Contemporary Factors Impacting Match Performances Of Elite Soccer Players

I accidentally stumbled on this outstanding piece of work on Twitter, thanks to Paul Glazier’s tweet. I am more than happy that this thesis is publicly available from the Uni and thanks to the author, Michael D. Bush for outstanding research and writing. You can read the abstract below and if you would like to read the whole thesis, just click on the following LINK.

This thesis analysed the modern trends in soccer performance, with specific reference to the physical and technical performance of matches played in the English Premier League (EPL) between 2006-07 and 2012-13. Following previous literature, the thesis analysed whether performance could be predicted through performance stability calculations. This section of the research highlighted the highly variable nature of the sport and suggested the minimum number of matches required for an accurate assessment of performance, particularly for low frequency variables (number of tackles performed, number of times tackled, shots) was less than effective. An alternative method to calculate performance benchmarks, the thesis looked into the coefficients of variation associated between matches, expanding previous assessments on physical performance and expanding this knowledge into technical variables. To follow on from this initial study, the thesis introduced findings on the interaction of physical and technical parameters to ascertain whether correlations existed between physical and technical match performance and whether formulae could be generated to aid predicting future performance.

The conclusion from these studies suggests predicting performance through previously suggested means and using physical data to estimate technical performance are unsupported. Instead a possible solution would be to use coefficients of variation to calculate benchmarks around a typical performance. As a result this would provide coaches and support staff set boundaries that players should achieve during games. In addition these boundaries should inform and aid the development of training regimes providing players with the baseline required. The final studies in this thesis charted the evolution of physical and technical performance parameters and the potential causes for any changes found, using the evidence from the earlier studies to ascertain whether evolution had occurred beyond the level of variability or whether changes in performance could be attributed entirely to variability. These studies found large increases in both physical and technical performance parameters across all outfield positions; nevertheless the causes of these changes in performance are unclear. One hypothesis was that the number of non-UK players now performing in the EPL have driven changes in match performance and resulted in greater technical quality. These results indicated trivial to small differences between UK and non-UK players in 2006-07, although by 2012-13 these small differences had all but disappeared. Thus suggesting the different numbers between UK and non-UK players could have influenced the changes in performance although there appears to be other factors driving the evolution.

The results from this thesis can be used in the physical and technical preparation of players, providing them with the baselines required to compete at the level required. In addition this information is valuable for both medical staff at clubs as well as for the recruitment of future players, providing both with concurrent information on modern match performances. The results also provide suggestions for future research proving researchers need to be cautious when analysing data across a number of seasons. Following on from this series of studies, future research could analyse the most effective means for providing this information to coaches and other staff at professional clubs in order to maximise the application.

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