Length, width and centroid distance as measures of teams tactical performance in youth football

Hugo Folgado, Koen A P M Lemmink, Wouter Frencken, Jaime Sampaio
European Journal of Sport Science 2014, 14 Suppl 1: S487-92
Small-sided games are commonly used in training and teaching contexts of football. However, few studies have focused on the tactical implications of this type of drills. The aim of this study is to identify how tactical collective behaviour varies with age in different small-sided game formats. We investigated the in-game field position in three different age groups of youth football players [under-9 (n=10; age = 8.5 ± 0.53), under-11 (n=10; age = 10.4 ± 0.52) and under-13 (n=10; age = 12.7 ± 0.48)], participating in two different small-sided game conditions (GK + 3 × 3 + GK and GK + 4 × 4 + GK). A team variable was created based on the players' length per width ratio (lpwratio), and a match variable was calculated as the distance between the centroid of the two teams. Results show that team variable values were influenced by the age of the players, as younger teams tend to present a higher value of lpwratio in their dispersion on the pitch. The variability of this variable also showed a decrease for teams with older players, suggesting a more consistent application of the width (stretching and creating space) and concentration (compressing into a confined area) principles of play and reflecting a higher level of collective tactical behaviour. Match variable showed a larger centroid distance for the older age groups in comparison with the younger players in the GK + 3 × 3 + GK, while all age groups demonstrated similar large centroid distances in the GK + 4 × 4 + GK game format. These results suggest that length and width ratio and centroid distance are useful measures of tactical performance in small-sided games in youth football.

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