Match Play Demands of 11 versus 11 Professional Football Using Global Positioning System Tracking: Variations Across Common Playing Formations

Tierney PJ, Young A, Clarke ND, Duncan MJ

This study aimed to examine Global Positioning System (GPS) determined movement patterns across the 5 most common playing formations (4-4-2; 4-3-3; 3-5-2; 3-4-3; 4-2-3-1) employed in 11 versus 11 football match play in England. Elite male footballers (n = 46) were monitored over the course of a season; total distance (TD), high-speed running (HSR), high metabolic load distance (HMLD), high-speed accelerations (Acc), and decelerations (Dec) data were collected for analysis. It was found that the 3-5-2 formation elicited higher TD (10528 ± 565 m, p = 0.05), HSR (642 ± 215 m, p = 0.001), and HMLD (2025 ± 304 m, p = 0.001) than all other formations and above-average Acc and Dec (34 ± 7, p = 0.036 and 57 ± 10, p = 0.006), with 4-2-3-1 eliciting the highest Acc and Dec (38 ± 8 and 61 ± 12). Positional data showed that CM in 4-3-3 covered >11% TD than in 4-4-2 (p = 0.012). FW in 3-5-2 covered >45% HSR than in 4-2-3-1 (p = 0.004). CM in 4-3-3 covered >14% HMLD than in 4-4-2 (p = 0.367). FW in 4-3-3 performed >49% accelerations than in 4-2-3-1 (p = 0.293). WD in 3-5-2 performed >20% more decelerations than in 4-4-2 (p = 0.161). This study is important for coaches understanding, that positional physical characteristics are influenced by the demands of playing in different formations during match play.

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