As well as being hugely skilful, the best football teams are generally also among the fittest around, allowing them to play to their maximum week-in-week-out. As a result, it has never been more important for coaches to ensure that their players are as fit as possible, which can be achieved through a number of measures.
Both Manchester City and Liverpool have set the bar to an extremely high level in the English game this season, with part of their success being down to the fact that they are able to maintain their energy and intensity levels throughout the 90 minutes of a match. For those hoping to replicate this feature of play, there are a range of exercises and drills that are available to coaches. However, in this article we will look at just why fitness now plays such an important role in the beautiful game.
At any level, football is a hugely intense and demanding sport, meaning that players must put themselves in a position in which they are able to perform to a high level throughout. Having a fit squad also provides coaches with more flexibility, allowing them to make tactical changes, rather than due to tiredness. Players would hope to be fitter than their opponent, allowing them to consistently get the better of them when it comes to winning the ball and delivering when in possession. Those players who regularly find themselves on the substitutes bench may well wish to look at their fitness, as this could be a contributing factor behind a coaches decision.
Players who understand the game are able to regularly get themselves into good positions on the field, however this is of little use if they are exhausted by the time they receive the ball. Having good fitness levels will allow players to get themselves into the correct body position before receiving the ball, meaning that they also have greater options ahead of them. Those with poor fitness levels are more likely to miss control the ball and ultimately lose possession.
Aside from physical skills, communication is a hugely important for any player. However, those who are tired on the pitch are unlikely to be in a position to talk to their teammates, as they will be aiming to preserve energy for elsewhere. The best players are able to focus on both themselves and their teammates, whether it be to make them aware of an opponent or to receive the ball.
Engaging and getting the best out of players are perhaps the most difficult tasks facing coaches today, with footballers in this generation being very different to those of even a decade ago. So, what are the factors in which coaches must consider when developing players and helping them reach their potential?