Start as you mean to go on
“Finding space in the box is crucial. The first 10 minutes of a game is the best time to go looking for gaps. If you don’t get that early goal, it’s no problem – by then you already understand how a team prefers to defend and you can adapt to find space. If things get congested in the middle of the pitch, I’ll look to go out towards the wings or drop deeper and get on the ball a bit more. Some teams are very open and they let you play a lot more. Against them, things are much easier.”
Get to the ball first
“You’ve got to be attentive and I try to run as quickly as possible to be first to everything. I’m always looking at the movements of [Samir] Nasri or [Jesus] Navas: when are they going to cross? When are they looking to beat a man? And I look to see if they are aiming for the front or back post by how much they get their head up. Then you’re in the right place automatically. Other midfielders are different, like [David] Silva, who wants to pass between the lines more. But above all, be first. Always.”
Go wherever you want
“I want to be in the best place to make life difficult for a defender. That can be anywhere on the pitch. Nowadays, it’s very hard to find a calm space where there’s nobody near you, so you’ve got to be clever to find room. Sometimes, being in the penalty area isn’t the best place for you to create a chance. Scoring goals isn’t easy. It’s not just about the final shot – a lot more goes into it. Ultimately, you have to be clever about what you’re doing.”
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The Aguero workout
Avoid Velcro-tight marking with this exercise from movement training specialist Alan Pearson
The striker puts on a 5kg weighted vest. Four cones are laid out in a Y formation. The centre cone is placed 3 metres from the base of the Y and the other two cones branch out 3 metres to the left and 3 metres to the right, at a 45-degree angle. The coach stands on the middle cone with a ball. The striker and a defender stand at the base of the starter cone.
The striker accelerates towards the coach to receive the ball. The defender follows, trying to close down the space. Once in possession, the striker can either return it to the coach and accelerate to the left or right cone, or they can dribble out to one of the cones, keeping the ball away from the defender. After completing four repetitions the striker removes the weighted vest and completes the drill one more time.
If the striker carries the ball out to cone 3 or 4, the coach can move into a position to receive a pass, taking the defender out of play.
When accelerating, stay tall and on the balls of your feet. Use short explosive steps, with your feet shoulder-width apart. Keep your arms at a 90-degree angle and drive with force. Use your arms and body to shield the ball.
SAQ International are the established leaders in Speed, Agility and Quickness training. For more information visit www.saqinternational.com
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Andrew Murray is a freelance journalist, who regularly contributes to both the FourFourTwo magazine and website. Formerly a senior staff writer at FFT and a fluent Spanish speaker, he has interviewed major names such as Virgil van Dijk, Mohamed Salah, Sergio Aguero and Xavi. He was also named PPA New Consumer Journalist of the Year 2015.
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