“When I was within 30 yards of the goal, that was me,” smiles Charlie George. “I remember everything about it. Ray Clemence took a goal kick and hit the halfway line. George Graham headed it forward, I knocked it out to John Radford, he gave it back to me and I was just outside the penalty area. I could always strike the ball and as soon as I hit it, I knew it was going in. It all happened very quickly.
“I caught it sweetly and I think it finished up about 18 inches inside the post,” Charlie remembers. “Ray Clemence always said it took a deflection off Larry Lloyd but there was no deviation. He still wouldn’t have got it anyway so it wouldn’t have made any difference!”
It was certainly the most memorable moment of Charlie’s Arsenal career. In the 111th minute of the 1971 FA Cup final, the Islington-born forward, then aged just 20 and playing in a game of such magnitude for the first time, received the ball 25 yards from goal, steadied himself and sent a powerful shot beyond the goalkeeper and into the right-hand corner of the goal.
The celebration that followed would become one of the most famous the competition has ever seen – Charlie lying flat on his back while his team-mates flocked to congratulate him.
But while that goal showcased Charlie’s ability to shoot from long range, the forward, who joined Arsenal as a 15 year old in 1966 says that he had always possessed the skill.
“Even as a young boy, I felt confident with shots from a distance,” he grins. “Two of my strengths were shooting from range and passing the ball – I could probably find a team-mate from 60 or 70 yards without a problem. It was a gift I was given and shooting from 30 yards out was always a realistic target. The balls that I played with were harder and didn’t swerve about so much, whereas nowadays they are lighter and can cause goalkeepers complications at times.”
So to what extent have the lighter balls used in the modern day changed the art of the long-range shot?
“If you get a good strike on the ball, it will deviate before it gets to the goalkeeper anyway,” Charlie says. “It’s amazing just how quickly the ball deviates now. I never had that with the type of ball that I played with. It wasn’t more difficult for us then though. I don’t think it did you any harm and in fact, I think you’d sometimes hit the ball better if it was a bit harder.”
Charlie scored 49 goals for Arsenal before moving to Derby County in 1975, and maintains that having both the right body shape and balance is vital when shooting from a long way out.
“You’ve got to hit it reasonably hard and go through the ball, but often you see players leaning back and with their arms everywhere,” Charlie says. “You have to have a pretty good shape when you strike the ball. It’s not all about that, because certain goals haven’t been like that, but you have to get your foot over the ball. I had a short backlift which was probably beneficial to me.
“You just need to hit the target – there’s no need to whack it because if you lean back, the ball will invariably go over the bar. Sometimes the pace of the pass means you can just cushion the ball from the edge of the area. If you’re standing in the middle of the goal, you try to strike through the ball. Sometimes if it came to you and you were on the wing, you’d have to curl your foot around it a bit more or hit it with the outside of your foot.
“Occasionally you can strike the ball well when you’re off balance, but generally, it’s a gift you’re given. There are fundamentals to the technique, though. You need to get your foot over the ball and if you do that, it will travel along the floor quite quickly. You don’t have to really strike the ball that hard, especially not with how light they are now. You need to make sure to get good balance on your standing leg.
“When you watch a lot of long-range goals back, you’ll see that the standing foot is planted and in a position for you to put your other foot through the shot. You need to keep your head down too and make sure that your knee comes over the ball. The follow through is important too. When we played with the heavy balls, you really had to give it quite a good whack.”
As a lifelong fan, Charlie has witnessed plenty of long-range Arsenal goals over the past 60 years. He feels that one of those, scored in Istanbul last December, ranks among the very best.
“Liam Brady scored a great one at White Hart Lane with the outside of his foot that went past Pat Jennings into the top corner,” he recalls. “Then there was Aaron Ramsey’s against Galatasaray. That was an unbelievable strike – if you look at the position of his body and the timing of the strike, it was absolutely perfect.
“As soon as it left his foot, you knew it was going in and he put it right into the postage stamp. He could try that 1,000 times and he’d never connect with it that well. Thierry Henry could strike them well too. There was a goal he scored against Southampton at Highbury where it really flew into the net, and one against Manchester United, where it swerved right into the roof of the goal.
“There are some great strikers of the ball around now – look at Ronaldo and Messi. When they get 20 yards out, you think there’s a big chance they’ll score. Steven Gerrard is a very good striker of the ball and Frank Lampard has scored a lot from long range as well.
“In fact, a lot of his goals have been struck along the floor, so he must have practiced drilling them low a lot. Whereas a lot of players get their foot under the ball, Lampard always keeps his over it and gets himself into a really good position. He manages to guide it with a lot of power at the same time.”
While youngsters growing up today can learn from Lampard, Ronaldo and Ramsey, Charlie took inspiration from some of England’s 1966 World Cup winners.
