Ibrahimovic: How to play as a targetman

The towering Swedish striker explains the key elements of being a frontman, from holding up the ball to getting on the end of corners
  • Use your strength and wait for options
  • Find space and draw away the defender
  • Time your run to beat your marker
  • Keep an eye on other players' movement
  • Prepare yourself for the physical battle
  • Focus and remember your responsibility

Holding up the ball

“The key is not to lose the ball when you get it. If I’m alone, I try to protect the ball and keep defenders away using my back, arms, strength and balance. That’s important because if I can hold the ball, it gives the team a chance to join me in attack. I’ll hold it until the rest of the other players come into play. As soon as there’s a player in a better position, I’ll give him the ball. Or, I can go for goal myself. That’s sometimes my instinct. I’m an intelligent player and will make the right choice at that moment.”

Positioning yourself

“I try to position myself where I can get the ball. Sometimes I drop back to pick it up; other times I find space to help the team and draw a defender from his position. Then I might try to open space so that the midfielders have another option: me. I’m not the type of player to make runs away from play, but sometimes you have to do this to sacrifice yourself for the team, even though you know you will not get the ball. It opens space for others. In a good partnership, the other striker would do the same next time.”

Meeting crosses

“The key is to make your move before the defender: that way you create space for yourself. I’m not the best at that – David Trezeguet is. I’ve never seen somebody more intelligent than him in the box at corners or set-pieces. It’s like he knows exactly where the ball will be, in the air or on the floor. Me? I don’t have that instinct. Sometimes I am on the first post at corners, sometimes I’m on the second. I do it because I have to.”

Anticipating play

“I try to anticipate what is going to happen before I get the ball; where my opponents and team-mates are and where they will be in a few seconds. I look and sense and know what certain players are likely to do. But it’s also impossible to get it right every time. Those who get it right the most are the better players. That’s the difference between a top-class player and a simple one – the best players think alike.”

Battling centre-backs

“Many defenders will tug or push you. You have to be prepared for everything and not underestimate them. They will do this because they are weak and you are strong. A fantastic defender will not resort to this, but will play the game fairly. Paolo Maldini and Alessandro Nesta were tough opponents, but I really respected them.”

Coping with abuse

“Some defenders try to put you off, physically and verbally. Some have said things about my family – they call me a gypsy. My mother is from Croatia; my father, Bosnia. I was born in Sweden and felt 100 per cent Swedish, but that did not matter to them. I don’t get so upset now. The key is to focus on what you have to do in the game, not on what’s being said. One other thing to remember is that you have a responsibility to the team not to react. If you think that it’s part of your job to stay calm, that can help.”

Ibrahimovic wears Nike Pro Combat Slider Shorts and Thermal Mock Top, which provide compression technology, protection against cold weather and reduce risk of impact injures

For more football tips see:
Olivier Giroud: How to create and conquer
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's guide to finishing
Rooney: Big match preparation
Darren Bent: How to be a maestro of movement
Andy Cole: Finishing a one-on-one
Jermain Defoe's six-step guide to striking
Michu: Break through the defence
Demba Ba: Hit the target every time
Rickie Lambert: How to hit the back of the net

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