How To Play As A Target Man Or Woman In Soccer

In this post, you will learn all the essential tips on how to play as a target man or woman in soccer.

A target player in soccer is a type of role that a coach will ask players to play.

Typically a target man or woman is tall, strong on the ball, and has a great ariel presence.

They are not put off by physical challenges and can be a real pain in the neck for defenders, especially center backs!

What is a target player in soccer?

A target man/woman in soccer is usually a striker and they are the focal point for the teams’ attack.

However, there are instances where a center back ( or other players) may be asked to play as a target man depending on the situation of the game.

As the target player, your team will try to play the ball into you and your role is to hold up the ball and bring other players into the attack.

By holding the ball up you will also give your team a well-needed rest bite if they have been under a lot of defensive pressure. This will allow them to recover, reorganize and help your team retain possession of the ball.

You will also be expected to score a fair amount of goals and assist from crosses and set pieces. As well as your size and jumping ability you will also have to be smart with your movements to lose the defenders.

Even if you do not get the ball from crosses and set pieces, you will still create chances for your teammates.

This is because the defending team will consider you such a threat that they may not pay as much attention to your teammates, Allowing them to move into dangerous areas when the crosses come in.

This post will give you everything you need to know on how to play as a target man or woman in soccer.

5 Qualities and soccer skills you need to be a world-class target player

Physical

Target players are comfortable with the physicality of the game, whether they are holding off a defender or jumping for an ariel challenge.

They aren’t afraid of putting their body on the line for the greater good of the team.

To be a physical target player you do not always have to be the biggest player.

Being a target player is about learning how to correctly use your body to hold off players who can be bigger than you.

Smart target players will know when they can win a free-kick off the opposition defenders as well, inviting the contact and winning a free-kick.

This is a great awareness to have as winning a free kick can slow down the game and allow your team to get a breather and reset.

Especially if they have been under huge amounts of pressure.

Can play under pressure

Every time the target player receives the ball they are going to be under immediate pressure from the opposing defender.

To help hold off the defender you will need to be in a side-on body position, with your knees slightly bent and controlling the ball with the front foot.

This will help you protect the soccer ball from encroaching defenders.

The amount of time and space you’ll get as a target player is minimal, so you’ll have to get used to playing with a defender breathing down your neck!

The best target players are the ones that can give themselves so much time on the ball under pressure, to either hold the ball up, bring others into play or have a shot at a goal

Close control

To get success as a target player you are going to need to be successful at making the ball ‘stick’ to you.

This means being able to control the ball at a variety of different heights, speeds, and angles.

You must also be comfortable with being able to control the ball with any part of your body as well as using both feet.

Being able to control the ball under a variety of different circumstances and making the ball stick to you is a ‘must have’ attribute for a target player.

This will allow you to relieve your team of pressure and give opportunities for players to support you for an attack to create goal-scoring opportunities.

Awareness

A target must be constantly checking their surroundings, not only for defenders but also for their teammates.

As well as holding the ball for your team, you must also be aware of runs being made by your teammates.

By being aware of their runs you will be able to guide the ball into their path with your first touch.

This is especially important if you want to catch teams on the counter-attacker.

Sometimes taking more than 1 touch can slow the speed at which your team can attack!

The target player should already know what they are going to do with the ball before they have received it.

Attacking/ defensive headers

Typically, target players are masters of aerial duels.

Whether it be attacking headers or defensive headers, target players are a fantastic asset to have in any team.

As a target player, you will be expected to win a large percentage of attacking headers from set-pieces as you would be seen as the biggest attacking threat.

Even if you do not win the header, you will be the center of attention and may create space for other players to move into.

You will also be used defensively as well to defend set-pieces.

Whether that be to mark a specific player or zonally mark, the defends in your team will be more than happy to help them defend!

Soccer drills for how to play as a target man/woman in soccer

If you want to improve as a target man/woman or a coach looking to teach a player how to play as a target man/woman in soccer here are some fantastic drills you can use.

Target player 1v1 rotation

Purpose of the drill:

The purpose of the soccer drill is to help the target player feel comfortable with the ball being played into their feet while under pressure from a defender and bringing teammates into play.

Set up:

  • 10 x 10-yard area
  • 2 goals
  • 4 players (1 target player, 1 defender, 2 neutral players)

How the drill works:

Set up your area and select a target player and defender to play in the middle of the square with the 2 neutral players.

Place the 2 neutral players on opposite sides of the square with the 2 goals on the opposite sides that are spare.

The goal is for the target player to get the ball from one neutral player to another.

They can do this by turning the defender or playing the ball back to the neutral player who can then pass it to the neutral player on the opposite side.

Every time the target player does this they will get 3 points.

However, if the defender manages to steal the ball they can score either of the 2 goals they will get 1 point.

If the ball goes out of bounds, play will restart with a neutral player passing into the target player.

Each round will last for 3 minutes, swap players round they also should have an opportunity to be the target player and defender and neutral player twice.

Coaching points:

  • Get in a side on body position
  • Receive the ball on the front foot
  • Bend your knees, stick your butt out and hold an arm out behind you to help brace yourself for the pressure from the defender

Questions that can lead to coaching points:

  • What body position should you receive the ball in?
  • What foot should you receive the ball on?
  • How can you help brace yourself against the defender?

