Why You Should Never Take Penalties Like Neymar Jr
While he brings great theatre to soccer when executing a penalty kick, you should never take a penalty like Neymar Jr. Neymar has changed his style regularly when taking penalty kick in recent years. From the short run up to the wandering and interrupted approach, it looks great when it works; he looks a park player when it doesn’t.
There are no doubts that Neymar Jr is one of the most talented and prolific goal scorers of this era. Watching him take a penalty is like watching a tightrope walker. You know they should succeed however every now and then something goes wrong. It is captivating.
The Penalty Kick
For every penalty taker there is the inherent risk they will miss the target or have the shot saved. They generally rely on 3 components:
- Angle / Direction
Neymar Jr can generate power. However, he relies heavily on deception.
The Short Run Up
When Neymar takes the short run up, he is trying to minimise the clues the goal keeper draws to anticipate direction. In theory it has merit. In practice, and Neymar is not the only one, the penalty taker must generate power with faster leg speed in the shot or deceive the goal keeper with direction.
Using the goal keeper as the centre point, the kick can go one of the 3 directions: to the left, the right or straight. Therefore the goal keeper has less than 50% chance of choosing the right direction and a 33% chance of choosing the right direction.
By taking the short run up, he must sacrifice the power he would generate from a longer run. As a result, deception and angle become more important. Get the angle wrong and deception becomes more important. If the goal keeper then guesses right, the odds are stacked in favour of a miss or save.
The Interrupted Run Up
More recently Neymar’s penalty styles has evolved into the interrupted run up. This time he uses a much longer path, walking initially away from the ball, he skips back towards the ball with some rapid long strides then slowing the run up to almost a walk, taking 4 very quick small steps before lengthening the stride again running from the left of the ball before striking it.
His objective is to keep the goal keeper guessing, trying to put them off, and trying to get them to commit to one direction earlier than they need to. Once they have committed to a direction he effectively has the other side of the goal to pass the ball into.
What happens when the Keeper chooses the right way?
To score when the goal keeper guesses the right direction, Neymar must strike the ball with an unreachable angle and with good speed. When the keeper guesses correctly and the angle is not achieved, the result will more often than not be an unsuccessful penalty kick.
Does the Interrupted Run up Work?
The interrupted run up can be as distracting to the goal keeper as it is to the penalty taker. In Neymar’s case, he may well have a predetermined fall back direction however the interrupted and stuttering run, still impacts on the ability to steer the ball and the amount of power generated.
The results don’t lie. Neymar has a career success rate of 79% when taking penalties. However this does suggest 1 in 5 penalties are unsuccessful. To put some perspective around this, Cristiano Ronaldo’s career success rate is 83% whilst Lionel Messi’s is 77%. Eden Hazard who has taken 55 penalties versus Neymar’s 56, has a success rate of 87% scoring 1 more than Neymar for every 10 penalties they each take.
Obviously, Neymar’s interrupted run up does work for him, though success is a relative term. Compared to Eden Hazard statistics, there is room for improvement.
Eden Hazard like Neymar, relies on deception. His style is less about power and more about deception. In fact, when he has gone for power and altered his style, his statistics are less impressive.
Hazard approaches the ball very slowly. Just before contact with the ball, he slows down even more in an attempt to have the goal keeper commit to one direction. Once committed, Hazard slides the ball into the open side of the net.
In relying on deception, both Hazard and Neymar rely on the goal keeper moving. They leave their strike late into the run up by slowing it down. Too often, goal keepers commit to a direction whereas in many cases they’d be better served maintaining their position and address the shot rather than anticipate it.
A Natural Style
Of all the styles to copy, Harry Kane has the most natural and fluid motion. His success rate is up there with Ronaldo’s at 83%. He addresses the ball from 4 metres angled at circa 65°, builds speed first with small steps before longer strides on approach and hits the ball with a predetermined direction.
Kane still uses deception. The angle of his run, the direction the shoulders face, the foot speed and the subsequent connection all play a role in leading the goal keeper to believe the ball is going in one direction. However, Kane clearly has a predetermined shot planned regardless of what the goal keeper anticipates. He has control of the shot, whereas Neymar is relying on the goal keeper to err in their anticipation.
Kane’s style is still fraught with risk however his predetermined strike will not distract him from the shot.
The ‘Net’ Result
The ‘Net’ Result
Neymar is an entertainer. He brings amazing theatre to football and his style of play delivers excitement in spades. However, his penalty taking to the tender age of 27 leaves room for improvement. His theatrical style provides higher risk through his reliance on deception.
Whether it is the short or the interrupted run up, his penalty taking can be as distracting for him as it is for the goal keeper. Most of his unsuccessful penalties come as a result of the keeper addressing the shot rather than anticipating the shot. Whilst it may bring great theatre, as being one of the highest paid footballers in the world should, players looking to emulate great players would be better suited to utilise a lower risk style like Harry Kane.