We were all there. A player achieves an incredible goal on the big stage and we can’t wait to go out and try to recreate it.
It could be a stunning volley, a diving header, a mesmerizing single run or even a spectacular bike kick.
But as you become more and more, a player becomes aware of the subtle aspects of the game and it is this technical complexity that can give you an edge as an amateur footballer.
It can be any specific run, clever movement, a specific pass or throw.
Elite players do simple things with elegance and precision. Mastering some complex or incredibly effective aspects of the game can take you to the next level.
And from whom should we learn better from the absolute best of doing business at the highest level?
Throughout this series, we’ll put some of the best players under the microscope, identify a key feature of them, and learn to connect it to our own games.
In this edition of the ‘Learn’ series we examine how to avoid the pressure in the midfield by turning the French de Jong fast and work on how to replicate it.
We all know about the iconic ‘Cruyff Turn’ but to learn how to survive the pressure and pass play in midfield is the ‘De Jung Turn’ that needs to be mastered.
Of course, this is a fairly simple step that many of us have already used on the football pitch and is not an invention that the young Dutchman can take credit for. However, its flawless performance and its variety and the frequency with which it uses the turn have been effective.
As a deep-lying midfielder, this trick is especially effective when picking the ball well inside your half and facing your own goal. However, it is more consistent with the pitch as well.
De Jong used this turn with great frequency as he took possession from his center-back or goalkeeper before the ball advanced through midfield while playing as an exclusive registrar in Ajax.
In Barcelona, the Dutchman does not always find himself in the same position but he has demonstrated the effectiveness of the turn in different areas of the pitch.
Basically, this move involves a good first touch, close control and awareness to turn the ball quickly and sharply so that your opponent is off your blind side.
You use the outside of your boot to guide the ball into a strong circle on your strong side.
To try to mimic De Jung’s turn you need to nail three main aspects of it.
Appropriately the first step is to make sure your first touch is perfect. Don’t rush towards the ball and you will have to take a few speeds in the opposite direction to where you want to go in the end risking your speed.
You want to be able to come to a stop soon after you take possession so that your marker is still running while you change. As a result, your opponent will be less able to respond to your turn, increasing the chances of a successful turn. When taking your touch, do a quick head check to see where your opponent is.
Once your picture is in your head you can take your own steps. If your opponent is nearby, the best course of action is to turn around immediately. However, if you have time, it also means you have time to respond to a turn of your identifier. Turn your weight in the opposite direction before turning your strong side.
Bend your knees as soon as the bend starts and do a little crutch to reduce your center of gravity, enabling you to turn quickly and into a stiff circle.
Until the end, once in a while, use the outer part of your boot to guide the ball and then accelerate forward after getting on your opponent’s shoulder. Your bent knee will help bring you to a sprint by clearing the marker.
A) Granada vs. Barcelona
The first scene shows the turn in its maximum form. De Jong Granada is aware of the approach to the player and his first touch prepares him to perform at the right time. He manages the ball with the outside of his right boot as he moves into full control
De Jong meets the ball and stops him by spotting an opponent.
He turns his turn perfectly and shows good control to keep the spin away.
B) Real Madrid vs. Ajax
In this example, De Jong leaves two players dead. Vinicius Jr. is aggressively cutting off a potential pass from Mathews de Ligt and looks set to see Luka Modric as a midfielder. His awareness of the huge space behind him is key here. He misdirected and headed for the sidelines. The 180 degree turn frees him from a lot of space for both players.
De Jong faces the pressure of two players but is aware of the space behind him.
His initial movements misdirected Modric.
He moved away from Modric and away from the passing lane de ligat.
C) Barcelona vs Real Sociedad
In this scene, De Jong throws two, not one, to shake his opponent. The Real Sociedad man had time to respond to the Dutchman’s first movement but had no answer when asked a second time.
De Jong got the ball right in front of the halfway line.
He touches her left before moving to the right.
He changes direction again when he is committed to the direction
He leaves his opponent in his waking state and accelerates in the middle.
2) Barcelona vs Slavia Prague
The challenge reaches De Jong from his left side on this occasion, one who is able to find his peripheral vision. Here he demonstrates how a shift or something more elaborate can be unnecessary at any given time. As he gets closer to his opponent’s position and speed, he uses this speed to avoid him. It’s a limited space where he campaigns but he doesn’t need too much space to avoid because of his opponent’s speed.
De Jong sees pressure coming from his left side.
As soon as his opponent quickly shut down, he simply cheated the ball into space.
Touch – Concentrate on running towards the pass and slow down while cushing the ball within the rigid radius. Stop absolutely dead though and you run the risk of it getting caught under you which probably requires another touch to get it out of your feet. The key is to find the right balance.
Awareness – Now practice the same step with pressure. Take a look at your shoulder and try to see where your marker is when the ball arrives. Evaluate your options while in possession. It may seem time consuming but in the end it will become second nature.
Rotate – When turning, work to keep the ball short. Crouch less to make sure the radius is kept small. Once it is mastered, do the finishing work in one way before making the shift effective on the other hand.
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