Match play demands of 11 versus 11 professional football using Global Positioning System tracking: Variations across common playing formations

Hum Mov Sci. 2016 Oct;49:1-8. doi: 10.1016/j.humov.2016.05.007. Epub 2016 Jun 3.


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 was collected for analysis. It was found that 3-5-2 formation elicited higher TD (10528±565m, p=0.05), HSR (642±215m, p=0.001), and HMLD (2025±304m, 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.

Keywords: Formation; GPS; Match-play; Position; Training load.

MeSH terms

  • Acceleration
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Athletic Performance / physiology
  • Deceleration
  • Geographic Information Systems
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Running / physiology
  • Soccer / physiology*
  • Young Adult