Game Improving Tactics From a Bundesliga Expert: Quick Mindedness in Football

“As far as physical presence is concerned, soccer is reaching its limits. In the cognitive field on the other hand, there are infinite possibilities,” says Joachim Low, the German National Head Coach. “A chess player thinks ten to twenty steps ahead; a soccer player should be able to do the same in the future.”

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.

To improve attention, Memmert suggests a rondo with 2 balls:

Again, a square pitch is needed (12 x 12 m). The players play a rondo with a larger team on one side (e.g. 6 v 2) but with two balls. The players must keep both balls in the game. For this to be a success, the players must communicate effectively using ‘glance behaviour’ during which both balls can be perceived and circulated. This is especially important for peripheral vision and orientation, as well as glance behaviour. In addition, because there are two balls and pressure from the opposing ‘team’, there is some stress which is an important part of the training: learning how to stay composed under pressure.

Stay tuned for more on Football IQ drills!

Univ.-Prof. Dr. Daniel Memmert - Deutsche Sporthochschule Köln (

Daniel MEMMERT | Geschäftsführender Institutsleiter | Prof. Dr. | Deutsche Sporthochschule Köln, Köln | DSHS | Institut für Trainingswissenschaft und Sportinformatik (

Daniel Memmert - Google Scholar

The Mental Game: Cognitive Training, Creativity, & Game Intelligence in Soccer: Memmert, Daniel, Löw, Jogi: Fremdsprachige Bücher