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Before going into detail, it's worth defining what we mean by 'finishing'. Simply, it's the art of putting the ball in the goal. And there are many ways that this can be done – just not with your hand or arm.  



Picture this. You line up on the edge of the penalty area and pass to your coach, who lays it off for you to have an unopposed shot. One kick of the ball. Then to the back of the queue. And repeat.  

Sound familiar?  

While this type of session is easy to organise, it poses a problem. It doesn't reflect a real game. Sure, players are working on their technique. But they don't experience discovering space and moving into it. They also don’t get to react or recover after they've received the ball under pressure.  

In contrast, the goalkeeper is often over-worked to exhaustion (due to facing shot after shot). They may also be demoralised by the number of goals they concede. After all, it's an unopposed practice where the attacker has unlimited time and touches to pick their spot carefully.  

To be fair to coaches who use this type of practice, they're likely repeating what they experienced as a player or what they've seen other coaches do. But it's far from ideal. So, where should we focus our attention? 



While we all love a 30-yard 'screamer' in the top corner, analysis of professional goals shows these aren't the most common finish.  

Take Euro 2020 as an example. 82% of open-play goals were scored inside the box. And, of those finishes, the majority were within 12 yards of the goal. Plus, there were an average of 4.7 defenders and 2.9 attackers in the box – so roughly a 5v3 scenario in the penalty area. Something that's not replicated by queuing up for a free shot on goal.  

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Using the data from Euro 2020 and the drive to make finishing practice more realistic, why not try:  

  • making practices opposed  

  • centring the action in and around the penalty area  

  • using two goals and goalkeepers if possible  

  • providing multiple opportunities for transitions and counter-attacks.  

These elements will allow players to:  

  • practise the ability to recognise space  
  • predict where the ball and opponents will be  
  • time their movement accordingly  
  • react to changes in possession during transition moments.

Of course, the practices you deliver are constrained by the space and equipment available – and the number of players in your squad.  

However, using the STEP principle to adjust your existing sessions can help. It enables you to switch things up and provide a variety of scenarios for your players. This encourages them to develop a broad range of finishing techniques and mental pictures of the game. Plus, using practices your players already know makes it easier for them to tackle the task – and maximise repetition. 

 

Finally: consider the needs of your players 

This will help inform how your practice is designed and delivered. For example, suppose you work with young players. In that case, you need to match the activity to their physical development and technical capabilities.  

While we may be guided by what happens in the professional game, we can't expect the same performance from young children. For example, many goals in senior football result from set-plays and crosses from wide areas. These scenarios are beyond the capabilities of young players. Instead, the emphasis should be on using their body to protect and manipulate the ball in tight areas closer to the goal.