The Premier League is a constant source of footballing heroes to aspire to emulate.
Whether you play down the park or on your local astroturf pitch, you'll want to make sure your team is more like Manchester United than Macclesfield Town. With that in mind, here are six bits of kit to help you pick up a winner's medal this season.
Plus, we've also got Arsène Wenger's essential tips for perfecting your five-a-side tactics.
1. Adidas X15.3 TF
You can’t expect to befuddle defenders while wearing a pair of shoes you’ve dug out of lost property. These new ‘turf’ boots have been designed specifically for 3G pitches and the pinball pace of 5- and 7-a-side games.
Their rubber studs are on hand to provide maximum grip for your signature pirouette, and there’s no need to fear a sloppy first touch – the close-fitting mesh upper will ensnare the ball like a Venus flytrap. Not that defenders will be able to see anything after looking at that ‘solar yellow’ paint job.
2. Nike Select Strike Woven Short II
Football shorts have seen some difficult times, from Dixie Dean ankle-swingers to 1980s ‘minimalism’. Luckily, we live in 2015, where shorts such as these are designed with the same precision as Mourinho’s spoiling tactics.
The Select Strike’s laser-cut vents keep you cool during heated battles, while their tailored fit allows enough movement for a defence-splitting pass. It’s a lot to spend on shorts, but why invest in a fancy top that’ll only get covered by a bib?
Observant ‘soccer’ viewers will have spotted a breakout of tiny squares around the ankles of players such as Suarez, Bale and Sturridge recently. Another fashion faux pas to rank alongside Alice bands, snoods and nose strips?
Not this time, as the little squares are actually non-slip pads that help prevent feet from sliding around inside boots. That means fewer blisters to worry about and more stability in your planted foot when the time comes for you to attempt a ludicrously ambitious free kick.
4. Crazycatch Wildchild Classic Rebounder
Whacking a ball against a wall has honed the skills of many a top-class footballer, but these days it’s more likely to earn you an Asbo than a pro contract. Redirect your practice with this training aid.
Its name might suggest ‘sports-based erotic movie’, but as a rebound net it’s unrivalled. The unpredictable bounce will test your first touch, control, passing technique and reaction speed. It’s particularly good for fast goalie warm-ups.
Fancy GPS tech is no longer the preserve of the pros – you too can see how far, or little, you chugged around the pitch. Strap on the FieldWiz in its comfy vest before you step into the arena and you’ll be able to capture strategic performance metrics.
The wearable sensor technology will record your stats so you can analyse your performance with Sky Sports-style heat maps including distance, speed and acceleration figures. You might need sponsorship from Emirates to afford it, mind.
6. Puma evoPower 1 Slip
With bone-crunching defenders hot on your heels you’re going to need to upgrade your armour. Invest in this lightweight pair of slip guards and your shins will be protected when wayward challenges meet your lower limbs.
Their foam shell is built to absorb impact so you can dust yourself off and carry on with the game. This armour isn’t going to weigh you down either – the Lycra compression sleeve with athletic tape keeps the pad in place without holding you back.
Wenger’s top tips
Arsenal boss Arsène reveals his secrets to 5-a-side success
1. Personalise your positions
“Quiet, efficient guys make the best strikers. Those who are more gregarious and outgoing are made for midfield. The more aggressive ones are your best defenders. If you get that right, their natural qualities develop, they become better in their positions and your team can progress.”
2. Use a diamond formation
“I recommend the 1-2-1 formation: one defender, one attacker, with two offensive full-backs. These two players should fall back and defend when you don’t have the ball, but be ready to get forward and attack when necessary. This formation will allow you to play the most effective 5-a-side.”
3. Counter-attack beats possession
“Most goals come from a quick burst upfield: one or two passes and then shoot. Teams that have too much of the ball have the least success. Be quick and ruthless. By sitting back you are tempting your opposition to lose their shape, frustrating them, before winning the ball and scoring on the break.”
[Interview supplied by FourFourTwo Performance. For more info visit performance.fourfourtwo.com]