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During a game, a player dribbles forward with the ball, with three opponents and two teammates in close proximity to her, and tries to avoid the challenge of a defender.

To help players become more skilful, coaches need to recognise what each player does before, during and after they receive the ball. And that’s where our six core capabilities can help.

They’re a framework coaches can use to put players ‘under the microscope’. This helps them observe what their players can do – and what they need help with.

But what exactly are the six core capabilities? Well, they’re six things we think underpin any action a player takes. Whether it’s a pass, tackle or shot – if players get them right, they’re more likely to deliver a successful outcome.

So, let’s explore each of them.

This is all about looking around. Players must scan to take in their surroundings and get a picture of what’s happening. They can then use what they see to inform their next action.

To help players focus their attention when they first start to scan, encourage them to look for:

  • where the ball is
  • where their opponents are
  • where their teammates are
  • where the space is.

This is about choosing the right moment to act. Scanning is important to find key information, plus any triggers and cues. So too, is good, quick decision-making. Take pressing as an example. If an opponent takes a poor touch or under-hits a pass, that could present a good opportunity to close them down. Responding quickly to this cue can give players an advantage as they try to win the ball.

This capability is about how players move their bodies – on and off the ball. It could be that they need to use their body as a barrier to shield the ball. It could be a well-timed late run into the box. Or they could be driving forward with the ball, twisting and turning to evade challenges.

Positioning is about where players put themselves. This relates to both their location on the pitch and their body orientation. A striker might position themselves blindside of a defender to gain an advantage, for instance. And a defender may open up their body to force an opponent out wide and towards the touchline rather than showing them inside.

Deception. It’s about players disguising their intentions to deceive an opponent. Creating an illusion that they’re performing a particular action before surprising them with another. Playing a no-look pass, faking a shot, and performing a turn at the last moment rather than crossing the ball are all examples of this.

This is all about the technical execution of the desired action. Did they use the right finishing technique for the situation? Was the pass well-weighted for the receiver? Did they make a clean tackle and set up an opportunity for an attack? If players develop good techniques, they’ll be able to deliver high-quality actions that can make a difference.

Now you know what the six core capabilities are, try using them to shape your observations at training.

To help, check out the articles below. We’ve highlighted some skills to look for and what players need to work on to master them: