first wave, her team is almost always caught numbers down so it almost ends up with the opponent’s quick transition to offence. And it is always dangerous so you need to avoid it at all costs. – Dan Blank
Quick Restarts. Look for short breaks when the opponent switches off. Take your chance. Punish your opponents for the mistake. Use quick restarts for your advantage.
Judge Headers for Yourself. Judge it for yourself. This is an important skill. Get good at it. Do not be swayed by a forward who is jumping in front of you.
Read her Eyes. Most people telegraph and do not disguise their passes. The player where the person looks before he looks at the ball is the key giveaway. In this manner, you should be able to intercept passes. You might be able to ‘read’ the game better if you practise this. Spy on their eyes. Great players disguise everything. Master the no-look pass.
The Pre-Fake. Apply deception before the ball lands at your feet. Pre-fake means faking to go one direction before setting off in another. You can also employ a shoulder fake. Slower players usually have to rely on technique. Every player needs to use reception to get out of a 1 v 1 situation.
The (Non) Dangerous Play. When an opponent falls to the ground, poke the ball at them. This might cause the referee to think that they might be obstructing play.
Defending the Penalty Kick. As a defender, you must rush to the penalty taker and try to get the rebound if your goalkeeper saves the shot. Take a chance and it might pay off.
Common Sense Defending. Try to make your opponent play the ball with their weaker foot. It makes defending a lot easier. Most players are not adept at both feet.
My Ball, Your Ball, Their Ball. If a ball is equidistance between you or your teammate, no one might rush to get it. No one communicated. The opponent might have just snatched the ball and made the situation their own. One should take ownership of the situation and shout.
Turning the Corner. When you turn the corner as a winger, head straight towards the goal. Do not continue running straight ahead. Do not run to the byline and put in a cross. Often, the cross might get cut out. Take the daring, angled touch towards goal if you are a winger. Have the courage to do it. The defender might have to foul you.
Fix Your Radar. Run at the heart of the defence. Force the defenders to communicate. If you do that, either the wingback or centre back must confront you. Do not simply run down the flanks. Sometimes, it helps running to the middle. Doing so frees your wingbacks to charge into the empty space on the flanks.
Drawing Penalties. When you are in the box and someone touches you, just fall. However, do not fall if no one tackled you.
Keep the Ball Alive. Do not keep attempting to score from ridiculous distances. Do not donate the ball to your opponents. For crosses that are behind you and if you are leaning back, you don’t stand a chance of scoring. If so, do not take ridiculous shots at goal. Only shoot when you have a genuine chance of scoring.
Throw-Ins Aren’t as Great as you think they are. Play the ball with your feet rather than win a throw-in. A throw-in is a 50-50 ball. Unless you see an advantage in a throw-in, try not to let the ball go out.
Hunting Rebounds. Goals are mostly scored from rebounds. Rebounds will happen and smart people take advantage of those. You should anticipate them and not chase them when they appear. Learn to be a rebound hunter. Rebounds win games and they don’t require that much effort in total.
To be an effective hunter of rebounds, you have to negate the defender’s head start. That requires two things: You have to recognize when a teammate is about to shoot, and when you see that, you have to crash the goal. It’s that simple. – Dan Blank
Bait and Switch. Bait a defender who is controlling a long clearance from your team. Let her control it and quickly close her down to make her panic. Sprint right at her to make her panic. Do not close down too quickly at the start or the defender might hoof the ball. Bait and switch and put opposing defenders in uncomfortable positions.
Mismatches on punts, goal kicks and corner kicks. Stop aiming at people where you know they will get outjumped by a towering opposing defender. This is common sense. It should be applied to goal kicks etc. Pay attention to the end result of the punt, sometimes not just the distance of the punt.
Cut off the return pass. As a defender, you can pressure the ball and take away at least one passing option. Forwards are guilty of doing this.
When you are chasing a pass from one opponent to another, make sure that you cut off the player who initially passed the ball. If you don’t, the player who receives the pass is going to pass the ball straight back to the first player and you’re going to end up as the monkey in the middle. – Dan Blank
Playing against a killer wind. Change the way you play depending on whether you are facing or against the wind. If the wind is against you, try to keep the ball on the ground as much as possible. Punts the opponents make will end up deeper than usual. You have to make allowances. Swing your leg harder so that you can punt the ball further up the pitch if the wind is against you.
Playing with a tail wind. Do not play too long through-balls. Make sure your corners stay in the field. Execute sound technique. You must score when there is a tail wind.
Playing in the rain. You must wear screw-in cleats so that you won’t slip. Travel with extra socks and change into them during half-time. The ball will bounce differently on a wet surface and forwards might want to gamble. This is a good time to hunt rebounds. If there are too many puddles of water on the ground, play it in the air instead. For that, you just need to bang the ball in the air with your first touch. Ugly goals might be scored but who cares? Everybody wants to win.
The Red Card Conundrum. Good referees do not let their last call affect their next call. Referees want fairness. Therefore, if one team is awarded a red team, chances are that in the game, the other team might receive one too. If an opponent has been sent off, remember to play clean. Do not give the referee a chance to sent you off.
When Team A is awarded a penalty kick, chances are that Team B will be awarded one before the game is over. And if Team A is the benefactor of two penalty kicks, I’d bet my right arm that Team B will be awarded at least one. The same applies to red cards. – Dan Blank
Celebrate Good Times. If you are unsure the ball has crossed the line, ensure that it does hit the net so that the referee will not have a tough call to make. Or you could celebrate like you won the World Cup. This might convince the referee that the ball did cross the line.
Clock Management with the Lead. Run the clock down. Whack the ball towards the corners of the opponent’s field. Do not retrieve the ball for your opponents. Don’t run to take a corner kick or goal kick.
Clock Management for goalkeepers. Once the ball is in your hands, you only have 6 seconds to clear it. Use your feet to control non-threatening balls in your penalty box. Learn from the professional goalkeepers and understand how they do it.
Clock Management when trailing. Don’t foul unless unnecessary. Fouling takes up additional time. Be realistic about your shots and try not to let the goalkeeper earn goal kicks. Retrieve the ball for your opponent. Chase the goalkeeper so that they must pick up the ball. Set piece must be on target. Do not kick it over the goal as it will waste precious seconds.
When you get to the final 60 seconds of that must-win game and you’re down a goal, you’ve got to take risks. You’ve got to be willing to lose by two or you won’t give yourself the best chance to tie the score. If your team has a corner kick or free-kick, bring everyone including the goalkeeper into the opponent’s penalty box. If you’re going to lose, don’t leave any bullets in the chamber. – Dan Blank
Scoring Goals. Shoot with your first touch if necessary. Position your body even before you receive the ball. Align your hips with the goal. Make the keeper make a save. If you hit the shot off target, you have helped their goalkeeper. Don’t shoot hand-high as it is usually easy for keepers to save those shots. Shoot against the keeper’s momentum. Shoot back towards the direction of the cross. Create an own-goal by smacking a low cross between the opposing keeper and the crowd of players rushing in.
For most players, having composure means sacrificing a little power for accuracy. It doesn’t matter how hard you hit the ball if it sails over the bar. You don’t get points for height and distance. Make the goalie make a save. Ironically it will help you score more goals. It will also produce rebound chances that will turn into goals. – Dan Blank
Protect your Thinker. Heading the ball is risky and can result in brain injuries. Head using the right technique. Having a concussion can derail your football season. Therefore, one should avoid it as much as possible. It is possible to wear protective headgear.
Recruiting. Make sure scouts can read the number on the back of your jersey. Warm up wearing a t-shirt with your number. Put down your contact details in the email.