If you ask to any football fans what the word "technique" means, they will probably answer you that it is the faculty to master the ball. In reality, this definition hide, in their minds, an assimilation between dribbling and technique. We’re speaking here of basic fans, someone more educated shall tend to associate technique with first touch, passing… But let us start from this first definition without contemplating any further what it really means for people. So, technique is the ability to do as many things as possible with the ball. We could deduce from this that technique equate to a production of ball’s movements. A ball, in fact, can’t move by itself, a ball moves because a man make it move. A pass could exist, it is something possible, but it will only exist if a player kicks the ball, it won’t if he doesn’t. The player is the sole reason for the existence of the ball’s movements. So, technique is a human production of something within the realm of possibility.
This first definition, however, isn’t totally satisfying. Let’s take an example, when Sané scored the 4-0 goal against Dynamo, he tried to cross but failed and this cross transformed itself into an incredible goal. Leroy created something extraordinary with the ball but no one would say that what he did was something technical. Why? Because it wasn’t intentional. This goal happened by accident. Technique is something voluntary. So, technique shouldn’t be only about creating things with the ball but about creating the things that a player wants to do.
Yet, one could want something without being able to do it. I remember that during the first leg against PSG last year Pavard received the ball in the middle of the box, he controlled it with his chest and then tried to shoot but he didn’t succeed. The intention was there but as a defender he didn’t has the savoir-faire. A player has to know the method that he will have to follow in order to produce what he wants to. That is to say that he should know that if he uses this or this part of his foot, with this or this angle, the ball will move in this or this way. Of course, he also has to know how to put this theoretical knowledge in practice. When Lewandowski faces a goalkeeper, especially if this one against one take place on a side, he chooses, in general, to chip the ball because he knows that there is more space above the goalkeeper than on his left or on his right, so that’s the right decision, then he his able to transform his intention into reality because he knows in theory and in practice how to position his foot.
This knowledge, both theoretical and practical, is the result of experience, of the personal experience of a player, or of the experience of the players before him, or of his trainer… A technical knowledge arises when, thanks to past experiences, someone determine a method which is efficient in every identical case. Once determined, this knowledge must be transformed into a habitus thanks to training.
To sum up, we could say that technique is the production, by a player, of possible ball’s movements, not by accident, but thanks to his knowledge of the right method to produce them. This definition, however, can describe what a football player do as well as what a football freestyler do and yet no one would say that they do the same thing so what’s the difference? The difference is that what a football player does is a technique and what a football freestyler does: a praxis. A praxis is a human production created only for itself and not with the aim of achieving something else. A football freestyler produces movements and that’s all, he doesn’t use those movements for anything else, those movements exist for themselves and don’t have any other end. It’s the same for a gymnast, or a swimmer, or a runner. A runner runs for running, a football player runs to score a goal or to prevent his team from conceding one. Every production of a player has an aim or at least should have an aim, and this aim is to help his team scoring more goals than the opponent. A defender doesn’t intercept the ball just for intercepting the ball, he does it in order to stop the opposite team from scoring. A midfielder doesn’t make a pass just for making a pass but he wants to make the ball progress forward. A winger doesn’t dribble just for dribbling but he tries to destabilize the opponent’s defense. A technical gesture must have an end or else it’s not a technical gesture, a player who’s doing something not useful, something just for itself, isn’t a technical player nor a good football player and that’s a point that many players, pundits, commentators and fans tend to forgot.
Then this is our new definition of technique: technique is the fact for a man to produce something possible but that only exist because of his action and to produce it not for itself but in order to achieve something else, and this production isn’t an accident but the result of the use of the right method.
But let’s take another example, I’m sure that everyone remembers the fifth goal scored by Kimmich during the quarterfinal against Barcelona because of what Davies did but this goal probably wouldn’t have occurred without the actions of two other persons: Perisic and Lewandowski. Ivan ran toward the far post and thus attracted Jordi Alba in this direction, Lewy moved toward the near post and therefore drew the attention of Piqué and Lenglet. It’s the joined movements of these two players which created space for Kimmich in front of the goal. These two players created a space that didn’t exist before and wouldn’t have existed without their intervention, so it’s a production of something possible that only exist because of a human action. Perisic and Lewandowski didn’t move for moving but because they wanted to create this space and to help scoring a goal, so their movements had an exterior purpose. Finally, their actions were intentional and executed with savoir-faire and knowledge, following the right way to do what they wanted to do. So, since those movements correspond with our definition of technique and if this definition is true then those movements were technical gestures and technique isn’t something limited to what a player does with the ball. Everything that a player does could be technical if he does it in the right way and for the right purpose.
There is an obvious deference between technique and science, technique requires another form of intelligence than science. This form of intelligence the Greek called it "mètis". Mètis is the sort of intelligence that one uses when he doesn’t have time for a long reflection, it’s the ability to quickly make the right choice. It is what we call football intelligence. A player who chooses to shoot when he could have made a pass to one of his teammates who is standing alone in front of the goal can take a great shot and force the goalkeeper to do something extraordinary to stop the ball but still his gesture lacks technique because he didn’t follow the right method (making the pass) to achieve his aim (scoring), this is why a player can’t do any real technical gesture if he hasn’t done the right choice before.
In the same way, technique is associated with "kairos", in other words "the right moment". The right action has to be done at the right moment. If a player reacts too early or too late he doesn’t follow the right method to be sure that his action will be efficient and if his action isn’t efficient then it isn’t really a technical gesture.
A technical player is a player who is able to produce something with or without the ball according to the right way to produce this something, which implies making the right choice at the right time, in order to help is team winning.
PS : I’m really, really sorry for my English, it’s a disaster.
PPS : This text is massively inspired by Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, I, 1 and VI, 3. If you want to read a better and clearer explanation of what I tried to say here, I highly recommend you to read these two short texts.