So far in the Premier League this season there have been a total of 98 penalties awarded. With at least 8 match days remaining, it is likely that the record from penalties awarded in one season will be broken. The previous record of 106 in 2016/17 isn’t far away from being overtaken already.
With that being said, it is quite clear that penalties are becoming more and more regular. They have always been important but it is absolutely vital that teams can take advantage of them. The number of penalties that are awarded can earn teams lots of points through the duration of the season.
Therefore each team must have a specialist, someone who is going to hit the back of the net far more often than not.
But how can players become so good at penalties? What is it that they do to make themselves so clinical from the spot?
The thing with penalties is that it is not just the player and the ball. Fans may cause distractions, opposition players even, and your own nerves can have a huge bearing on the way the ball is struck.
We all know how England have struggled over the years from the spot and that hasn’t been down to bad penalty takers, instead the mental battle has caused more problems.
Those players who have missed in the past such as Waddle, Pearce, Southgate, Gerrard, Lampard, and the list goes on, would all blow us away if we saw their technical ability in person. But the deciding factor has been the external influences.
So how, as a penalty taker, can you get past this?
It may be a big game, the last minute of a cup final and your team has been awarded a penalty. It’s your job to pick up the ball and finish the game off, but that is a lot easier said than done.
It can be nerve-wracking and everyone is watching you, some desperate for you to score, while others are desperate for you to miss.
It’s tough, and is a high pressure situation.
What you mustn’t do is let the pressure get to you.
Which is much easier said than done.
But first of all, to help make sure that the pressure doesn’t get to you, it is important to make sure that you take your time.
If you go and watch penalties that have been missed in big moments, or in international tournaments, there is typically one thing that happens regularly: players rushing.
When the referee blows their whistle, it is important to take your time. Prolific penalty takers wait, catch their breath and proceed in their own time. What is important is that you, as the penalty taker, take control of the situation. Don’t feel like you have to strike the ball as soon as the whistle is blown, wait for a bit.
Waiting helps you gather your thoughts, control your breathing and gives you a chance to have the upper-hand. You now have control of the situation, the goalkeeper is waiting on you, and you are composing yourself through breathing steadily as you approach the ball.
It makes an absolute world of difference and there is a much higher chance that you will score, if you just take your time.
That can be hard to do though. It is understandable that at times the penalty taker may rush the situation, wanting it to be over with as soon as possible. There is a lot of pressure and nerves and it may not be comfortable, but taking your time will give you control and help you feel like the situation is yours, not a rushed reaction to the whistle.
What is really important though is that you practise your penalties regularly at training, or in your own time. It may seem easy, but finding the spot you want to put the ball in and executing it as regularly as possible really helps build confidence.
When you then step up to take that last minute penalty you know where you want to put the ball, understanding that you take your time and control the situation. Then you will be in control, comfortable, and confident, in knowing that if you put the ball exactly where you want, then you will score.
And that’s what you must remember.
Put the ball where you want, out of the goalkeeper’s reach, and it will be very hard for the keeper to save it.
Knowing that you regularly put the ball in your favoured spot during practice provides a lot of confidence.
Doing these things will help significantly, allowing you to take control of the situation. One of the main reasons that penalties are missed is because of the pressure and the situation that is occurring. The nerves can really affect the outcome.
And goalkeepers can see that.
If you feel nervous when you’re stepping up for the penalty, then take your time and remember the routine that you have practised, but also try to look confident.
Even if you’re not.
Take a deep breath, stand up tall and stick your chest out. Emit an air of confidence and it is going to be much harder for the goalkeeper to read what you’re going to do.
If you are nervous and look like you don’t have much conviction then the goalkeeper is going to feel like they have the upper
-hand. So make sure that you stand tall, take your time and control the situation.
Penalties are not just a technical situation; they are more about the mental side of the process.
Practise the technical and mental side in training so that you are confident when you step up to the spot in a game.
Then, when the referee blows the whistle, take your time.
Take your time and control the situation.