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What’s The Most Important Skill In Football/Soccer? (NOT Technique!)

the most important skill in football/soccer (NOT technique)

“What do you think is the most important skill in football?”

If you’re a football/soccer player or coach, you have most probably been asked this question before.

Now before you go ahead and start answering the typical things such as technical skill or tactical intelligence, I’m here to tell you that it’s none of the obvious answers.

RELATED – 5 Ways To Improve Your Technical Skill Level In Football

First Things First…

First of all, I personally think that there is not a single area of performance that can bring you to the elite level by itself. Performance is multifactorial, therefore, a combination of skillsets needs to be utilized to be able to produce elite-level performances.

Having said that, if I were to pick ONE skill that has the most *potential* to “skyrocket” your football performance to the elite level, that would definitely be your PROBLEM-SOLVING ABILITY.

Your problem-solving ability has the most *potential* to skyrocket your football/soccer career to the elite level. Players just have to think faster & smarter these days!

What’s the most important skill in football/soccer?

Why Problem-Solving Though?

Now before you start getting crazy, let me explain why I think that problem-solving is one of the most, if not the most important skills in football/soccer.

If you have been watching our videos and reading our articles, you already know that I highly value speed of play and believe that if you’re not capable of keeping up with the game pace of the level above you you probably won’t be able to take that step up and reach the next level.

RELATED – Improve Your Speed Of Play In Football/Soccer

If you break down speed of play, we’re basically talking about your decision-making ability which relies on three stages;

  • perception
  • processing, and
  • action

If all of the three work synergistically at a high pace without sacrificing quality, an elite player can be bred.

However, the vast majority of players and coaches tend to put all their focus on perception and action; the two ends of the spectrum.

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Yes, improving your scanning ability, your communication, and your technical skill will all help you develop your game.

I’m not making this video to eliminate other development areas. I’m here to widen your perspective and help you tap into your fullest potential.

And if there’s one stage of the decision-making process that gets neglected that is the processing stage.


What Is Problem-Solving In Football/Soccer?

As the term suggests, problem-solving is your ability to find solutions and solve complex problems.

In the context of football/soccer, it is a skill that is used in-game to solve the unpredictable and complex problems the game throws at you under the pressure of space, time, and opponents.

Take a moment and think of how chaotic and unpredictable the game really is.

The game situations you might get into are literally endless.

You vs Toni Kroos or Kevin de Bruyne

Any player, if instructed to do so, can scan or execute a simple pass with accuracy, but players like Toni Kroos and Kevin de Bruyne are able to solve super-complex game problems in split seconds. On top of that, their execution skills are simply phenomenal.

So as you may understand, your ability to solve complex, unpredictable problems under the pressure of time, space and competition is a skill that can define your level of play.

So if you’re trying to reach the elite level, ask yourself;

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the most important skill in football/soccer (NOT technique)

All of these are questions you should be asking yourself on a regular basis to evaluate your game and understand your needs.

Once you gain that self-awareness, you can then start structuring your development plan with a much clearer head.

How To Develop The Most Important Skill In Football/Soccer

And no, problem-solving isn’t a skill that only 1% of football playerspossess.

Just like any other skill of the game, problem-solving *can* be developed.

The question is how.

Now the answer to that is that there are literally a dozen of ways you can go about it

Let me be more specific though and offer you some of the key traits you need to develop.


Perception & Technique

The first two things I’d like to touch upon are your perception and action.

I know that you’re here to learn how to think and solve problems faster, but let me be real quick here; the faster you can scan and the better you can communicate with your teammates the more information your brain will get access to.

This increase in resources is FUNDAMENTAL when it comes to solving problems. The more you know about the problem, the faster and the better you can solve it.

the most important skill in football/soccer (NOT technique)

Sounds reasonable, right?

On top of that, if your technical skill level is top-notch, you won’t even have to spend a millisecond delaying and doubting the actions you need to take.

So get the two ends of the decision-making spectrum right and the middle will benefit, too!

Game Theory & Common Patterns

The next point I’d like to touch upon has to do with your tactical intelligence.

I know, you are not aware of all the problems you’ll be facing in-game, but what you CAN do, however, is this;

Analyze your performance or even better the roles of your position and ask yourself;

the most important skill in football/soccer (NOT technique)

Once you gain clarity on all of these questions, you’ll be much more aware of your roles within a team setup.

The next step is to use the information you gathered about your game and convert it into something actionable. And what I ultimately mean by that is that you can first find the solutions in the theory and then apply them in practice.

RELATED – 6 Tips For Effective High Pressing In Football

The more tactical solutions you have ingrained into your mind the more versatile and fast you can become in your decision-making.

Tools that can drastically help you develop this part of your game include tactical books specific to the problems you’re trying to solve as well as game- and data analysis, either of your own game or a player’s game that suits your style of play and position.

Training Principles & Methods

Other than that, there are some additional principles and tools you can use to improve your problem-solving speed & quality for football.

For example, Small Sided Games (SSGs) and exercises with limitations are types of drills that are known to be super effective when it comes to developing speed of play, and thereby processing speed & quality.

The variations are literally endless, however, I do understand that these are not always practical, especially for individual players.

That is why I think that it is really important to invest a portion of your individual training into position-specific exercises and cognitive training (more on that later).

Now the term “position-specific” gets misused quite a lot these days and leads players to the sport-specificity trap.

So if there’s one thing I want you to keep in mind is that sport-specific doesn’t need to be complex. You don’t have to dribble around a bunch of cones, jump over a dozen hurdles, perform a variation of the “speed ladder”, and then shoot the ball.

You don’t have to look like a clown.

Position-specific drills are exactly what the term implies; drills that mimic the most common patterns slash problems you have to deal with in your position. 

Simplicity is king.

Remember that the next time you get bombarded with position-specific drills in your Instagram feed.

Your Environment Matters

Now another thing that really matters when it comes to your processing speed has to do with the environment that you compete in.

Pushing past your comfort zone and playing on a challenging team or level, either with or against smart players definitely comes with both its pros and cons.

On one hand, game time might be sacrificed in many cases, but the opportunity to grow and #levelUP your decision-making ability is immense.

Our bodies adapt to the environments we put them in. The faster and the better the players around you perceive, process, and act, the higher the development potential.

Am I saying that you should fully sacrifice your game time for that?

Absolutely not.

The truth always lies somewhere in the middle. Find that balance, get the game time you need, and always set the standard high to keep growing.

RELATED – 6-Steps To Get Off The Bench In Football

Cognitive Training

And of course, we couldn’t finish this article without talking about cognitive training.

Now, over the last decade or so, more and more coaches have started using cognitive stimuli during their training.

This added stimulus raises the bar a little bit higher and can turn any drill into a challenge.

Various cognitive training methods and technologies have brought the individual training process closer to the brain pace required in-game.

If you wanna join the party and start taking advantage of this relatively new training tool, I’d highly suggest you read either this or this article, where we go in-depth into speed of play and cognitive development.

You just need to STOP neglecting your problem-solving ability in order to become an elite football/soccer player.

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