Thierry Henry: Finishing at speed

The New York Red Bulls forward and Arsenal and France legend explains the art of scoring while sprinting

Have a clear vision

Know exactly where you’re going to put it
“Know what you’re going to do. I like to open up and use my sidefoot to bang the ball into the bottom corner – no matter who I’m playing against, no matter what the situation is, that’s how I’m going to try to finish. This gives me confidence because I know what I’m going to do before I arrive in front of the goalkeeper. Obviously I can’t use this finish every time, but it helps to have it in my locker because I don’t have to think about it.”

Don’t panic

Stay calm – you’ve got time
“Most strikers want to rush when they’re in the box, but that’s when you have all the time you want. And by that I mean football time. Obviously, you can’t be in there controlling the ball while chatting to your team-mates, but you have more time than you think. You have the ball, the defenders can’t touch you and you have an advantage over the goalkeeper. Stay calm, be confident and trust your ability to assess the situation and make the right decision.”

More after the break

Freeze the goalkeeper

Stop your opponent’s momentum
“You need to be able to toy with the goalkeeper. When they run out quickly to face me, they’re hoping that I don’t make them stop, because if you break their momentum, their dive won’t reach as far as if they do have momentum. Whenever a goalkeeper rushes out to meet me, I look at them to make them stop. Once I’ve frozen them, they suddenly realise, ‘Oh, it’s just you and me’, and by the time he thinks this, the ball is gone.”

Quick mind, quick feet

Unbalance your opponent
“The freezing technique works for defenders as well as goalkeepers. It enables you to work space for a shot on goal. A defender can think they’ve stopped you and then bang – in a flash, you’re away and you’ve scored. I was fortunate enough to be quick, but Robert Pires was the best player at doing this. He didn’t do any tricks but if you were one-on-one against him, you were in trouble because he could make you freeze; you’d lose your balance and momentum.”

Hard work pays off

Master your craft through practice
“There’s no secret to my signature finish – just hard work. It wasn’t all down to natural ability; I had speed and a nose for goal, but everything else I worked at because you cannot achieve anything without training hard. After a training session I used to take out some mannequins and balls and ask the goalkeeper to stay. The only secret I know of is working hard – there’s nothing else. I know it’s a cliché, but it’s true.”

It’s cool to be calm

Stay composed and decode the game
“Brazilian Ronaldo embodied pure power, but he still had accuracy and vision and was able to handle the ball properly. These strengths enabled him to maximise his power. Being able to run at full speed while staying composed and avoiding people who are trying to kick you is not an easy thing to do. Brazilian Ronaldo could do all that and still deliver an end product. You can have all the physical strengths but you need to be able to get your head up, stay cool and choose the right option.”

Thierry Henry wears PUMA evoPOWER boots to optimise his kicking power and accuracy

For more football tips see:
Wayne Rooney's shooting drill
Olivier Giroud: How to create and conquer
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's guide to finishing
Rooney: Big match preparation
Darren Bent: How to be a maestro of movement
Ibrahimovic: How to play as a targetman
Andy Cole: Finishing a one-on-one
Jermain Defoe's six-step guide to striking
Michu: Break through the defence
Demba Ba: Hit the target every time
Rickie Lambert: How to hit the back of the net

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