It’s clear that top level footballers can’t really get much better in their physical game. There is a great deal of opinion about who is better than whom, but in reality, they are ALL off-the-charts excellent! Naturally, there will be some aspect of each player’s game that stands out: the pace of Mbappe, the reflexes of Neuer, the pinpoint passing of De Bruyne.
A professor of Sports Informatics and Sports Games Research, at Cologne’s German Sport University, has devised drills that will develop the players’ ‘quick-mindedness’ and ‘mental speed’. In his latest book (The Mental Game: Cognitive Training, Creativity and Game Intelligence in Soccer) Professor Daniel Memmert, after a 12-year research programme involving over 1000 players, describes more than 70 different games for training sessions, that will develop the players’ cognitive abilities.
Memmert, who has examined elite football closely – looking at the German Bundesliga, England’s Premier League and the UEFA Champions League among others – talks about anticipation, perception, memory, attention, creativity and game intelligence, being crucial to the success of a team and he describes, “methodical notes on tactical game creativity training which can be used in different game forms or in the basic tactics.”
An example of this is what he calls ‘against the ball in a 1 v 1’ which he has designed to improve players’ anticipation. It goes like this:
Two players face each other in a 15 x 15 pitch, set up using four cones. The hip of the player with the ball is marked and the other player is facing him. It is always about focusing on the ball. However, it is equally important to look at the opponent’s hips. The anticipation can be trained by concentrating on different markings on certain parts of the player’s body. The aim of the game is to win the ball off the opponent in this 1 v1 duel. Once this is achieved, variations can be introduced such as increasing the size of the pitch or highlighting other body parts.