One issue I continuously hear about, is that there is a perceived lack of genuine goal scorers emerging from many youth development systems.

Without a doubt, the role of the number 9 has evolved in modern football. Whether it was the trend of the false 9, a long period where it could be argued that 1-4-3-3 was the formation of choice for so many that it meant strikers didn’t necessarily play in pairs anymore, or whether it’s simply that we don’t spend enough time training in front of goal, these concerns are all valid.

So how can we help more young players develop attacking and goal-scoring skills?

Firstly, consider your session design. How much of the practice is working on “possession” without direction? Whether this is hours of rondos (which of course have value), or whether it’s games that don’t feature goals due to limitations on equipment, we need to ensure we allocate time every week for players to get in front of goal and work across the practice spectrum, from unopposed to fully opposed.

In an interview with Middlesbrough 1st Team Coach, Aaron Danks, a few years ago, Aaron spoke of the ‘triangle’ and area inside the penalty area where data suggested the bulk of goals (at the highest level) come from one-touch finishes.

This inspired me to utilise pitch geography and visual aids like flat rubber discs on the ground to encourage passes into this area, and reward players with double points if they can score first time inside the triangle.

I also like to ensure I can incorporate position-specific training into my planning, working specifically with strikers on different types of finish from all angles under various levels of pressure.

There is no doubt that players will gain confidence from developing the feeling of hitting the back of the net over and over again.

Three things to consider.

  1. How often do your sessions not include goals (or direction) and how could you change this?
  2. Can you deliver practices in your environment in small groups that relate to their position-specific needs?
  3. What behaviours do you praise or reinforce? Do you value passing or dribbling more than finishing for example?

One thing for you to try this week.

Plan a position-specific session for a small group of strikers. Consider how you can progress the practice from unopposed or semi-opposed, to a fully opposed practice in a realistic area of the pitch.

One critical resource on the topic.

Check out this PDP live session featuring a three-team small-sided game that focuses on finishing quickly inside the penalty area. I’ll talk you through how to adapt it, how to individualise it and why it’s one of my favourite sessions.

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