Finishing is an art in modern football, and while some are naturally gifted, others need to develop their skills. However, there are few in the world better at explaining the differences than Liverpool and Manchester United legend Michael Owen.
One of the more prolific and skilled finishers the Premier League has ever produced, Owen scored 163 goals in his 362 senior appearances.
These goals came in a career which spanned 17 years and five clubs, in which he also was awarded the Ballon d'Or in 2001 and his fair share of Premier League Golden Boots too.
While many feel that he was a natural finisher, Owen disagrees. He believes that there is nothing wrong with being an educated or learned finisher, compared to a finisher that instinctively knows where to put the ball to score.
Speaking as part of OTB's Roadshow in Vicar Street, Owen examined how he learnt to be a finisher, and the natural gifts that influenced his playing style.
"There are certain goals that are very instinctive," Owen said. "There are certain finishers that you can practice under pressure.
"If you look at someone like Mo Salah at the moment, nobody would have had him as a great finisher eight years ago. Now you look at him, and he's a great finisher in certain aspects.
"When I was a kid, going through one-on-one was something I was put in the position [to do] a lot of times. I was fast as a kid.
"So, a ball over the top and I would naturally have time in front of goal."
All goals count in the end, no matter how they are scored. This is where personal preference and an understanding of one's abilities come in.
For Owen, he knew that he would rather find a way through the 'keeper than attempting to go around them.
"I found that I didn't like going around the goalkeeper," Owen said. "It was just my personal preference. I felt as if taking a big touch and then dinking the goalkeeper was better, or a slot.
"Some people just love going around the goalkeeper. But it is trial and error with finishing."
Owen's speed became a hinderance
Owen's speed when he came onto the scene with Liverpool was what made him such a prolific goal scorer. However, he now believes that the very asset that made him the striker that he was could have hindered his ability off his weaker foot.
"The worst thing that happened to me was, because I was quicker than everyone else as a kid, I could always take a touch, put it exactly where I want, so I never practiced with my left foot," Owen said.
"It was never like: you're getting chased, it's got to be on your left foot, you've got to finish it. I think that almost hindered me from a left foot point of view.
"It certainly helped me in terms of finding what my best finish was."
🗣 'It's like Michael says, the advantage is with the striker'@emmsb30 explains how the best 'keepers learn & adapt to make the best decisions in the one-on-one situations | 🧤
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— Off The Ball (@offtheball) August 20, 2022
The striker needs to be in control
While former Ireland captain, and legendary goalkeeper, Emma Byrne nodded along in agreement at OTB's Roadshow, Owen explained how the striker should be in control against the goalkeeper.
It is up to the attacking player to force the 'keeper into making a mistake, as opposed to the other way around, according to Owen.
"The basis of finishing is that you are in control running towards the goalkeeper," Owen said. "You can put them where you want.
"I can change an angle, I can take a touch there, there or there, and he is going to have to react to what I do. But also, i am waiting for the goalkeeper to give me a bit of hope.
"If they get their angles right, it's very difficult to score against Peter Schmeichel or David Seaman, they are massive. So you need them to get something slightly wrong.
"You need to take a big touch to get them to think, 'he's made a bad touch', they sprint out and dive at your feet. No, no, I'm a little bit quicker than you give me credit for, I'll dink you.
"You are always looking to put them in the wrong position. That comes with time and practice."
In spite of the learned skills and experience of many strikers, there are always those that just simply know what to do when the ball lands.
While Owen does not believe these 'instinctive finishers' are as common as many believe, he does believe there are some that are just naturally gifted in the art of finishing.
"Instinctive finishing is different," Owen said. "That is when you just have a feel for where the ball is going to land the majority of the time.
"You are in the right position, moving onto it at the right time. So, when someone says, 'Oh, is he a good finisher?' I sometimes go, 'he's good in certain finishes, but he's got no instinct whatsoever to score a goal'."
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