Systematic Bias Between Running Speed and Metabolic Power Data in Elite Soccer Players: Influence of Drill Type

Gaudino P., Iaia F.M., Alberti G., Hawkins R.D., Strudwick A.J., Gregson W.

The aims of the present study were to:

i) evaluate the agreement between estimates of high-intensity activity during soccer small-sided games (SSGs) based on running speed alone and estimated metabolic power derived from a combination of running speed and acceleration;
ii) evaluate whether any bias between the two approaches is dependent upon playing position or drill characteristics.


Three types of SSGs (5vs5, 7vs7, and 10vs10) were completed by 26 English Premier League outfield players. A total of 420 individual drill observations were collected over the in-season period using portable global positioning system technology. High-intensity activity was estimated using the total distance covered at speeds > 14.4 km·h⁻¹ (TS) and the equivalent metabolic power threshold of > 20 W·kg⁻¹ (TP). We selected 0.2 as the minimally important standardised difference between methods.


High-intensity demands were systematically higher (~100%, p < 0.001) when expressed as TP vs. TS irrespective of playing position and SSG. The magnitude of this difference increased as the size of SSG decreased (p < 0.01), with a difference of ~200% observed in the 5vs5 SSG. A greater difference between TP and TS was also evident in central defenders compared to other positions (p < 0.05), particularly during the 5vs5 SSG (~350%). Conclusion: We conclude that the high-intensity demands of SSGs in elite soccer players are systematically underestimated by running speed alone, particularly during “small” SSGs and especially for central defenders. Estimations of metabolic power provide a more valid estimation of the true demands of SSGs.

View this research