Master­class: Michael Owen

The for­mer Liv­er­pool and Eng­land marks­man shares his blue­print on how to cre­ate the per­fect goalscorer

FourFourTwo - - CONTENTS -

Hi Michael. Do you be­lieve goalscor­ers are born or made? I think it’s a bit of both, to be hon­est. To be a goalscorer you have to be a cer­tain type of per­son. You’ve got to be self­ish and have an ob­ses­sive streak, which are both per­son­al­ity traits I be­lieve you’re born with. Im­prov­ing your goalscor­ing is all about qual­ity prac­tice and hav­ing the chance to work on your fin­ish­ing in matches over and over again.

What’s the best way for a for­ward to de­velop their fin­ish­ing? I have a clear idea about how to cre­ate a world-class goalscorer. In the mod­ern game, a lot of young play­ers are moved up an age group in their acad­e­mies to chal­lenge them. They’ll still be good in that age group, so they’ll be pushed up again. Even­tu­ally it gets too dif­fi­cult for them – they don’t have enough chances in front of goal to prac­tise their craft. If you only get one op­por­tu­nity per game, you’ll favour your tried-and-tested fin­ish ev­ery time and never build a reper­toire.

When I was at school, I’d get about 15 chances per game and of­ten score nine goals. I quickly fig­ured out the fin­ishes that worked well for me and those that didn’t. But to do that, you need to have loads and loads of chances to prac­tise dif­fer­ent goalscor­ing sit­u­a­tions un­til it’s in­stinc­tive. You can only do that if you’re con­tin­u­ally play­ing at a level that al­lows you to dom­i­nate and have op­por­tu­ni­ties in front of goal.

Would you say acad­e­mies pro­duce as many goalscor­ers to­day com­pared to when you rose through Liv­er­pool’s ranks in the ’90s? No. Since Jose Mour­inho bought Di­dier Drogba (right) in 2004 and Chelsea started to win ti­tles with a lone striker, the po­si­tion has changed com­pletely. The stereo­typ­i­cal cen­tre-for­ward now is a big lad who can do ev­ery­thing. When I was com­ing through, there were twice as many strik­ers be­cause ev­ery­one played with two guys up top. We would prac­tise a lot of com­bi­na­tion play and op­er­at­ing with a big man and a lit­tle man. It didn’t mat­ter what shape or size you were, you could be a striker. These days, if you’re not a cer­tain size, there’s no point be­ing a striker be­cause you won’t be able to play that role. I’d find it re­ally hard com­ing through now if I had to keep win­ning high balls, hold the ball up and do ev­ery­thing.

Which types of fin­ishes did you en­joy ap­ply­ing the most? If you look back over my ca­reer, I rarely rounded the goal­keeper, as I just didn’t like that fin­ish. I tried it dozens of times when I was a kid and it didn’t come off too of­ten. I soon dis­cov­ered that I liked either curl­ing the ball into the cor­ner or open­ing up my body and side-foot­ing it home from a cer­tain an­gle. I also used to be good at push­ing the ball in front of me, so the goal­keeper thought I’d taken a heavy touch and would come off his line. But it was ac­tu­ally de­lib­er­ate, as I knew that I could use my pace to beat him to the ball and then dink it over him as he raced out and dived at my feet. If I was one-on-one with the goal­keeper, I’d usu­ally try to po­si­tion him where I wanted him to be. I al­ways liked to run onto the ball at an an­gle, be­cause I could move the keeper and then open up the space to slot it past him and into the bot­tom cor­ner.

Can you learn to keep a cool head in one-on-one sit­u­a­tions? Yes. You need to have ex­pe­ri­enced many one-on-one sit­u­a­tions to de­velop that calm­ness when you’re through on goal. A very good ex­am­ple of this is Mo­hamed Salah’s goal for Liv­er­pool in last sea­son’s Cham­pi­ons League quar­ter-fi­nal sec­ond leg at Manch­ester City. Be­fore that goal, I had him down as a player who missed quite a few chances and didn’t al­ways pick the right fin­ish. How­ever, the more op­por­tu­ni­ties he’s been given, the bet­ter he’s be­come. He looked like an ice-cold fin­isher against Man City. If you’re a top striker, your heart rate should slow down in these sit­u­a­tions. Salah took an ex­tra sec­ond and waited for the keeper to go down, be­fore dink­ing the ball over him. That tells me his heart rate is de­creas­ing in one-on-one sit­u­a­tions.

You scored so many of your goals from through-balls – what would you do to ex­ploit space? If I didn’t have the ball, I’d avoid fill­ing an area that I wanted to ex­ploit. I’d drop off a lit­tle bit so the de­fen­sive line would move higher and I could run in be­hind. I wanted de­fend­ers to think that I just wanted the ball to feet, but re­ally I was suck­ing them in so that I could spin and burst away. The quick­est route to goal is in a straight line from A to B, but you will prob­a­bly keep get­ting caught off­side by do­ing that. You need to po­si­tion your­self be­tween the full-back and cen­tre-back, then bend the run and get the speed up.

Once you’re in that po­si­tion, keep your head up. Too many play­ers don’t look up un­til the keeper’s only a few feet away. You’re in pos­ses­sion of the ball, which means you’re in con­trol of the sit­u­a­tion. An­gle your run so you move the keeper ex­actly where you want him to be, and then you can pick your spot.

Owen was speak­ing on be­half of BT Sport

“I’d de­lib­er­ately push the ball in front of me so the keeper came o his line. I knew I could beat him to it and then dink it over him”

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