When the boss asked me to write a technical article on why footballers miss chances, my immediate response was pure dressing room chaos, pure survival tactic. Heckles up.
“What are you asking me?” I shot back at our team game.
Old habits die hard and nothing makes me angrier, defensively, than thinking I’ve scored no goals – but like any striker from every generation, from Dixie Dean to Erling Haaland, I’ve lost more than I’ve scored. It’s a bone-chilling, jaw-crushing thought (I snapped the words instead of typing them).
It’s the same every weekend in the Premier League and elsewhere. Goals outnumber misses.
“I’m sure our readers will want to know why,” the boss said. “Stop torturing me,” I replied. But it’s no use, because here we are.
Goals were my opioid. For a brief moment of excitement when the ball hits the back of the net – usually with some force – my life freezes into an adrenaline rush. No matter how much you want it, nothing else is available. What was lost was the opposite; Desolate, s***, I can’t stop picking brain itches.
But what was missing was part of the process, and being able to bounce back from nostalgia and not be afraid to miss it again is part of what separates the good spoilers from the greats. You hate it, you face it and you go back for more, all in the pursuit of that perfection and the danger that comes with it.
Everyone misses, but the real greats have a quicksilver instinct that cuts against it. They score more than others and they score when they need to. You have a better, more reliable method. You judge the line of the ball faster and adjust your body faster, improving that chance. For every one that comes out, you make ten free runs.
It’s the mentality of losing punishment – you never gave birth, even now, all these years after retirement, I still dream about those bitter moments – and I still hope to take the next one instead of being embarrassed.
It’s the hardest point in football, or so the cliché goes. That’s why the best ones cost a lot of money. On the big stages, in the biggest, hardest cases, you may only get one chance. Manchester City signing someone like Haaland is something I always suspected, having a player as talented and clinical as him would turn them into winners.
Erling Haaland Interview – It’s good to score goals, miss that chance and why it hurts.
The modern game is played at a whirlwind pace and there are many things that can go wrong before you can bring out the best goalkeepers and defenders whose job it is to stop you.
You may have a split second to make a decision. You smell, you sense, you guess and then, given the most difficult moment to react, it’s down to mechanics, mindset and technique. Can you shift your weight from your left foot to your right? Do you chest, head or touch the ball?
For the benefit of this section, Liam Tarme, one of Athletics Tactics writers, has compiled a list of missed opportunities. Then we tried to categorize some examples, although the more you analyze, the more you realize that most of them miss many categories.
We looked at poor shot selection, shooting early or late (refers to headers and jumps), shooting with insufficient or too much power, off balance, poor technique and using the non-dominant foot. More appropriate.
Liam brings us together 26 clips from the Premier League, Champions League and Europa League from the start of last season. They were all rated ‘high scoring chances’ by Opta – “a situation in which a player can reasonably be expected to score” – and we’ve whittled them down to the picks below.
And, before we go any further, let me tell you, I hated every second of it. He hated it. Staring at my screen, my mistakes and doom playing out in front of me, I moaned, dragged, lost, and f***ed up, and I longed to be embarrassed and turned around. It was my own equivalent of flirting in a horror movie.
But the boss asked and like the good team player I always try to be, I delivered. So here is a phrase that should be written once and please, please, never again…
That’s how not getting results works.
Mauro Icardi for Galatasaray vs Copenhagen: Shot too late and wrong shot selection
It’s so bad it’s unbelievable. This is a striker’s dreamland, the kind of place you’ll be planting all week.
Icardi is free and patient on the keeper and has a chance to shoot.
Why take another touch? That should have been a touchdown shot. The keeper who was going down can now set himself up, the defender has more time to come back and obstruct him, so Icardi is immediately under pressure. If you have something about you, put it on the left side of the guard or lift the ball over him.
Yes, it is a good saving, but it should not be done.
Wow, what a horrible place to start.
Note: Some of the videos in this article are geographically restricted.
Erling Haaland for Manchester City vs Red Star Belgrade: Off balance and bad technique
Disclaimer: It’s hard to criticize a striker with Erling’s record, but it goes to show that everyone is human and can be undone when the basics are off. Most of the time he finds space here, creates space for himself and then takes the first shot because he doesn’t need to touch. He’s not thinking clearly. It’s on a plate for him.
The ball comes quickly to him and he tries to line his feet, but the mistake here is to lean back and what happens next is absolutely inevitable. He enters the heavens.
Strikers learn to win the ball from a young age and that’s why. But everyone did, including me. I am much less annoyed by this miss than the others.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for Marseille vs Ajax: Bad shot selection, shot too early, bad technique
Another golden opportunity.
If I put myself in Aubameyang’s position, what’s going through his mind? He knows he can’t touch to the right because a defender will carry him down. If he checks the run, the same defender can get his foot to the ball. If he goes left, he thinks he’ll start to turn his chances around by reducing his shooting angle and biasing his opponents. So Aubameyang hit it first time and it went to Dink and he simply didn’t get enough.
Dragging is a difficult skill. He doesn’t have enough height on him and it comes down to technique, but if you look at these fixtures, it’s very clear to me that he made that decision early on – the position of the goalkeeper, outside the goal, affects him. .
For his part, ‘the guard knows he has to stand as long as possible. Awaiting that finish.
But Aubameyang has time and space to make another touch. Move it to the left and it’s an open goal.