Hold the defender off as the target player

Purpose of the drill:

The purpose of this drill is to help the target player project the ball from the defender to help hold up play.

Set up:

  • 1 soccer ball
  • 1 circle 10 yards in diameter
  • 2 players (1 target player, 1 defender)

How the drill works:

Set up your circle with the defender and target player in the middle.

The target player starts with the ball.

Once the target player is set they will say “go” with the defender starting to count to 10.

If the target player still has control of the ball by the end of the 10 seconds then they will get 3 points.

However, if the defender can force the target player out of the area with the ball or if they can get the ball out of the area before the 10 seconds is up they will get 1 point.

After 5 rounds swap the defender and target player.

Coaching points:

  • Control the ball on the front foot keeping the ball as far away from the defender as possible
  • Always place a buffer between the ball and the defender
  • Make sure you are inside on body position

Questions that can lead to coaching points:

  • Which foot should you be controlling the ball with?
  • How can you use a buffer to stop the defender from getting to the ball so easily?
  • What body position should you be in when protecting the ball?

Throw-in to target player 2v2

Purpose of the drill:

The purpose of this soccer drill is to help improve close control from aerial balls. This will also be a more game-realistic soccer drill.

Set up:

  • 20 x 30-yard area
  • 1 ball
  • 1 goal
  • 4 players (2v2)

How the drill works:

Set up your area with a goal on one 20 yard end and divide your players into an attacking team and defending team.

The attacking team will be trying to score in the goal with the defending trying to win the ball and dribble past the opposite 20-yard line.

An attacker will start with the ball from the 20-yard line and take a throw-in towards their teammate (the target player).

This will help simulate a long ball from an in-game scenario.

As soon as the ball is thrown the defenders can attempt to win the ball in the 2v2 scenario.

If the attackers score the goal it will be worth 3 points, however, if the defender manages to win the ball back and dribbles past the attackers’ line they will get 1 point.

Swap the defenders’ and attackers’ roles every 5 minutes.

Coaching points:

  • Communicate with the player throwing the ball so they know when and where you would like to receive the ball
  • Place your body in a side-on position and control the ball using your front foot
  • Check your shoulders so you know where the defenders are before you control the ball

Questions that can lead to coaching points:

  • How will your teammate know when/where to throw the ball?
  • What position should your body be in to receive the ball and what foot should you be using to control the ball?
  • What must you do before you receive the ball?

Click here for more soccer throw-in drills

Target player 3v3 small side soccer game

Purpose of the drill:

The purpose of this drill is to reward teams who can effectively use their target player in a competitive small-sided with match realism.

Set up:

  • 30 x 40-yard area
  • 2 goals
  • 6 players (2 teams of 3)

How the drill works:

This will be a regular game of soccer, however, if a team can score a goal with the target player being involved with the goal it will be worth 3 goals instead of 1.

Swap around the target players every 4 minutes to ensure they each get an equal opportunity to play as the target player.

Coaching points:

  • Constantly scan the area so you know where the defenders are and your teammates
  • Position yourself further up the field to give your teammates an option when they win the ball
  • Hold up play so your teammates can get up and support you

Questions that can lead to coaching points:

  • What should you be doing constantly so you are aware of your surroundings?
  • Where should you position yourself to help support your teammates?
  • Once you receive the ball what should you be looking to do?

Click here for more small-sided 3v3 game ideas

1v1 target player back to goal

Purpose of the drill:

The purpose of this drill is to help target players get a shot off on goal with their back to goal.

Set up:

  • 10 x 15-yard area
  • 1 goal
  • 3 players (neutral, defender, and target player)
  • 1 soccer ball

How the drill works:

Set up your area with one goal on one 15 yard line.

The ball will start with the neutral player on the 15-yard line opposite the goal.

The neutral will play a pass into the target player, with the defender allowed to pressure as soon s the ball is played.

The target must hold off the defender and try to turn and shoot.

If they can score they will get 3 points.

However, if the defender can steal the ball and pass the ball back to the neutral player then they get 1 point.

Rotate positions around every 5 passes to the target player.

Coaching points:

  • Communicate with the neutral player so they know when and where you want to receive the ball
  • Receive the ball on the front foot to keep the ball as far away from the defender as possible
  • Disguise your first touch and skills with your body shape

Questions that can lead to coaching points:

  • How can you help the neutral player with the ball know when and where you would like to receive it?
  • What foot should you receive the ball on?
  • How can you make it harder for the defender to predict what you are going to do?

Target player conclusion

In the post, I have gone over all the qualities and skills you need that will teach you how to play as a target man/woman in soccer.

As a target player, you are a focal point of your team.

Not only are you essential for helping your team relieve pressure and start attacks you also play a huge role in helping your team defend set-pieces.

Remember being a target player is not always about your size, it is about how you use your body to your advantage and bring your teammates into play.

If you know any more tips or drills that would help players how to play as a target man/woman in soccer then leave a comment.

Also please share this post will other players and coaches who may find this on how to play as a target man/woman in soccer helpful using our social media buttons.

Thank you,

Toby

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