Preseason is not new in football but you may wonder why such games are important in the first place.
During preseason, players and management of clubs have been in hibernation, enjoying the end-of-the-season holidays and catching up on some personal time to recuperate and rejuvenate.
They have taken the much-needed rest and with the transfer window grinding slowly to a halt, many are wondering how to get themselves into prime shape to begin the new season.
To make this happen, teams in their various league have been taking part in preseason games.
In this article, we will be checking out why preseason games are important to all aspects of football including the players, the clubs and the leagues.
What are preseason games?
Preseason games are friendly matches that teams partake in before the start of the new league season.
Preseason games are hugely significant in the world of football since they signal the start of training for the forthcoming competitive season.
It is common for teams to compete against other teams, both domestically and internationally, and these games serve a variety of important functions that help players, clubs, leagues, and fans as well as teams.
9 Reasons Why preseason games are important
Many people make the mistake of believing that preseason games are important only because they are glorified warm-up matches for the teams in leagues.
But that is not just what it brings, Football preseason games provide the groundwork for a team’s performance during the competitive season.
These friendly games provide a wide range of advantages, including team development, tactical improvement, injury avoidance, and fan involvement. Let’s examine each point in more detail.
1. Team Building and Cohesion
preseason games provide an ideal environment for players to gel as a unit. Training sessions and drills during the off-season are crucial, but it is on the field during these matches that players truly understand each other’s playing styles and tendencies. The games give the team a chance to bond into a fine footballing machine.
For Players that are just coming into the team, preseason games serve as an initiation period, allowing them to blend into the squad seamlessly causing integration, enhancing team cohesion and communication, and leading to better on-field chemistry.
Liverpool football club in the 2017-2018 preseason made sure they built their squad’s incredible camaraderie and teamwork in their high-intensity style of play, known as “gegenpressing“. The preseason games helped them ingrain this style contributing significantly to their impressive performance in the Premier League that season.
2. Tactical Experimentation and Strategy Refinement
preseason games also serve as a testing ground for coaches, allowing them to experiment with different tactical setups, formations, and playing strategies. These friendly matches offer a lower-stakes environment for coaches to gauge the effectiveness of certain tactics and make adjustments as needed.
Fine-tuning the team’s tactics during the preseason is invaluable in gaining a competitive edge in the forthcoming season.
The Spanish national team’s successful preseason in 2010 ahead of the FIFA World Cup came in very handy in their adaptation to the “tiki-taka” style of play. They demonstrated exceptional ball retention and positional play, leading them to secure the World Cup title that year in South Africa.
3. Improving Fitness and Performance
Preseason games are the bridge between off-season fitness training and competitive matches. They enable players to regain match fitness, sharpen their skills, and assess their performance in realistic game scenarios.
The intensity of these games aids in building physical endurance and mental resilience, ensuring players are prepared for the demands of the season ahead.
One of those who has been able to optimise the preseason to this effect is one of the all-time-football-greats, Cristiano Ronaldo whose sensational preseason performances in 2021, after returning to Manchester United, demonstrated how diligently he prepared during the off-season.
Opposing teams, teammates and fans noticed his impressive fitness levels and goal-scoring form during those friendly matches despite his advancing age. His performance in the preseason set the stage for a successful Premier League campaign for both him and Manchester United.
4. Developing Young Talent
Preseason games offer a platform for young and academy players to showcase their abilities to the coaching staff and fans. These matches provide them with invaluable exposure to high-level competition and an opportunity to earn a spot in the first team.
For clubs, this avenue is essential in nurturing and developing homegrown talent, which often leads to a sustainable pipeline of future stars.
One of the teams that are famous for using this tactic is Barcelona. Their La Masia academy has over the years used preseason games to introduce young talents like all-time-football-great, Lionel Messi, Andrés Iniesta, and Xavi Hernandez to first-team football.
