Physical Demands of Ball Possession Games in Relation to the Most Demanding Passages of a Competitive Match

Martín-García A., Castellano J., Méndez Villanueva A., Gómez-Díaz A., Cos F., Casamichana D.

The primary objective of this study was to assess the physical demands of various small-sided ball possession games (SSBPGs) based on player field positions and compare these demands with the most demanding passages of play (MDP) in competitive matches. Global positioning system data were collected from 25 football players belonging to the reserve squad of a Spanish La Liga Club, with players categorized into positional groups: full back (FB), central defender (CD), midfielder (MF), wide midfielder (WMF), and forwards (FW). Physical variables analyzed, normalized to meters per minute (m·min^-1), included total distance covered (TD), high-speed running (HSR; >19.8 km·h^-1), sprint distance (SPR; >25.2 km·h^-1), the number of high-intensity accelerations (ACC) and decelerations (DEC) (> +/-3 m·s^-2), average metabolic power (AMP; W·kg^-1), and high metabolic load distance (HMLD; >25.5 W·kg^-1). MDP were assessed using a rolling average method, with maximal values calculated for 3- and 5-minute durations for comparison with SSBPGs using AMP as a criterion variable. Results indicated the overload magnitude in ACC/DEC relative to MDP varied across player positions and SSBPG formats, with FB exhibiting the greatest overload (201-217%) in the two smaller SSBPG formats, while MF demonstrated lower values (105-140%). Coaches should consider these findings when designing training programs, taking into account the format of SSBPGs and player position characteristics.

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