Monday, June 29, 2015

Mental speed of Sergio Busquets

What would Busquets do?

Football has evolved from an open, fast paced game where you had more time and space on the ball to a more compact, more tactical game where time and space is the most important thing. Whoever controls the space, win games. Football has become more like handball - one team defends, 11 players behind the ball, other team attacks and tries to exploit spaces. Since space has become such vital part of the game you have less and less time to receive, control and play the ball. Mental speed is one of the most important things because you can be however fast, if your speed of though is slow, you'll lose the ball and it's hard to break through the small area of space full of defenders.

When it comes to speed of though, Sergio Busquets is second to none (on Earth). Xavi has said that Busquets is the best one touch player. He doesn't need more. He receives, controls and passes in one touch because of his mental speed. He doesn't need more. He is constantly analyzing the field, where to go, when to go, your body movement, how to receive the ball, how to release the ball and whom. All that before you get the ball because when you don't and start to think about it when you get the ball it's already too late and you don't know what to do next.

A player negotiating an oncoming ball is not a simple fast reflex, it's actually a symphony of hundreds of thousands of neurons working together to produce a conscious decision. Does the player controls the ball or plays it one touch or two touch? This choice is what makes a reaction. Player has to process visual information, eyes register incoming ball, brain sends many signals to various muscles and you begin to react. Just like you can train to become faster, stronger etc, you can also train your reaction, speed of thought, mental speed.

Johan Cruyff brought a game to Barcelona called rondo. Barca players play that game every single training and it's the best and most simple game to train your mental speed. You have to always play the ball with first touch, there's very little time and space. Your mind has to run 100mph. If you are very talented with the ball but not fast with your mind you'll be very bad in this game and lose the ball often. Busquets is one of (if not) the best in this game. There's a myth that he has never been in the middle...

busquets rondo 1

Here's one example of the Bayern game at Camp Nou. Half a second. Rakitic passes the ball to Busquets in a short distance and he has to react and make a decision. A complex behavior of hundreds of thousands of neurons working together to produce a conscious decision to control the ball or play it one touch. This choice is what makes a reaction. Speed of though.

busquets reaction

I put a timer on the video to show the time between when the pass was made and when Busquets plays the pass. Half a second. He has half a second to come up with a plan what to do.

This is the exact moment when Rakitic is going to pass the ball to Busquets. It takes roughly 0.5 seconds and 8 meters to travel to Busquets.
The average reaction time to a visual stimulus for humans is 0.25 seconds (You can test it here) This is now the part when brain sends signals to muscles and you start to move your legs and react physically. By that half of the time and distance has already covered. You now have 1/4 of a second to make control or make a pass. Since Busquets always thinks one or two steps ahead he already has a plan in mind, now he has to execute it in a very short time and distance.

The execution. Half a second from Raktic' pass and quarter of a second until his brain sent signals to his muscles. Thanks to his speed of though and mental speed through all the practice he has had in trainings and also in games in small area of space and time, he can play a first touch, almost a half touch pass to Suarez (Although Benatia gets his leg on the way somehow and cuts the pass) Many players would even struggle to control the ball in this situation, but Busquets can play a half touch through ball in a situation where he has barely any time to react and any space to operate.

Finally I would like to compare that aspect of Busquets to Messi. Even though Messi's talent is almost extraterrestrial, it has similarities. It's just that Busquets talent has come more thanks to hard work and trainings. Watch the video of Messi's pass to Suarez.

messi pass villarreal by allasfcb 
What makes it so special that Messi actually had to first control that pass from Alves that wasn't exactly to his feet so he had to make an effort to reach to the ball to control it in first place. He had no intention to play it to Suarez. But as soon as he gets to ball to his right foot, he sees an opening and plays a through ball, between Villarreal defenders legs, to Suarez. All that thanks to mental speed. A quote from Xavi that sums it up:

"What makes the difference in football today is not just the last pass, the shot on goal, the movements, but also mental speed. Thinking quickly is more important to me than playing fast. The speed of the brain is more important than pace. If you can think fast, and on top of that, you have pace, you’re certain to be the best player in the world. That is a known adage in the understanding of this game." 



  1. Welcome back, AllasFCB. Been a while you hadn't updated your blog. And what a start I must say. Busquets certainly is an asset for Barca. He's the integral point which connects the defense to the attacks. Sure Busquets is a phenomenal player, but I think his mental prowess comes from La Masia itself. As the players are trained to play the philosophy (one-touch playing); I've noticed many of them showing the same, lightning sharp mentality. I mean look at Xavi, Iniesta, Fabregas, etc., they all share the same vision and sharp mind-set. The sole reason why Rakitic was critical this season because he absorbed the philosophy quickly and he uncannily shares the same quick mentality like the other La Masia products. I think that's the reason why Enrique chose him in the first place.

    Nevertheless, I can't imagine Barca without Busquets. He's as important to us as Messi is for us. Hope to see him continue with Barca till he retires.

  2. Thank you, allas. Thank you, that you are back. :-)

  3. thanks god。 allas .you are back.

  4. thanks god。 allas .you are back.

  5. How do you improve your reactions ?

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