A Match-Day Analysis of the Movement Profiles of Substitutes from a Professional Soccer Club Before and After Pitch-Entry

Hills, S. P., Barrett, S., Feltbower, R. G., Barwood, M. J., Radcliffe, J. N., Cooke, C. B., Kilduff, L. P., Cook, C. J., Russell, M.

This study aimed to profile the match-day physical activities of soccer substitutes, focusing on the pre and post pitch-entry periods. Using 10 Hz Micromechanical Electrical Systems (MEMS) devices, 17 English Championship soccer players were monitored during 13 matches in which they participated as substitutes (35 observations). Twenty physical variables were examined, organized by bouts of warm-up activity (pre-pitch-entry) and five-minute epochs of match-play (post-pitch-entry). Linear mixed modeling assessed the influence of time (i.e., ’bout’ and ‘epoch’), playing position, and match scoreline.

Substitutes performed an average of 3±1 rewarm-up bouts per player per match. Each rewarm-up was shorter (-19.7 to -22.9 minutes) and covered less distance (-606 to -741 meters) compared to the initial warm-up, while relative total distances were higher (+26 to +69 meters per minute). Relative total (+13.4 meters per minute) and high-speed (+0.4 meters per minute) distances covered during rewarm-ups increased (p < 0.001) with proximity to pitch-entry. Players covered more (+3.2 meters; p = 0.047) high-speed distance per rewarm-up when their team was losing compared to when winning at pitch-entry. After pitch-entry, values for 10 out of 20 variables measured reduced from 0–5 minutes thereafter. Substitutes covered greater (p < 0.05) total (+67 to +93 meters) and high-speed (+14 to +33 meters) distances during the first five minutes of match-play versus all subsequent epochs. Midfielders covered more distance (+41 meters) per five-minute epoch than attackers (p < 0.001) and defenders (p = 0.016). Acknowledging the limitations of a solely movement data approach and the potential influence of other match-specific factors, these findings provide novel insights into the match-day demands faced by substitute soccer players. Future research opportunities exist to better understand the match-day practices of this population.

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