The art of dribbling: four different objectives

Even a coach who focuses very much on a high passing tempo cannot deny the fact that also a dribble can be very effective. In the Lionel Messi way by getting past defenders, or by dribbling with another objective in mind.

1. Getting past opponents

The most obvious objective of a dribble is to get past a defender. A winger can do so to create time and space for a cross or a midfielder does it to create an overload situation. A player like Neymar (PSG) is very good at dribbling past defenders with a high speed and a lot of changes in direction.

2. Getting closer to goal

Dribbling can also be a great tool to get closer to goal. When space opens up in front of you, an acceleration with the ball enables your team to enter the final third or even the penalty area. This way of dribbling is all about a high speed while still keeping the ball under control. Frenkie de Jong (FC Barcelona) is very good at this type of dribble.

3. Espace from the pressure

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Especially for midfielders and false forwards, dribbling can be a very good way to escape from the pressure of an opponent. Most of the times, this kind of dribble is executed when the opponents presses from behind. With a dribble, while keeping your body between the ball and the opponent as a shield, a player can create time and space to keep possession. Luka Modric (Real Madrid) is one of the best at escaping pressure with a dribble.

4. Luring a defender away

The fourth and final dribbling objective is to lure a defender away from a certain space. By dribbling towards a certain area, you attract an opponent, which creates space at the zone he leaves behind. This is particularly useful for central defenders in a 2v1 situation with the striker. Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli) is using this dribbling skill a lot.

Dribbling drills

The main objective of this article is to provide more insight of the different types of dribbles. Coaches tend to be focusing mainly on the first one that’s listed above: getting past defenders. To also teach the other three types of dribbling, drills should provide the possibility to execute them.

A good example of an effective drill to improve all types of dribbling is the 3v2 + GK drill below. The attacking team has to hurry up, otherwise the defenders make it 3v3 + GK. The attackers can get past opponents with a dribble, get closer to goal escape from the pressure or lure a defender away from a certain area. 


A good drill to practice escaping from the pressure is this one from Zeb Jacobs. Two defenders press one attacker from different sides and his objective is to find a way out of this pressure.

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