5 ways to develop creativity in the final third

At the World Cup, we are seeing some of the most creative players at their best. Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar are all masters at creating space in the final third of the pitch for a pass or shot that catches the opposition out.

Neymar skills

Neymar puts the ball through the Austria goalkeeper’s legs

In the final third, a player faces many problems and has to make immediate decisions about how to solve them. And as the standard of play increases the player has to use more creative ways to deal with these problems.

Start with explaining how players go about being creative – where they play, movement of team mates and how creative passing can split defences open. Use Play between the lines from my Soccer Tactics manual, which explains how players can make decisions that benefit the team.

Next, give the players a framework where they can practice being creative without being penalised for making mistakes. With the technical practice Try something different in the final third creativity stems from players being confident to try something even if they fail at it. It is a simple session that uses all of your squad and, best of all, requires no cones or equipment so can be set up by the kids and used as a pre-game warm up.

For the younger age groups, the best way to encourage creativity is to give them a fun game that stretches their skills. Tomb Raiders is perfect for this as it gets players using short passes, making interceptions and keeping possession with good decision making.

One of my favourite ways of giving players the chance to be creative is Creative in the final third (U14 activity). It uses overloads to put players in situations where doing something different will result in a goal.

Small-sided games are excellent vehicles for getting players to be creative – 6v6 to improve midfield creativity is a great way to round off a technical session and allows the coach to see if players are using creativity in the final third to make and take scoring chances.

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