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What is the value of transitional finishing practices?

by TheFootballCoach 23 May 2022 0 Comments

What is the value of transitional finishing practices?

When we think of finishing practices, we most likely think of those practices we have all done with our players. Involving a big line of players, a bounced ball and an opportunity to finish past the goalkeeper in a 1v1 situation. We are likely all going to agree that these aren’t the best types of sessions, but they are the reality of what finishing looks like for the majority of coaches. 

Even if you go watch a world-class team, the finishing practice at the end of the warm-up still looks like this. Now there is of course context as to why they do this. But it does continue our point, the traditions of finishing have gone largely unchallenged for many, many years. The traditional type of finishing practice, does have some real limitations for player development. It does create a receptive picture, but how realistic is the picture. How many of our goals are scored by players running unchallenged through the centre of the pitch and striking the ball home from 15 yards? Evidence tells us next to none!



Does this mean the practice design traditions in this area lack realism? And if they do lack realism, do they limit the learning and progress opportunities for our attacking players? With this lack of realism we can probably agree that a lack of transfer exists between finishing practices and the cross over into game situations. This is because for the most part we are not training realistic moments from the games. The players are ultimately not seeing the pictures in training that they see in games. 

With that lack of crossover between training and games from these traditional practices, we see a change in the behaviour of the players who take part in them. The attackers often lack the accountability required to be an elite finisher. They take the practice, less serious than other practices, and lack the accountability and engagement required to place the brain into a state of learning. It is also plausible to believe that the lack of realism means that the learning process is difficult because the pictures are so different compared to game situations.

Naturally with all of the above mentioned, it is apparent that the practices lack intensity. The sessions provide a 1-3 second window where players are engaged physically, mentally and technically. But that is then ended, and a 10 second window of un-engagement occurs. This might be okay for a recovery session or a game day -1 session? But is this the only way that finishing can be trained?

Transitional Finishing is a method created, to try and include modern practice design tools challenge players in more realistic and meaningful situations. Firstly, we must look at the finishing practice from a realism point of view and ask what we can change and what we can add? Firstly, are we finishing in realistic situations where players can link the practice to the game? If the answer is no, how can we adapt this to create these behaviours. 

We can tell a practice is realistic by its link to the real game. You have to look at the situation you are creating for your plays and ask is it repeatable to a point within the game. For example, will our players finish from the position during the game, or is the situation not commonly seen by our players. To add to this, is there a goalkeeper to add realism, and do we need defenders to add to the realism. We can add more detail to this, what position is the defender in, where does the player receive the ball. All these factors will be important in adding realism to the practice. 

Adding practice is not the only factor that makes transitional finishing so important. Transitional finishing is very important in adding meaning and accountability to practice design. In traditional session design, a player looks to score in the 1v1 moment and then walks away and tries again. With transitional finishing, our attacker will need to transition and defend if the finish isn’t succesful. This will try to train and remove the disappointment and reaction that players perform after a failed action. This will hopefully train our players to be able to react and perform instantly after a missed opportunity in front of goal. This ability to react and transition quickly will also allow us to create who are able to react to the rebound or second ball from the goalkeepers save. 

Transitional finishing is teaching our players to finish within highly realistic situations with opportunity for accountability and realism. This is so important to create attackers who are able to finish in front of goal with confidence and understanding of the situation they are in. It also creates attacking players who understand the defensive transition and are able to effect the game in every element of the game. 

Example Session:

Here we can see an example of a really basic finishing session. The defenders are lined up on the edge of the area and the coach is setting the ball to the striker who is finishing, collecting the ball and starting again.

- This lacks realism
- Lacks accountability 
- Lacks a link to the game 

It is easy to challenge that this practice isn't the best way to develop attacking players and that this practice limits the learning opportunity for the attackers. How we progress this practice is very important. 


Here we can see the first progression. The attacker is now playing the pass into the second attacker who goes 1v1 against the defender and looks to shoot and score. This has increased the realism, so now this resembles an attacker receiving the ball on the edge of the area, where they need to win their 1v1 dual against a centre-back and finish against the goalkeeper. 

We have naturally improved the session and made it more realistic and meaningful for the striker but we still likely have limitations. Firstly, the striker receives the ball from the central channel on the pitch. Would it be more likely be a diagonal pass in from the inside channel. This is a location our players are more likely going to play passes from. The player in possession also has limited decision making, they are forced to shoot by the 1v1 nature of the practice, could we manipulate this?

Now the third image shows some adaptation and changes that have been previously mentioned. We are now creating problems for all player involved in the practice. The first players has to play the ball into the feet of the striker with a good weight and accuracy to prevent the defender winning the ball. The attacker now has to decide if they want to bounce the pass or to spin and finish.

For the defender they also have to make a decision, do they try and step in and win the ball or do they drop. This is key as the decision of the defender should influence the decision of the receiving player. If the defender gets too tight, we will create a meaningful moment for the attacker to spin and attack behind.

For the player passing the ball in to the striker. They now need to decide on the timing of their movement, do they run directly into the space behind, or do they delay their run to allow the attacker time to make their decision. Either way we are now forcing all players to make a decision in relation to the game. 

Now we are going to introduce the transitional element of transitional finishing. We have progressed a basic finishing practice, into a practice with realism, decision making and challenge. Now we add the transition to challenge the players behaviours and ability to react to transition. In this version of the practice the same occurs as the previous practice until the shot takes place. Then if the shot is save the ball is rolled out to the black besides the goalkeeper who looks to counter-attack. 

At this point we want the attacker closest to try and defend 1v1 against the opponent and prevent the black from scoring. This is now training transition and all four moments of the game. By training all four moments of the game we can ensure the players have full understanding of finishing within the larger game model. 


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