Bruce Lee, the famous martial artist and philosopher, had said: "I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times." What he is saying is don't be okay by dabbling with many skills in many different areas of soccer. He recommends you to be the best in only one thing. When it comes to soccer, it means pick one skill for each of the different circumstances in a game that you would encounter while dribbling the soccer ball and develop those skills and ONLY those.
Therefore, the BIG 3 skills that are recommended for all soccer players to develop are the Jab Step,La Croqueta, and Shot Fake.
The Jab Step goes by many names: the Shoulder Drop, the Fake, the Fake and Take, the Feint, the Body Feint, or whatever else you'd like to call it. The name is not essential, but mastering the skill is crucial. This skill is by far the best attacking move to use when a defender is backpedaling and you are looking to get by him or her. Now, keep in mind that any skill is just to get them off balance for a split second. A split second where they think that you're going in one direction when you intend to take the ball in another direction. However, it's the explosive push/sprinting/acceleration/change of speed after the skill that buys you more time than performing the Jab Step with the appropriate form. A good Jab Step involves the ball starting outside your shoulder and turning your toe down and in to make it look like you are going to push the ball. Some soccer players may prefer to use the Scissor or the Step Over in this game situation. Yet, the Jab Step allows you to make no contact whatsoever with the ball and does not require any extra body positioning that involves additional steps similar to that of a Scissor. Additionally, this is not the correct time at all to be doing a Step Over anyways. A correctly performed Scissor requires that you step your plant foot past the ball so that you can turn at the hips, which will allow the ball to roll through your legs while the defender is off balance, allowing you to push the ball and attack in the opposite direction that you had faked going. The extra step in a Scissors to correctly get your body positioned past the ball takes extra time versus a Jab Step. Let's use a very well known player to demonstrate this further - Lionel Messi. Some would argue that he is or is not the best soccer player, however, there is not much of an argument when someone says he is the best dribbler in the world. When you watch him, it does not look like he's doing a bunch of skills to get past the defenders. However, upon further inspection, you will see that he is using the most efficient skills, which he has developed exceptionally well. He uses the most efficient skills to score more goals and get more assists for himself and to increase the chance that his team wins. Again, this is not to say that the other skills are bad, it's just that they're not as good. Think about it this way, if you do a Jab Step and let's say you have a 90% success rate, whereas when you perform a Scissor, you have an 80% success rate. Obviously, the Jab Step is a better option because you're going to have a higher percentage of successes with that skill because it takes less time than the Scissor.
The La Croqueta is a very effective skill for when the defender is reaching in for the ball. Anytime he or she is reaching towards you, to take the ball away, it naturally means their momentum is going towards you and your momentum is going in the opposite direction. The opposite directions of body momentum between you and the defender are significant because you don't need to fake the ball one way and take it another way when the opposing player is lunging toward the ball. Simply move the ball out of the way. The La Croqueta is also known as an Iniesta, an L, or a Self Pass. It's as easy as passing the ball from one foot to the other, straight across the defender's body. Notice that I said "across the defender's body" and not across your own body. Going "across the defender's body" is critical because we don't want the ball traveling diagonally in relation to the defender because then it moves the ball closer to them, which makes it easier for them to steal the ball than if we moved the ball straight across him or her. Remember, the first portion of the Self Pass is the bottom of an "L," which will make it a lot easier to get the ball by him or her. Another skill to use in the same game situation is a roll. With a roll, the ball makes the same formation as an "L," as it would with a La Croqueta. The main distinguishing difference is that, like a Scissors, it is just a little bit less efficient. A roll is a bit more time consuming because you have to:
-Take your foot off the ground and put it on top of the ball
-Make sure to grab the ball with the portion of your foot towards the bottom of the toes
-Roll the ball, which crosses your feet
-Uncross your feet
-Finally, take an attacking touch forward with the opposite foot that rolled the ball.
When you put it all together, it sounds and seems more time consuming because it is and you're crossing your feet, which is very unathletic as a soccer player.
Lastly, you can perform a Shot Fake in various ways. You can perform your Shot Fake using a Cruyff, a Step-On Step-Out, a Jump Turn, a V Pull Back, an Outside of the Foot Cut, or an Inside of the Foot Cut. Each of which has an appropriate time to use in a game. Being very convincing with a Shot Fake allows you to buy that half second of time where the defender flinches (if they're a few yards from you) or where the defender dives in (if they're closer to you). Either one allows you to dribble in the other direction, pass, or find room to shoot. For this article, a Shot Fake, a Cross Fake, a Pass Fake are all very similar, granted you turn your foot slightly different for each one. However, they each are very useful in the game of soccer. Furthermore, your shot fake must look exactly like what? Your shot! Ensure that your arms, leg, and head all go up the same way when performing a Shot Fake or a shot.
Develop these BIG 3 skills to take your game to the next level. Say that you prefer the Scissors over the Jab Step. That is fine, but make sure to practice it nonstop to ensure you are the best at it. Don't waste time and effort trying to learn all the fancy skills that show up on SportsCenter highlights and in the Top 10 Plays. In reality, practicing the bicycle kicks and other complex moves decreases the amount of time spent on moves you know you will use every game. The "fancy" skills don't produce the same amount of results that the other, fundamental but very efficient skills, do. Right now is a significant time in your soccer career. Decide if you want to be a fancy player or if you want to be a player that scores a lot of goals. For the most part, they are not the same player. Obviously, if you get good with your BIG 3 and you are now able to dribble several defenders at once, like Lionel Messi, it will look fancy. Do you want to be the player that scores two goals a game and has very few, if any, fancy goals over the course of a season or would you rather be that player that scores two goals a season but both of them are perfect upper 90 shots? Choose wisely and choose now as you want to take the time to perfect the skills for years to come.
Pro Tip: When you go to push the ball, especially if the defender is very close to you, don't just push it straight on the ground past the defender. Instead, flick the ball up in the air a little bit. Flicking the ball will give you an increased probability of getting by the defender because the ball is more likely to go by the defender by going over their foot.
Please keep in mind that there are other areas in a game that can use quality skills, such as Step Overs when you are along a sideline. However, the above mentioned BIG 3 skills are the ones that will be most useful and will apply to more game situations when compared to skills like the Step Over.
Check out the books Soccer Dribbling & Foot Skills: A Step-by-Step Guide on How to Dribble Past the Other Team to read more on these areas and other areas relevant to foot skills.
The BIG 3 Soccer Moves
By Dylan Joseph