Dribble as a crucial ability

January 15, 2021

Even the best football coaches sometimes make a crucial mistake when integrating dribbling artists into their tactical system – we will show you the surprising truth!

The crucial moment in a big game often happens in a 1 on 1 dribbling situation, in the decisive moment of a match, when teams have one or more technically strong players in their ranks. It is important to continue to practice and improve these dribbling skills in any tactical system utilized by the coach and to integrate them fully into the system of play.

Unfortunately, it happens again and again that young, extremely dribble-strong players no longer develop these skills after a move to a new, bigger club, or even develop backwards and lose those abilities. Many coaches often demand unconditional subordination to a specific system of play, which can lead to individual skills no longer being promoted, and being trained and further developed accordingly.

The best example for this type of situation is the recent negative development of Julian Brandt’s dribbling skills. When he played as a regular at Bayer Leverkusen, he mastered the ball so well that he was able to handle the ball optimally in practically every situation, even with the opponent breathing at his neck he was usually able to slip awayby a quick turn or a spectacular dribble. He also demonstrated these skills at the national team of Germany during the 2018 World Cup match against Sweden. But after his move from Leverkusen to Dortmund, Julian Brandt has so far often lacked the individual brilliance in 1 on 1 situations. This speaks for the fact that he certainly doesn’t practice 1-on-1 as often in his personal training sessions, as he did when he was playing in Leverkusen.

So the crucial question is who is to blame for this undesirable development? We assume that the responsibility for this lies above all with the coach, who puts more emphasis on the subordination of the player under his system of play, and only secondarily with the player himself. The player himself might have forgotten the connection between successes and how he played and practiced 1 on 1 situations in order to maintain hishigh level, or to develop it further so that he can use his individual brilliance at the decisive moment of a match.

The same is basically true of Jadon Sancho’s situation. He was able to use his dribble skills very efficiently during the 2019/2020 season. Unfortunately, he rarely showedthese skills during the first half of the 2020/2021 season. The BvB coaching staff should therefore think about how topromote and develop their star players skills in the 1 on 1 match situationin the future. The same enormously important task is waiting for the Dortmund coach in regards to promoting the skills of the great exceptional talent Moukoko.

A similar problem also exists at German champions Bayern Munichteam, if we look at Leroy Sane’s situation. He has proven at Man City that he has exceptional dribbling skills and individual class. Pep Guardiola may have let him leave, because Leroy Sane sometimes allowed his individual strengths to dominate his attitude on the field too much. Does this mean that Pep Guardiola made the right decision? We don’t believe so. Time will soon give us the correct answer to this question. We are curious whether Sane’s skills will develop further or whether he will regress at Bayern.

There is another important point to keep in mind when discussing this topic. All these exceptional players gain self-confidence by living out their individual skillsduring a match. If a coachforbids themto use their skills regularly, they will no longer be able to perform at their previous high level. And this applies to all skills of the player, such as mastering the ball, stepping on the field with confidence, scoring goals, running, the ability to concentrate, the general ability to read the game. All of which are related to dribbling efficiency to some degree.

This relationship affects players at every league and at every age. All coaches have the great responsibility to find the right balance between individual skills and team play to achieve a win & win balance. It is therefore important that such extremely strong individualists find the right balance between the match system and their dribbling skills, which they can use to decisively decideany match at any point in time.

So is only the coach and his insistence on a specific system of play to blame for the missing dribble skills of previously brilliant players, or are there other reasons for such a negative development? We also strongly assume that many players no longer sufficiently practicetheir skills ina 1 on 1situation. This individual factor is the second crucial point that is obviously often lacking in modern football today.

It is possible to see that there is another, better way, if we take a closer look at Bayern star Robert Lewandowski, the best playerofthe world in 2020, who has improved his dribbling skills immensely in recent years thanks to his individual additional training. Despite his focus on those skills, he still fits perfectly into the tactical system of Bayern Munich. So maybe we should ask Robert how he might help younger players with his extensive knowledge?

What is his secret?

How was he able to improve at over 30 years of age?

How important is talent and how important is diligence?

What kind of practices are helpful to develop world- class dribbling skills?

How important is mental strength?

How can the coaching staff help a young player?

Another exceptional player is the Brazilian Neymar, currently perhaps the best dribbling artist in the world of professional football. We would also like to ask him how he has managed to maintain his skills at this high level over so many years. How much time Neymar regularly has to muster to hone his 1-on-1 skills?

Even top coaches like Hansi Flick shouldn’t forget to promote the individual dribbling skills of their stars, because they can always decide a game in their favour at any moment in the match. We have to repeat once again that these exceptional players can only utilize 100% of their potential if they are allowed the freedom to use their individual strengths often during a match.


Matthäus Wdowiak

Andreas Wdowiak

Agnieszka Czerwińska