Quantifying the peak physical match-play demands of professional soccer substitutes following pitch-entry: assessing contextual influences

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
JournalResearch Quarterly for Exercise and Sport
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 7 Sep 2020
Purpose: To quantify the peak post-pitch-entry physical responses of soccer substitutes, while assessing contextual influences. Peak responses may be important performance indicators for substitutes introduced to provide a physical impact. Method: Thirty-three professional substitutes wore Microelectromechanical Systems during 44 matches (4±3 observations·player-1). Post-pitch-entry relative peak total and high-speed (>5.5 m∙s-1) distances, average acceleration, and PlayerLoad™ were calculated using rolling averages over 60-s to 600-s. Linear mixed models assessed contextual influences (position, substitution timing, scoreline, and location). Results: Substitutes introduced during the final ~15 min of match-play covered less high-speed distance than first-half substitutes (~2.8-3.1 m·min-1) over 480-s to 600-s epochs, and less than 60:00-74:59 min substitutes (~1.7-1.8 m·min-1) during 540-s and 600-s epochs. Average acceleration during all except 180-s epochs was lower for 75:00+ min substitutes compared with first-half replacements (~0.27-0.43 m·s-2), and lower than 60:00-74:59 min substitutes during 60-s (~0.13 m·s-2). Substitutes introduced when their team was winning recorded greater distances over 120-s to 600-s (~6.2-7.7 m·min-1), and higher PlayerLoad™ values during 120-s, 180-s, 300-s, and 480-s epochs (~2.7-3.6 arbitrary units·min-1), compared with when scores were level at pitch-entry. Irrespective of substitution timing, substitute midfielders exceeded the total distance of substitute attackers (~5.9-16.2 m·min-1) for all except 360-s and 600-s epochs, and defenders (~13.3-26.7 m·min-1) during epochs <300-s. Conclusions: This study provides benchmark data for practitioners tailoring training and recovery protocols, particularly ‘top-up’ conditioning, to the competitive demands of soccer substitutes. Knowing how contextual factors influence substitutes’ peak match-play responses may help managers/coaches assess the efficacy of substitution strategies.

Related faculties, schools or groups

External organisations

  • Swansea University
  • Melbourne City FC
  • La Trobe University
  • Welsh Institute of Performance Sciences
  • PlayerMaker

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