Mikaela Mudric for Chelsea and Man Utd: Bad technique, bad shot selection, dominant footwork
From Lewis Hall’s goal, it’s all terrible. If the pass is hit two yards from Mudric, he runs to him without breaking the lane, but has to be checked, then go again. After that, the mess is all over him.
Mudric is trying to get the ball on his right boot. In theory, I don’t have a problem with this, but in practice he has to walk so efficiently and his feet are all over the place, it turns what should be a simple opportunity into something terribly complicated. He cannot solve them. He kicked it with his left boot and scored.
Junior Messi for AC Milan vs Inter Milan: Bad technique, shot too early, dominant footwork
A brilliant pass from Sandro Tonali leaves Messi in a good position, on the right side of the area, with no one around.
The first touch is about bringing it in on the left foot. Although he would have given himself a better chance if he had touched forward instead of left, not a touchdown.
I can’t say the same about the shot. He’s trying to twist around the guard but there’s no turning. Once he gets in, he lets his feet adjust – when I say that I’m talking about his balance, his natural movement and his speed – and if you watch the contact he makes, he goes exactly where his feet are going. The ball swings off the ankle so it goes straight.
This and some other examples I’ve seen make me think of golf. In that sport, you’re hitting a stationary ball, but there are some of the same principles – hit your face and your body will go in the direction it’s supposed to. As soon as you start overcomplicating things, you put your technique under pressure.
Marc Cucurella for Chelsea vs Real Madrid: Shot too late, bad technique
No, no, no, no, no. F *** No. I fully believe that cucurella is not offensive, but that’s why I wanted to include this. There is no instinct. He has the hallmarks of a player unaccustomed to being in that position. (Though he was given fair play to get there.)
No reason to touch it. Absolutely. He is six yards out and is two-thirds of the way into goal when the ball reaches him. If he shoots, it’s a goal (indicated by a red arrow).
But as a result of the touch, the ‘keeper sprinted towards him and two defenders back to the line (the ball can be seen saved by goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois on the right).
Khvicha Kvaratskhelia for Napoli vs Eintracht Frankfurt: Shot too late, reliance on footwork, poor positioning
It’s all about decision making.
It’s a lovely dribble from the man nicknamed ‘Quaradonna’, but if you’ve seen our second screen, this is where the shot should be. See how inviting it is – it can go to the goalkeeper’s left or right (red arrows).
With another touch, he continues his run for another few yards, heading in the wrong direction, holding the corner impossibly tight, giving the keeper time to prepare himself. It turns seven or eight out of 10 chances into one or two.
Gabriel Jesus for Arsenal vs Tottenham: Bad shot selection, poor technique
Jesus anticipates the pass and knocks the ball out of James Madison’s fingers.
With the space around him and the choice to aim on either side, he puts him in an ideal position in the middle of the goal. He goes with the option to shoot the shot in front of his leg which is good; It’s something I do often.
He also goes for power and there is nothing wrong with that because power should not take away from your authenticity. I always feel that if I pick my spot and take my shot, the harder I hit it, the more likely the guard will stop it. My goal loads were hit hard and they weren’t more difficult to control.
But this is another example of leaning back for a bullet; Jesus’ body and method are all wrong.
Without wanting to pick on him, he’s been consistently showing his xG over the last few years, which tells you he’s getting into good spots and not finishing them. Here is the exhibition.
Nicholas Jackson for Chelsea from Aston Villa: dominant footwork, poor shot selection, poor technique
Another one where you struggle to figure out what I’m seeing. It’s a good pass by Mudric and a good run to find him, Jackson slowing down for the ball to come back to him.
But then where do you start? I don’t understand what he’s trying to do, get him to come across and then try to kick him in front of his feet. Too many things are going wrong.
He has an incredible opportunity to shoot with his left boot and he causes himself a world of pain because he doesn’t want to do it. It’s a natural desire to make life easy for yourself, but the thinking here is that Jackson does it by letting him run with it, so it’s completely flawed.
Look at the position, the body, the shape, the balance, the technique. It is very poor.
At this point, 10 out of 10 chances will be a three or four.
Darwin Nunez for Liverpool vs Aston Villa: Poor shot selection
Pau Torres (white circle) fell as Nunez made a run for the defender.
Then he makes a run for himself. When Mohamed Salah’s cross goes in, he puts it in a perfect position, but Nunez’s mind is messed up and this is an example of how you can make a decision in the blink of an eye and regret it later. .
Does it lead or beat? Does he understand the flight of the ball? When he arrived, he was still undecided and couldn’t fix himself after that.
“I miss S***,” he thinks, shaking his head.
He will be missed by all. Freezing clips and watching them frame by frame is unforgivable. Just as slo-mo replays make every play look like a leg-breaker, here you can see the brains catching up to the body too late. One hard touch and the opportunity is gone.
But those who miss it only tell half the story, even though it may make headlines or provoke ridicule or derision. The other part is you have to be in the right place to escape and that’s actually a bit of a success story.
Consistent scorers, great scorers, stick to that streak. You don’t drop your head. You work and work, putting yourself in those positions so often, you come back for more, so before you have a chance to think, your body and legs adjust and prepare themselves. Before you have a chance to pick it up.
You have a single thought and you play it over and over again: next time, next time, next time.
Although my only suggestion right now is that if this is all the same for you, don’t do it again.
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(Top photos: Getty Images; Design: Sam Richardson)