Patterns of play in English football between club side Liverpool and the English National Team using variables of possession as performance indicators
University of Wales Institute Cardiff
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The differences in playing patterns of football teams has been, and remains one of the largest areas of post match analysis within association football. (Scoulding, James and Taylor, 2002). The ability to retain possession of the ball for prolonged periods of time has been linked to success (Hook and Hughes, 2001). This study aimed to provide a detailed insight into the differences of possession patterns between England and Liverpool, from which specific possession tactics and strategies could be identified. This investigation compared 8 matches involving Liverpool and the England national team within the 2007/08 season. Using a hand notation system on a computer spreadsheet the possessions, passes, duration of possession and the time the ball was out of play were all recorded for the team being analysed. All possessions less than 3 seconds were removed from the data as they were not deemed to include significant events pertaining to a teams strategy. Reliability measures were conducted at the level of subsequent analysis as suggested by Hughes, Cooper and Nevill (2002). All performance measures provided acceptable reliability estimates (<5% error). Statistical analysis using SPSS 12.0 was performed to reveal differences and trends within the data. Results revealed that no significant differences (p>0.05) were found amongst the total and average possessions, passes, duration of possession and the time the ball was out of play. However, there were evident trends amongst the frequency of passes and duration per possession. Liverpool tended to play more 2 or less passes per possession in comparison to England playing more 6 or more passes per possession. Liverpool also occupied more possessions lasting 9 seconds or less compared to England who had a higher frequency of possessions lasting 25 seconds or more. This observed trend was thought suggestive of a different adaptation of playing styles in the diverse competitions both teams were competing in. With the Premier league employing “long ball” tactics with respect to the pace and tempo of the English game, International matches are played at a slower tempo allowing more time and space on the ball, with the players having a higher ability to avoid tackles and make harder more difficult passes. Consequently, other factors such as match status, area of possession gained and lost and player ability may have determined the studies outcomes.
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