Do you Have to be Good at Everything?

Do you have to be good at everything? The answer seems obvious: of course we all do, but sometimes that can lead players down the path of only focusing on developing their perceived weaknesses.

I’m sure we’ve all been there, determinedly working on a certain technique that we are finding quite tricky. However, by putting all our focus on that one area where we are lacking, we may be causing ourselves to potentially slow our development.

There are times in football where you will find certain techniques difficult, but others come to you very quickly. Naturally we will think that we have to be very good at everything, but that isn’t actually the case.

If we take a look at some top Premier League players we can actually see this. For instance, Mo Salah, of Liverpool, over the past few years, has been one of the highest goal scorers in the league, frightening defenders with his ability to cut inside on to his left foot and score. His finishing ability is frightening. It can quite often seem that he gets one chance and the ball is in the back of the net; clinical and deadly, like there isn’t even the slightest doubt in his mind, just like his goal against West Ham last week where he brought a high pass down with one touch and then flicked the ball over the keeper into the net.

An absolutely outstanding finish, world class even, but could you name what else he is really good at?

Personally, I can’t see too many other areas where he is exceptional. He has a fantastic dribbling ability where he can attack the full back, cutting in from that wide right position to get his shot away and score. However, he isn’t a wonderful passer who can switch play quickly; he crosses, but not always, and he doesn’t do too much on the defensive side of the game.

Salah has realised what works for him and has put hours and hours of practice in to make himself exceptional in that area. If Salah gets the ball in and around the area there is a very good chance he’ll score, rarely missing. His focus on shifting the ball on to his left foot and finishing in the corners of the goal, or first time finishing clinically, have all come from the realisation that this works best for him. By realising this he has, over the years, developed his game to get in these positions more frequently because he is most effective at getting the ball in the back of the net.

Mo Salah, he knows his strengths.

Years ago Salah played for Chelsea, under Jose Mourinho. At the time he struggled to score, and in my opinion, seemed too far away from the goal to regularly be a significant goal threat. He would make long runs to try to get into the box, or dribble from very deep, but this just wasn’t working. Eventually he was moved on by Chelsea, to Roma, where he began scoring the number of goals we are accustomed to.

Basically, Salah realised what he was really good at and focused on making that area of his game standout. He started to position himself higher up the pitch, noticing which positions got him the ball more regularly. Once he knew this, it was easier to practise because he would simulate game based scenarios of cutting in and shooting. You can see this from how he plays.

He isn’t playing on the right to run down the line and cross with his right foot, he’s playing on the right to cut inside and score on his favoured left. He realises this and doesn’t spend time on trying to make this weakness better, he’s actually thought that he will make his strength exceptional.

We can actually see this with many players throughout the professional game. It is incredibly difficult to be exceptional at many things, but most players have one or two aspects of their game that they would aim to make this good.

A great example was David Beckham, his long distance passing, crossing and free kicks were sensational. He would spend hours and hours making these areas of his game exceptional. Countless times Beckham saved Man Utd and England with a late match-winning free kick but he wouldn’t have done this is if he already thought he was good enough, instead he might have focused on practising his dribbling. He realised that dribbling wasn’t his main strength, so he didn’t spend the time focusing on it, instead using his time to make his strengths exceptional, benefitting his game hugely.

Dribbling wasn’t his strength; he could do it, but he didn’t have the speed, or the drop of the shoulder, to do it frequently, therefore why spend so much time practising that, to the point where you are actually focusing on that weakness more than your strength?

Eventually your strength doesn’t become as good as it can be because you have moved your focus elsewhere in your training.

As you go higher up the levels of football you’ll realise there are players with some exceptional areas of their game but there also may be some players with a couple of exceptional areas who play lower down the levels.

But the difference at the top level is that the exceptional talents of these players is clearly evident against the best in the world but also the other areas of their game, the areas that we would maybe class as a weakness, are actually very good.

Consistently very good.

The key is consistency, you don’t have to be amazing at every technique out there, but can you be consistently good in the areas that you wouldn’t class as your strengths?

For instance, making that left foot pass successful 9/10 times, or controlling the ball well frequently. It’s not always about making every area exceptional.

Realise what areas of your game are a real strength, something that you enjoy. Put the time and effort in to make that area really good, exceptional maybe.

But don’t spend so long on making your perceived weakness amazing. Make that area consistently good, and then spend the time on making your strength exceptional.

Your game will benefit from it and you will start to put yourself in a position, in games, to show everyone that exceptional area, benefitting your game and your team’s performance.

Be competent in all areas and consistently good, and then aim to have one or two areas that set you apart, allowing you to take your game to new heights.