Most players who care about winning recognise early that to impact a game effectively, you need to have a decent amount of possession. Off the ball work is a crucial and often under-appreciated skill. But to really grab the game by the scruff of the neck you need to have the ball to do magic during the game.
Often players who are trying to win a trial, or stamp down their place in the starting 11, will notice that spending long periods of the game anonymously can hurt their chances. Coaches will look towards players, especially in the midfield or attack to have IMPACT. The rare skill of changing the flow of a game. Creating chances. Disrupting the opposition team and creating advantageous chaos to an otherwise monotonous affair.
How much you receive the ball depends on two things major things:
- Your teammates.
- Winning the ball yourself.
How much your team passes to you
Essentially you rely on your teammates to use passing channels and lanes to get the ball to you during a game, wherever you play on the pitch. Building trust with your teammates takes time and you need to put the effort into building rapport with each player individually, to maximise their trust in letting you have the ball.
What you do with the ball when you first receive it will impact how players feel about giving the ball to you. If you run into Cul-de-sacs or try to take on too many players and lose possession needlessly, it may put off players from passing to you. Therefore it’s good to keep things simple in the early stages of the game to earn trust, helping your teammates feel assured you know what you are doing. Your opponents will also have a keen eye on you, looking for any weakness or instability. If they see you are assured on the ball, they will be less likely to charge at you in the hopes of winning possession.
Pro Tip: it may be advantageous to give off that impression to encourage them to charge at you. Knowing you have a trick up your sleeve, taking them by surprise. For advanced tactics like that you have to be very skilled, confident and most importantly….accurate.
When most players receive the ball and are limited in time by incoming opposition players, most will look for any available pass and play it. But some players who are more aware of time and space, will put more thought into it and be more mindful of who they are passing to. They will take more time in deciding how to best impact and steer he game. It is those players you will need to make a good impression on, as they will be the players who may refuse to pass to you.
Often players let their off the field feelings dictate who they pass to, preferring favorites. This is destructive to any team’s philosophy, with those players choosing against the obvious and best passage of play. But in such a passionate game of feelings this tends to happen. As coaches it’s important to recognise rifts and rivalries early and move to correct such attitudes. Football is about what is best for the team, and their respective passing systems.
You can build up good rapport with individuals in training by forming partnerships. If you play on the wing, make a mental note to pass to your left back often, playing neat 1-2 passes. Showing them and the team you can anticipate their play and believe in them. Doing smart passes that make them and you look GOOD. Once you have built rapport with one member, work your way around the team. The more you pass to players yourself, the more they will be likely to pass to you.
Using your voice
A player is much more likely to pass to you if you call for it, and it’s twice as likely to pass if you say “one two” as they know they will get it back. That’s as long as they aren’t greedy! Sometimes a simple phrase like “trust me” or “go on bro” will help them to feel relaxed in giving you the ball. Your tone and openness conveys confidence. The louder the better, although tactically it may be better at times to remain silent so the defending team can’t read your play. Note: In some leagues, they may penalize you for calling for the ball without putting a name on it.
Often players will see you standing in position but will claim they didn’t pass to you because you didn’t call for it. So letting them know how much you want it, and making clear the urgency will help speed things along. With that said some of the best teams play in silence, having a telepathic-like bond with their teammates. That is what you and your team want to work towards.
Your body shape and gestures
If you have your back turned to someone with the ball, generally look bewildered or come across as uninterested, you will be less likely to get the ball from them. Try using open body language with your arms out to signal that you want the ball. Even better, try pointing to where you want the ball, choosing your favored side or a lane advantageous for attacking.
You also use your open palm to let players know when you don’t particularly want to ball e.g. if you are tired, or see that its against the run of play or benefit of the team. Sometimes you can point to someone in a better position than yourself demonstrating you are the expert ‘director of the concerto’ we call the beautiful game.
Being in the right position
It also helps massively, to actually be in a decent position. If you are closely marked or away from other connecting players, the pass may seem less attractive. You almost have to sell the pass. A sideways or backwards pass is less alluring to a player with a big ego than a slick through “hollywood pass”. You may need to make a defense splitting run, focusing on good movement. As explained earlier, each player is trying to impact the game and impress players, coaches and spectators alike.
When a player is about to pass they will often mentally ask themselves:
- Is this pass going to help towards our passage of play?
- Is it a positive pass?
- Will I pass it to someone under pressure, only to get it passed back to me with even more pressure?
- What passes can I make to open up the game or create a chance?
- Is the angle too tight or is it a nice low risk pass?
It is up to you to answer those questions using the techniques outlined above.
Your ability to win the ball for yourself
If none of the above tactics work for you in your particular team setup, then it may be necessary to hunt for the ball yourself. You may be with greedy players, or with a group who are unsure of your abilities. A player who can win the ball back for a team is like GOLD. Winning the ball back removes their threat of attack, awards your team possession and gives your team a mantle to launch an unexpected counter attack. This can often lead to a goal. Learning to swoop persistently upon opposing players, snatching the ball away from attacking players makes you a game changer and a valuable asset. You will then have the power to choose who you will pass to.
Keep an eye on any players you see who may not be comfortable on the ball, and identify their weaker sides to decide who you will charge down. And of course, working on your acceleration,stamina and anticipation will also aid you in this approach to the game.
We hope this has helped you in your journey of having the ball more and impacting games.