My top tips for running with the ball

What a masterclass by Lionel Messi against Liverpool in the semi-final of the Champions League. One of the great things he does is to use basic skills at the right times. He dribbles when up against four or five defenders to beat them with sheer speed of feet, but when he receives the ball to counter attack he kicks the ball ahead of himself and runs with it using far less touches.

If he touched the ball too many times the counter attack would be much slower and break down.

Running with the ball is not to be confused with dribbling, which requires close control and relatively small steps. Running with the ball involves bigger touches and longer strides. To do this successfully, your players should…

> Start with a big first touch into space to get the ball out from under feet
> Continue to push the ball forward in stride, using soft touches of the foot furthest from the chasing opponent
> Run with the head up, looking forwards to exploit any space that opens up
> Decide what to do with the ball – pass or shoot – before running out of space

Try these sessions to help you:

To use the skill like Messi with fast movement with the ball I use Space invaders. It’s fast and exciting game that encourages players to spot the space and run through at speed with the ball.

With Flankers there should be good pace injected in the session and defenders to make it more realistic when your players are running with the ball. It is also great for communication, good passing and receiving on and to the correct feet.

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