Tactical awareness in football – Tips to develop it

by Pablo M14th Apr 2023

Football is a complex and dynamic game that requires players to possess various skills and abilities. One of them is tactical awareness, a player’s ability to read the game and make intelligent decisions on the pitch. This blog post will look at tactical awareness, why it’s so important in football, and some tips for developing it.

What is Tactical Awareness?

Tactical awareness, also known as football IQ, is a player’s ability to understand and read the game, both in terms of their position and the positions of their teammates and opponents. It involves anticipating the ball’s movement, the players’ positioning, and the opposition’s strategies. Players with high levels of tactical awareness can make quick decisions on the pitch, adapt to changing situations, and effectively control the game.

Why is Tactical Awareness Important in Football?

Tactical awareness is essential for any football player who wants to succeed at a high level. Without it, players can become lost on the pitch, unable to understand where they should be and what they should be doing. This can lead to missed opportunities, defensive errors, and a lack of team cohesion.

On the other hand, players with high levels of tactical awareness can have a significant impact on the game. They can create space for themselves and their teammates, anticipate the ball’s movement, and make quick decisions that keep the game flowing. They can also identify weaknesses in the opposition and exploit them to their advantage.

Tips for Developing Tactical Awareness

Watch and Analyze Football Matches

One of the best ways to develop your tactical awareness is to watch and analyze football matches. Pay attention to the players’ positioning, the ball’s movement, and the opposition’s strategies. Take notes and try to identify patterns to use to your advantage on the pitch.

While you can analyze football matches from videos, being in person on a field is best. It is a very different experience to analyze a game broadcasted on TV than watching a game at ground level with a limited perspective. So, combining analyzing videos and attending games in person will develop a complete understanding of the game.

Practice Visualization Techniques 

Visualization techniques can be a powerful tool for developing tactical awareness. Spend time imagining different scenarios on the pitch, such as how you would react if you were surrounded by opponents or how you would make a particular pass. This can help you to anticipate situations and make quick decisions on the pitch.

In an interview, the famous striker Gabriel Batistuta explained his routine the night before a game. He slept 8 hours without exception, but before falling asleep, with the lights off, he looked at the ceiling for 20-30 minutes and imagined the scoring opportunities he could have and how he would solve the situation. So, when the scenario he had imagined occurred during the game, he had a few seconds or milliseconds advantage over his rivals.

Play Different Positions

Playing in different positions can be a great way to develop your tactical awareness. Experiencing the game from different perspectives, you can better understand how the different positions work together to create a cohesive team. This can help you to make better decisions on the pitch and be more effective in your position.

Not only playing different positions helps improve your tactical awareness in football, but also playing different sports. It improves spatial awareness, reflexes and many other skills. For example, Batistura used to play volleyball as a teenager, and Zlatan Ibramovich is a taekwondo black belt.

Communicate with Your Teammates

Effective communication is a critical component in developing your tactical awareness in football. Communicating with your teammates during a match is essential to sharing information, anticipating ball movement, and creating space for each other. When communicating, use clear and simple language that everyone on the team can understand.

You can practice verbal and nonverbal communication techniques during training sessions to enhance your communication skills. This can help you develop the confidence to communicate effectively during a match. Moreover, you can also work on improving your listening skills by paying attention to your teammates and seeking clarification when necessary.

For more information on this topic, read our previous post: 5 football drills to improve communications.

Work on Your Fitness

In football, fitness is not just about being able to run for 90 minutes. A good fitness level can significantly impact your tactical awareness and decision-making ability on the pitch. When you are fit, you can move around the pitch effortlessly and cover more ground, allowing you to be in the right position at the right time.

But beyond physical benefits, fitness has a significant impact on mental abilities as well. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, which are known to improve mood and reduce stress. Additionally, consistent oxygen flow to the brain has been shown to improve cognitive function, including memory, focus, and decision-making ability.

This is why fitness is so vital to tactical awareness in football. When you are fit, you can think more clearly, read the game better, and make quick decisions on the pitch. You are better equipped to anticipate your opponent’s movements and position yourself accordingly.


Developing your tactical awareness is essential if you want to succeed in football. By understanding the game, anticipating the ball’s movement, and making quick decisions on the pitch, you can create space for yourself and your teammates, exploit weaknesses in the opposition, and control the game. Use the tips in this blog post to develop your tactical awareness and take your game to the next level.