REVEALED: The Football Lab that Arsenal hope will create a new generation of stars
16:54 GMT, 15 November 2012
There was a time when wannabe footballers honed their technique and reactions by kicking a tennis ball against a coal shed or a dustbin.
Today, things have moved on leaps and bounds, with the top clubs investing in the latest technology to gauge their proteges’ potential to within a fraction of an inch or second.
There’s the hi-tech ‘Footbonaut’ at Borussia Dortmund which is fine-tuning Jurgen Klopp’s almost unplayable passing game to perfection.
Secret weapon: Many of Europe's elite clubs are using a new Football Lab training device
And Sportsmail can reveal another top-secret weapon used by the likes of Arsenal, Manchester United and Real Madrid to keep their stars at the top of their game.
The Football Lab, developed by Danish company Munin Sports, is the world’s first fully interactive training pitch. It is an enclosed patch of Astroturf fitting with the company’s unique m-station PRO rebound boards on each wall and laden with LED tracker lights, loudspeakers and motion sensors.
Jamie Redknapp tests the 'Footbonaut'
Sportsmail sent an expert to check out Borussia Dortmund's revolutionary training device – click here to read what Jamie Redknapp made of the Footbonaut
The player stands in the centre and must pass the ball off whichever rebound board is flashing in the quickest amount of time. It’s a real test of reactions, agility and passing accuracy.
And to add to the space age feel, every movement of player and ball is mapped by the sensors, with the data instantly available to download to an iPhone app.
While the top clubs use the Lab to sharpen the skills of their youth players, it is open to anyone and so the tracking software adds a competitive element between friends and teammates.
Club coaches can, of course, monitor the stats to see which areas can be worked on.
VIDEO: Inside the Football Lab
The rebounders can also be used anywhere on the pitch and replicate the random movements of a ball on the field of play. They might be positioned, for example, on the edge of the penalty box in shooting drills to mimic the knock-downs from a tall target man. Or a goalkeeper might throw the ball at the board to test his reflexes.
The m-station PRO is used by Arsenal’s academy players at the club’s Hale End and London Colney training grounds.
Arsenal coach Carl Laraman said: ‘It’s a marvellous piece of equipment. I can use it for different elevations and you can use it as a rebound facility for passing and both defensive and attacking heading.
‘The players can also use it on their own for practice before and after training.’
VIDEO: m-station demonstration
It is also used at Manchester United for individual practice by first team coaches, and at AC Milan and Real Madrid for academy development.
Gianluca Angelucci, coach at the AC Milan Youth Camp, added: ‘This is a very important step forward and all Italian clubs will definitely benefit from it.
‘It allows you to work with very specific elements, especially when it comes to goalkeeping practice where you need to dive, catch the ball in the air or react on rebounds.’