“As a young man, I watched Jimmy Greaves, who was my favourite and used to pass it into the net,” Charlie recalls. “I remember Bobby Charlton, one of the best strikers of the ball who always seemed to hit the target, and Geoff Hurst as well. Then there was Peter Lorimer, who played for Leeds and Scotland, and would shoot with real power.
“I just knew how to strike the ball,” Charlie concludes.“No one ever told me what to do. I would shoot in training but wouldn’t practice overly. The way I see it, you’re given a talent. Would I still back myself to score for Arsenal now? I’d always hit the target!”
Top five long-range goals this season
Arsenal 3, Manchester City 0
August 10, 2014
With an hour on the clock Olivier Giroud sealed victory in the Community Shield with a spectacular 30-yard strike. Picking up the ball halfway in the City area, he held off his defender, took a touch, then flashed a shot high over Willy Caballero in the Man City goal and just under the crossbar. It was a goal out of nothing and the perfect way for the Frenchman to get his season started.
Arsenal 1, Manchester United 2
November 22, 2014
It turned out to be a consolation goal in injury time, but it was a cracking strike from Giroud. Mikel Arteta played a long ball over the top from the halfway line, which Giroud ran on to. He let the ball bounce a couple of times, then struck it powerfully from the edge of the area left footed, giving David de Gea no chance as it flew into the top corner in front of the North Bank.
Galatasaray 1, Arsenal 4
Turk Telekom Arena
December 9, 2014
UEFA Champions League
One of the goals of the season. Joel Campbell took a corner from the left wing that was headed clear by a Galatasaray defender. It only fell as far as Aaron Ramsey though, who was a good 10 to 15 yards outside the area. He caught the ball sweetly left-footed, just before its second bounce. It rocketed into the top right corner, almost before the keeper had had a chance to move.
Brighton & Hove Albion 2, Arsenal 3
Amex Stadium January 25, 2015
The Czech rolled back the years with a lovely one-two and finish from the edge of the area. Rosicky wriggled through and fed Olivier Giroud inside the area with a subtle “no-look” pass. Giroud returned the ball with a lofted cutback and Rosicky steadied himself before hitting a first-time right-footed volley which beat the keeper low down.
Arsenal 5, Aston Villa 0
February 1, 2015
The young Spaniard’s first goal for the club. Arsenal were cruising at 4-0 going into injury-time, but there was still time for the right back to crown the victory. Bellerin’s compatriot Santi Cazorla slid the ball to the advancing full back, five yards from goal. He ran on to it and struck a first-time right-footed shot low and true into the far corner in front of the North Bank fans.
The EXPERT VIEW
Former Arsenal and Northern Ireland midfielder, Steve Morrow has also managed in America’s Major League Soccer, is a UEFA A qualified coach and has worked as a match analyst for Arsenal. com. Now head of recruitment for the Arsenal academy, he is involved with youth player development globally for the club.
Shooting from distance is something we concentrate on frequently in training as it’s a technique that requires plenty of practise to be able to master.
Obviously you need to be able to generate plenty of power if you want to score from 20 or 25 yards out, but the most important thing is that this power doesn’t come at the expense of accuracy and technique. You have to ensure you make great contact with the ball, keep your head down, don’t lean back too much and concentrate on striking the ball as well as you can.
Some players are naturally more powerful than others, but generating powerful shots can also come from improving your technique too. Thierry Henry was someone who could score from anywhere, and if you study his technique when shooting from range, you will see why he was so good at it. Someone I played alongside – John Jensen – also had a good shot funnily enough, even if he didn’t score many!
The priority is of course hitting the target, then after that you can add swerve and dip, which players like David Beckham could do so well.
It’s important not to overtrain shooting from distance though, as continued repetition can have a big impact on the quad muscles. It can be stressful on the body if you repeat drills too much, so we try to limit it with this in mind.
The BOSS ON...
The perfect technique...
The secret to a good long-range goal is mostly technique. Most of the time, balls are passed to you and you take one touch. The players are more worried about putting power in than their technique. That’s why many balls end up in the stand. They know they are far from goal, so they think that first of all, they have to prioritise power. In fact, you have to prioritise technique. The strength, the accuracy and the power comes with the technical quality. Most of the time, the players think first of power and then of technique, and I think it’s technique first, and then power.
Players who specialise in long-range goals...
I have nobody special in mind, because the best goalscorers are always players who place the ball. In my teams, we encourage passing more in the final third. I think Aaron Ramsey has quite a strong and powerful shot, and the goal he scored at Galatasaray was pure technique, rather than power. That’s a good example of power coming with the technical quality. The best is Podolski, because when he controlled the ball, he had a short backlift and unbelievable power and accuracy. His combination of power and technique is the best I know here. Even the goalkeepers would tell you that they haven’t seen better than Podolski.
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