Effect of Formation, Ball in Play, and Ball Possession on Peak Demands in Elite Soccer

Riboli A., Semeria M., Coratella G., Esposito F.

This study examined the most demanding passages of match play (MDP) and the effects of playing formation, ball-in-play (BiP) time, and ball possession on the 1-min peak (1-minpeak) demand in elite soccer. Data from 18 official matches involving 305 individual samples from 223 Italian Serie A soccer players were analyzed. MDP and 1-minpeak were calculated across playing positions (central defenders, wide defenders, central midfielders, wide midfielders, wide forwards, and forwards) for various performance metrics. Maximum relative (m·min-1) total distance (TD), high-speed running (HSR), very high-speed running (VHSR), sprint (SPR), acceleration/deceleration (Acc/Dec), estimated metabolic power (Pmet), and high-metabolic load (HML) distance were calculated across different durations (1–5, 10, 90 min) using a rolling method.

Results:
MDP showed large to very-large differences between 1-minpeak vs all durations for each parameter. In 1-minpeak, central midfielders and wide midfielders achieved greater TD and HSR, while wide midfielders and wide forwards showed greater SPR and Acc/Dec than other positions. For VHSR, SPR, and Acc/Dec, 1-minpeak showed fourfold higher locomotor requirements than 90-min. 1-minpeak for Acc/Dec was highest in 4-3-3 formations for forwards, central and wide midfielders. 1-minPeak was lower during peak BiP (BiPpeak) for HSR, VHSR, and Acc/Dec. Comparing with vs without ball possession, BiPpeak was greater in forwards and wide forwards and lower in central defenders and wide defenders.

Conclusion:
Positional differences in MDP, 1-minpeak, and BiPpeak were observed. Soccer-specific drills should account for these differences when conditioning players for the peak demands, potentially bridging the training/match gap.

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