The body is the biggest tool a footballer can use when protecting the ball. You will commonly hear players use their physical size as an excuse for being dispossessed or knocked off the ball too easily. I would agree that it can be a factor but being stronger and bigger doesn’t always mean you will be more effective at using your body. Physicality and technique are both important components for the effective use of the body. Technique is generally more controllable and easier to improve than physicality. Once fully developed, your height is not changeable. Your weight and build can also be heavily influenced by genetics. Although body weight and strength can be increased by resistance training, it is a slow process and requires consistent training over a long period. Making technical changes can have a quicker impact on performance (assuming the player does not have excellent technique already). This article will focus on improving the technique to make players better at using their body.
Tips to Improve your Technique
Technique is about understanding how to position your body to create the biggest distance between you and the defender, whilst protecting the ball at the same time. A good body position will create barriers of protection between you and the ball. Try to imagine the ball as an object that is very valuable to you. You wouldn’t leave it out in the open for anyone to take, would you? You would most likely keep it locked away in a safe place. Technique can be broken down into static and dynamic situations. Static is when a player is shielding or protecting the ball and dynamic is when the player is running or dribbling and must use their body to get ahead of the opposition.
Body in between the Ball and the Defender
Players must remember this at all times. It is the single most important technical step to using your body more effectively. It requires bravery and commitment from the player. This is used in static (shielding the ball) and dynamic (racing side by side with an opposition to a ball over the top) situations. In dynamic situations, the player might need to step in front of the opposition at high speed to get themselves into the correct position. This can be scary and takes time to add to your game. The reward is high, however. By putting your body in this position, it means that for an opposition player to regain the ball, they must get around your body first. It doesn’t matter if the player is big or small in this situation. The body has created a barrier between the opposition and the ball. Once this happens, the only options for the opposition player are to either tackle you from behind or to try to move around your body. Both of these options are good for the player on the ball. The tackle will be foul, meaning the player has won a free-kick. The player moving around you gives you time to make your next move.
Lower your Centre of Mass
The player must bend their knees and widen their stance to make themselves lower to the ground. This improves stability and makes it harder for the player to be knocked off the ball. This is generally used in more static situations. A good example of this would be if a striker is holding the ball up while they wait for teammates to make runs in behind the defence.
Don't be Flat Footed
The player must not allow themselves to become flat-footed. This can be done by taking little steps on the balls of your feet. This allows the player to be more reactive and change their foot positioning quickly. This could be used when protecting the ball as a midfielder from a pressing opposition player. You could shield the ball and stay on your toes to quickly change direction and lose the player.
Use your Arms
The player can use their arms to further increase the distance between the player and opposition. This is done by fully extending the arm towards the opposition. Use the arm to absorb the force of the opposition and not to push them away. You must ensure you have control of the arm and are aware of where it is. If used poorly, the player can give a foul away.
Use Both Feet to Control and Protect the Ball
The player can increase the distance further away from the opposition by controlling the ball with the furthest foot from the defender. You may even use the outside of the foot to add more distance. This is more effective if the player can use both feet.
Adjust your Body Shape
The player must continue to adjust the body position while the opposition tries to win it back. This applies in both static and dynamic situations.