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Innovative methods

Comfort on the ball is key, Vasquez explains

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Jürgen Klinsmann’s declared philosophy is to help every player improve, every day. This viewpoint helped a Germany side rise above its expected level of performance and finish third at the 2006 World Cup. Just four days into the 2008-9 pre-season at Bayern, it is clear that Mark van Bommel and Co have understood and appreciated this particular coaching philosophy.

A few percent more

“The players have really taken to our methods so far,” reported assistant coach Martin Vasquez in a post-training chat with A programme described by Klinsmann as “intensive” is designed to lay the foundations for a successful campaign. The ball itself features in nearly every training routine. “The players are returning from vacation. We need to work on their footballing skills as well as their fitness,” Vasquez explained.

Every session begins with a 30-40 minute workout in the fitness room, where the coaches have initially been assessing the players’ current performance levels. “The players are working on their individual requirements, in terms of flexibility, power and stability,” reported Vasquez, indicating there was potential for improvement in each area by at least a few percent.

Tailored training

The squad then moves to the practice ground, where Thomas Wilhelmi, Marcelo Martins and Darcy Norman conduct a demanding warm-up, again featuring the ball and aimed at preparing the stars for the tactical and skills-oriented part of the workout. “The idea is to give the players a dynamic warm-up, so they’re totally ready for the next stage of the session,” said Vasquez.

Each session, from the fitness room opening to the warm-down at the end “is planned on a step-by-step basis. Each exercise builds on the previous one.” For example, the warm-up will include exercises designed to stretch muscle groups which will later be stressed to the full in match or gameplay situations.

Centred on the football

The constant element and leitmotif throughout is the football, Vasquez emphasised. “We want our players to do plenty of work with the ball, to give them sufficient faith in their abilities during matches.” This also promotes better interplay with team-mates, so that each understands the others’ specific abilities and skills.

Klinsmann and the coaching staff’s expectations for the players this term have thus begun to take shape just a few days into pre-season. “Step by step, we’ll develop a tactical system which is dynamic, imposing and dominant,” the former world-class striker earlier announced. “We want a team capable of switching focus extremely quickly, creating chances, and adapting tactically to every situation,” added Vasquez.

No exception for keepers

“Every coach has his own methods, but we’re convinced our new methods are the best way of helping the players prepare optimally for the new season – and that by definition extends to the team,” the assistant coach continued. The stars will certainly be spared hours of jogging through the nearby forests under the new regime.

One intriguing innovation is the incorporation of the goalkeepers in the ball-focused exercise, before they split off for specific goalkeeping training. “Obviously, the priority is to have good goalkeepers who control their penalty areas. But if they know what to do with the ball and believe in their footballing ability, it’s an advantage for the keeper and for the team as a whole,” Vasquez reasoned.