How To Be A Good Player Without Relying on Speed

What to work on as a soccer player when speed is not your strong suit.

How To Be A Good Player Without Relying on Speed

Today we're going to discuss something that is an integral part of the game. Speed.

Specifically, what you can do if you're not the fastest person on the pitch.

Knowing that you are slower than your opponent can sometimes feel debilitating, like whatever you do isn't going to work because your opponent will simply out pace you.

I'm here to tell you why that's not the case, give you a number of things to focus on so you can improve your game when speed is not your strong suit, and even point you towards a few professional players who you can look to emulate.

#1: Pick your 'special skill' - Pro Player to Emulate: Arjen Robben

Not everyone is going to be able to run as fast as Mbappe or Haaland.

Part of being a good player means understanding what your strengths are and learning how to play to them.

So much of practice is about improving what you are not good at. Don't forget to continue to get better at the things that you're naturally good at.

Think about yourself as a player and what you're good at and what you struggle with, and take the opportunity to really focus on your strengths.

It might be 1 on 1 defending, dribbling, or opening up space for your teammates and seeing the field. Whatever it may be, let yourself practice what you're good at.

#2: Prioritize your first touch - Pro Player to Emulate: Andres Iniesta

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Your first touch is an essential tool for any player, regardless of how fast you are.

If you aren't the fastest person on the pitch, however, it becomes all the more important as it allows you to be in control of the ball the moment it comes to you.

That control is what allows you to have good options with the ball immediately when it comes to you without needing to be able burst by someone with a jolt of speed.

A players first touch, more than most skills, is the difference maker between a decent player and a good one.

All you need to practice this skill is a friend to pass the ball with, or even just a wall to pass it off of. Try to see how comfortably you can dictate where the ball goes off your foot when you receive a pass.

It is also the skill that will allow you engage in the next point most effectively.

#3: Deception - Player to emulate: Sergio Busquets

The ability to deceive a defender (by changing directions, changing speed, making defenders look at you instead of your teammates who are open) is an invaluable tool, particularly if you do not have the same speed as other players.

Often players with speed will want to pressure you at full speed, anticipating where you're going to go with the ball, taking it off of you, and then heading straight to goal.

By engaging with a little deception you can make faster players blow by you, creating the separation from them by using their speed against them.

This then gives you an opportunity to move up the field undefended.

Ask your coach to create drills where you can work on body feints, changes in speed, and quick changes in direction in order to create separation and elude pressure.

It's also wise to watch more advanced players on the field, see how people telegraph (or don't telegraph) passes in one direction, only to play the ball in another.

#4: Off The Ball Movement/Field Awareness, Player to Emulate: Thomas Muller

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As I just alluded to in the last section, moving off the ball is a great way to circumvent any difference in speed between you and an opposing player.

One of the biggest pitfalls of new players is that typically they stand in place, waiting for the ball to come to them.

Even if you're a slower player, moving around the field is one of the simplest things you can do to increase your threat as an attacker for a few reasons.

First, it frustrates defenders because they more you work, the more they work. There's nothing a defender likes to see more than a player standing still.

Second, it opens up space for other people on your team. If you make a run, and the defender follows you, even if you're not making yourself a particularly good option to receive the ball, you've opened up space on the field by moving the defender away from where they were.

That in turn allows one of your teammates to make an attacking run by entering the space you just drew the defender away from.

Third, the ball moves faster than any player can run.

When you move off the ball, you allow yourself to engage with this reality of the game that often times faster players forget.

Even if you're moving 1-2-3 yards from your original position, that's enough distance to make yourself an open and safe option.

#5: Set Up Your Faster Teammates, Player to Emulate: Tony Kroos

It takes some maturity as a player to realize that you're not the fastest person on the team.

At the same time, that's half the joy of being on a team. Different players have different abilities and skills, and finding a place where those abilities enhance one another is one of sport's great joys.

You may not be the fastest person, but you can recognize who is and put those faster teammates in situations to succeed through their speed.

#6: Don't Give Up On Your Speed Training


This point may run slightly counter to the others, but just because you're not as fast as others doesn't mean you can't still become faster.

Being able to pop out a quick 10-yard run might be the difference between beating a defender and not.

You don't have to make yourself faster than everyone one the field, but just allow yourself to have another tool in your toolbox.

I hope you found this helpful, until next time.

-James Berry