Xavi: Check Your Shoulder

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Xavi Shoulder Check
If you play central midfield, then you need to look around you before you receive the soccer ball. This way you know if you can turn and where the runs are being made. It’s called checking your shoulder and there’s one player who’s a master at it: Xavi.

Watch Barcelona’s Xavi look behind him, check over his shoulders, to see if there’s space behind him or if a defender is near him. Here, Xavi dummys the soccer ball at about the 2:10 mark in the video but looks first to see that the player he wants the ball to go to is there and ready to receive the ball. Throughout the video he’s always aware of where his teammates are on the field.

This is good advice for young soccer players: before you receive the ball make sure you know what you want to do with the ball. How do you do this? You do this by knowing where the open space is, where your teammates are, and you whether or not a defender is closing you down. Check your shoulders like Xavi.

Next time you watch Barcelona, watch how many times every player “checks their shoulders”, i.e. how often do they look to the sides, and behind them, to know precisely where they are in relation to everyone else, adjusting their position, even slightly, based on the new information. The beginning of the video below is a great example which shows Xavi doing just that.

While we all know Xavi’s level of intelligence and technique, but how much better is he because he constantly has up-to-date “intelligence” (in the “military” sense of the word) on the field?

Here Cesc Fabregas, who learned how to play soccer at La Masia just like Xavi, looks around him before he receives the soccer ball when he played with Arsenal. The idea is to take a snapshot of the soccer field before you get the ball and make a habit of it. Eventually it will be second nature. Scan the field before you get the ball so you know what you want and can do with it. Check and scan.

If you are under pressure then you play the soccer ball back and get it again when you have more space and time. Make the game of soccer as simple as possible. Pass and move and get the ball back. A few short passes give you more time to see the field and pick out that killer pass.

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