Their ability to shine during these preseason matches played a crucial role in their eventual rise to stardom and cemented Barcelona’s legacy as a breeding ground for top-tier players, churning out superstars like Wolverhampton Wonderers’ Adama Traore and Liverpool’sThiago Alcantara.
5. Psychological Preparation
Playing preseason games is a critical phase for players to overcome early-season jitters and build self-confidence.
It is no farce that a team that does not have confidence in its players and their ability to produce results, is a team bound to fail.
Positive performances and victories during these matches come in very handy in instilling a winning mentality within the team. It also goes on to set the tone for a successful season; while allowing players to adjust to the pressure of performing in front of spectators, thus preparing them mentally for the upcoming competitive fixtures.
Leicester City’s preseason victories against strong opponents boosted the players’ belief in their abilities ahead of their historic Premier League-winning campaign in the 2015-2016 season which they came out as winners.
6. Revenue Generation
Tackling the question of why preseason games are important, it is imperative to understand that preseason games do not just come in handy to prepare players for a new, fruitful season, they also help line the clubs’ pockets with cash.
Games played with prominent clubs, attract significant fan interest and attendance. The influx of supporters translates into increased ticket sales, merchandise purchases, and broadcasting rights, generating substantial revenue for both the clubs and the leagues involved.
This financial boost contributes to the overall growth and sustainability of football.
One unforgettable example is the World Club Cup organised by the world football governing body, FIFA.
This cup is a preseason tournament featuring top clubs from various leagues around the world and the spectacle goes on to generate substantial revenue and global fan engagement.
The tournament’s success has led to its expansion and continuation over the years.
7. Fan Engagement and Experience
For die-hard fans of the various clubs and leagues, it is understandable that they cannot get enough of football so preseason games provide them with an early opportunity to witness their favourite teams in action after a long off-season.
These matches offer a more relaxed and accessible environment, allowing supporters to interact with players and enjoy the game up close.
Focus is taken from the competitiveness and focused on creating a friendly, fair-play, relaxed atmosphere, generating excitement that will last well into the official season; keeping fans engaged and passionate about the sport and their teams.
8. Injury Prevention and Management
While answering the question of why preseason games are important, let’s keep in mind that they also are a strategy to help players acclimatize to the intensity of match situations, reducing the likelihood of injuries when the competitive season begins.
Clubs can carefully manage player workloads during these friendly fixtures, ensuring that players gradually build up their fitness levels without risking overexertion or fatigue.
Real Madrid employed this tact during the 2018 preseason, by carefully managing the playing time of key players like Luka Modrić and Gareth Bale to prevent injuries.
This cautious approach paid off as both players remained relatively injury-free throughout the subsequent season, contributing significantly to Real Madrid’s success in the UEFA Champions League that season.
9. Getting a Glimpse of New Signings/Merchandise Sales
Management of football clubs uses preseason matches to unveil new hotshot players and their abilities to their fans. This also helps them sell out merchandise and fans eagerly anticipate preseason games to witness the performances of newly signed players and assess their potentially impacting the team’s fortunes.
These matches offer a glimpse of what can be expected from the team in the upcoming season.
Some examples we can relate to are Cristiano Ronaldo, Kylian Mbappe and David Beckham at their different unveiling at Real Madrid.
The Spanish football giants made a killing at the unveiling of these players combined that they got the money they spent on acquiring the players in the first few days of selling merchandise after the unveiling.
The press conferences afterwards also gave newsmen and fans the avenue to have a tete-a-tete with the players and their hopes for their future with the club.
Now that we have done our best to answer the question of why preseason games are important, we can deduce that preseason games in football have far-reaching implications that extend beyond mere friendly matches. They lay the groundwork for a team’s success, enhancing team building, tactical refinement, and fitness levels.
Moreover, these fixtures provide a platform for young talent to flourish, while also offering players a psychological boost before the competitive season.
As we witness the excitement of preseason football, it becomes evident that these matches are an integral part of the sport, driving its growth and captivating audiences worldwide.
So next time you attend or watch a preseason game, understand that it is as right as rain and important to the success of the team.