Soccer Dribbling: Different Types to Use in a Game
Updated: Oct 10, 2019
Soccer is a great game to play and to watch. A spectator that is not familiar with soccer might wonder what exactly it is it that makes soccer the most popular sport on the planet. One of the critical factors is players abilities to dribble the ball, which is often referred to as "breaking ankles."
Soccer dribbling is a player's ability to maneuver around one or more opponents, without losing possession of the soccer ball. However, a soccer player does not always need to dribble opponents, especially when a teammate is open and in a better position on the field than you to help your team score. Unless you can dribble like Messi, Neymar, or Ronaldo you should think to pass first, then dribble second. A ball can move a lot faster than a person, so use this to your advantage.
Therefore, when your only option appears to dribble, then dribble! However, a good dribbler will not have their head looking straight at the ball; they want to look 5 to 7 yards past the ball so that the ball can still be seen in their peripheral vision. Viewing 5 to 7 yards ahead of you allows you to see oncoming defenders, as well as players on your team to potentially pass the ball to, should the opportunity arise. Often, most players see dribbling as something only to get past your opponent directly down the pitch, when in reality, dribbling can be done sideways on the field, or even back towards your own goal (granted you are not too close to your own net.
Dribbling in Soccer-Specific Game Situations
Several types of game situations require different types of dribbles. I talk about several of the moves/tricks/skill in the book Soccer Training: : A Step-by-Step Guide on 14 Topics for Intelligent Soccer Players, Coaches, and Parents, but I am going to discuss common game situations involving dribbling to improve your team's chances of winning.
1. Avoid Pressure - This is the most common type of dribble for most players, especially those that are not that great at dribbling themselves. Therefore, they want dribbles that give them room between themselves and the defender to have time to pass the ball away. They would hate for themselves to get stuck in a situation that required they dribbled the ball, notably when they lacked the confidence, skill, and knowledge to dribble in a game. Defenders are especially keen to avoiding pressure because they understand if they lose the ball, there is likely no one left between them and the goalie, which makes it easy for the attacker to score when they have only one player to beat. As a midfielder, you have every other position on the field (expect goalies, hopefully) crowding your space. Defenders that pinch too high, Attackers that come back to get the ball and especially other midfielders, whether they be on your team or the other team. Nealy, every dribble will be a pressure avoiding dribble to keep possession of the ball and get it to your forwards. As a forward, you are comfortable with pressure, because that is what defenders on the other team are applying to you the entire game. Therefore, forwards often take touches that will eventually lead to more pressure, which is necessary because there is usually a lot more pressure in the opposing team's 18-yard box than on your own half of the field. An essential element of pressure avoiding dribbles is knowing where you want to go even before you get the ball passed to you. Always, be thinking a step ahead. Understand that you only have a split-second's time to react, so if you have already decided as to what you are going to do, it will take the time to make the decision out, and increase the time you have to execute on your pre-determined choice.
An excellent example of a soccer player that uses effective pressure relieving dribbles is the attacking midfielder Ronaldinho.
2. Increase Pace - Explosive dribbling is taking very large touches and accelerating quickly into space so that opposing players cannot catch up with you on the pitch. This type of dribbling is often most suited for wingers (forwards that play wide), outside midfielders, and outside wing backs (outside defenders with attacking responsibilities). These players use explosive dribbles more often because there is more space the wider you go on a field, which makes sense because you are less dangerous along a sideline versus being at the top of the 18-yard box. Explosive dribbles are not meant to be fancy (like many of Neymar's touches). However, it is still an important skill to develop as pushing the ball too far will make it so that a player on the opposing team can dispossess you, but taking too small of touches will make it difficult to accelerate past defenders or quickly cover space in the open field. A few examples of great explosive dribblers are Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale.
3. Attacking Dribbles – When done properly, these are the most effective dribbles on the field, but since they are so critical to your team's success, they are not easily perfected. Attacking dribbles are touches taken after performing a foot skill, such as a jab or scissors. Effective attacking dribbles are all about changing your direction and speed. The skill changes your direction (and ideally the defenders, too) and the acceleration (the attacking dribble) changes your speed. You are faster without the ball than with it, so push and accelerate past a defender quickly. Players with effective attacking dribbles are an opposing team's worst nightmare because they are hard to catch-up to and can change a game in an instant. A great example of a player who shines with their attacking dribbles is Lionel Messi.
There you have it, three dribbles in soccer to increase your performance on the field. Use them all, but work tirelessly on the attacking dribbles to go from just another soccer player to a real game changer.
Check out the book Soccer Dribbling & Foot Skills to read more on these areas and other areas relevant to the soccer player such as foot skills, shooting, mindset, passing, defending, and many more.