Players that make the transition from the 11 a side game to its smaller cousin arrive on a 5-side-pitch with a whole armoury of skills honed on the larger pitches.
They might be a rock-solid defender that can rise above attackers and power the ball away with the head. Or they might be a player whose game relies on having the pace of Shane Long.
So, making the transition to the 5-a-side game armed with these skills will be easy, right?
I hate to burst anyone’s bubble, but in many cases, the skills learned in the 11-a-side game don’t translate well when it comes to the 5-a-side version.
While many skills will follow from one version to the other quite happily, others simply don’t!
This article looks at 5 skills that aren’t needed to become a force on the 5-a-side pitch.
Defensive rocks that have spent their time on the pitch terrifying attackers and thundering the ball up field with their head are in for a bit of a shock when it comes to the 5-a-side game.
Or perhaps, it’s the other way around. You love to lurk in the opponent’s box and terrify defenders with an athletic leap before heading the ball past the goalie and into the back of the net.
Heading is one skill that doesn’t have much of a place on the 5-a-side pitch. Although it is not outlawed as such, most versions of the rules have a maximum height for the ball to be played under. The unfortunate thing for headers of the ball is that this is usually set at shoulder height.
2. Positional Play
11-a-side players usually spend their time on the pitch playing in a set position. Try this in a 5-a-side match, and you are not going to be popular with your teammates.
In the small version of the game, everyone in the team mucks in together and covers each position as required. Leave yourself as the lone striker lurking in the opponent’s half, and you are leaving your team exposed.
Not that there isn’t room to specialise, there are always going to be players that are more suited to defensive or attacking roles. But in the 5-a-side game, defenders need to support the attackers when required and vice-versa.
Pace is always useful, but the confined size of the smaller 5-a-side pitches somewhat negates the advantage that sheer pace has on larger pitches. Normally it takes about 30 metres, or 3 to 4 seconds, for even the fastest accelerating players to reach top speed.
Unfortunately, on 5-a-side pitches, this means that by the time players have hit top speed, they are usually somewhere around the changing rooms!
In the 5-a-side game, it is rare to run for more than 10 metres. This means that acceleration rather than top speed is more important in the small game. For all those budding players out there, this means that concentrating on acceleration skills rather than outright pace is key to success on the smaller pitch.
4. Man Marking
Although it still has a place in the smaller game, defenders and midfielders that have honed this skill in the 11-a-side game will find man-marking skills of limited value in the 5-a-side game.
In the 5-a-side game, the cost of a single marking mistake will usually end up being costlier than on the big pitch. Also, in a game where there isn’t so much emphasis on the positional side of play, having a player tied up playing a marking role can leave the rest of the team sorely exposed.
A good method of marking the opponent’s dangerman is not to allocate a single player to the role, rather have the defensive players in the team assume a joint responsibility to keep the player quiet.
5. Curling free kicks
Is there a finer feeling in the game than curling a 25-yard screamer up and around the defensive wall and straight into the top corner?
While players blessed with this skill will always find opportunities to practice it on large pitches with full-sized goals, this isn’t the case on a five-a-side pitch. The goals are not just narrower but lower too. This means that there is practically zero chance of getting a ball to rocket over the heads of a defensive wall and still drop fast enough to hit the target.
However, this leaves room for plenty of “out of the box” thinking when it comes to tactics for set plays. Practice and cunning are key here. Put together some clever moves and practice until everybody can perform them perfectly. The ball might not scream into the top corner, but as a team, scoring this way can give just as much pleasure.
The two versions of the game could certainly not be considered as different as chalk and cheese, but as we have explored, there are certain football skills that don’t work equally well across both disciplines.
For players making the transition to 5-a-side, this can present something of a challenge. But the great thing is the 5-a-side game presents a fantastic opportunity to perfect the necessary 5-a-side skills like acceleration, skill with the ball on the ground, and tactics, whilst at the same time building up your stamina.
At Astropark, our all-weather facilities make it easy for players of all abilities to hone their 5-a-side-skills and have fantastic fun at the same time.