Exploring the effects of playing formations on tactical behaviour and external workload during football small-sided games

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Abstract

This study aimed to identify the effects of playing formations on tactical behaviour and external workload during football small-sided games. Twenty-three semi-professional footballers integrated three different playing formations in a 7-a-side small-sided game, according to their specific player positions: team 4:3:0 (4 defenders, 3 midfielders); team 4:1:2 (4 defenders, 1 midfielder, 2 forwards); and team 0:4:3 (4 midfielders, 3 forwards). Based on players’ movement trajectories, the following individual and collective tactical variables were calculated: total distance covered and distance covered while walking, jogging, running and sprinting, distance from each player to both own and opponent’s team centroid (Dist CG and Dist OPP CG, respectively), individual area, team length, team width and surface area. Approximate entropy (ApEn) was computed to identify the regularity of each variable. The team 4:3:0 promoted players’ space exploration with moderate physical efforts. The team 4:1:2 promoted compactness and regularity of the team with increase in the physical efforts. The team 0:4:3 promoted team balance and adaptability on space coverage with increase in physical efforts. Concluding, different playing formations support different game dynamics, and variations on external load were directly linked with the variations on tactical behaviour. The analysis tactical behaviour through quantification of variability of patterns of play and quantification of distance covered at different velocities were the most useful information for the analysis of the effects of practice task manipulations. Therefore, in a practical sense, strength and conditioning coaches should plan and monitor these tasks in interaction with the head coaches.

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