Simon Rolfes is Bayer 04 Leverkusen's Sporting Director, and between 2005 and 2015 he played 288 Bundesliga games and won 26 caps for Germany. In this weekly column, he will write about the new, innovative Bundesliga Match Facts powered by AWS that you can see during games.
Professional football is getting quicker and quicker. Not only the game itself, but also the players on the pitch. There were also pacy players in the Bundesliga in previous years, but they perhaps were not always blessed with the best ability on the ball.
That's something you can no longer get away with in the Bundesliga these days, and the demands on players are highly complex. Speed is an important fundamental quality for a professional footballer. It can be divided into three components: speed of execution, acceleration, and top speed.
With the Speed Alert, the latest Bundesliga Match Fact powered by AWS, a player's top speed can be calculated exactly. Bundesliga armchair fans will have surely already noticed some time ago that the Speed Alert appears on TV shortly before the full-time whistle, highlighting the three fastest players of the game. It is also used when a player sets a team-, season- or Bundesliga- record in terms of top speed. It is those players who can gain a decisive advantage thanks to their blistering speed.
An example from Matchday 1 this season: In the match between Borussia Dortmund and Borussia Mönchengladbach, Erling Haaland sprinted from his own box on the counter-attack, hitting a top speed of 35.2 kilometres an hour (21.87 miles per hour), taking just nine seconds to reach the opposition penalty area where he shook off his marker and smashed home Dortmund's last goal in a 3-0 win.
That lung-bursting top speed not only made Haaland the quickest player in the game, but just four players in the 2020/21 Bundesliga season so far — FC Bayern München's Kingsley Coman, VfB Stuttgart's Silas Wamangituka, RB Leipzig's Dayot Upamecano, and 1. FC Union Berlin's Sheraldo Becker — have been clocked running faster.
It might seem strange at first glance that Upamecano, a central defender, is among the Bundesliga's top speed merchants. But if you are up against jet-heeled strikers, then you need fleet-footed defenders to keep them in check. I'm just happy that I don't have to go stride-for-stride with Haaland and that my boots have been hung up for some five years already.
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