English versus Russian Football Premier-League competitive performance analysis factoring in game positions and field control zones

Dr.Hab., Professor V.M. Shulyatyev1
PhD V.V. Ivanov1
PhD A.D. Dugbley2
D.A. Potapov1
A.A. Soparev1
1Russian University of Peoples' Friendship, Moscow
2Football СYSSOR "Youth of Moscow" "Burevestnik", Moscow

Keywords: competitive performance in elite football, technical/ tactical actions, excellence training systems in football.

Background. Issues of the excellence training system and competitive performance improvements in the modern elite football have long been subject to many studies [1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 8], albeit the existing national training systems are still not successful enough since a significant part of the 16-17 year-old footballers fail to develop excellent and versatile football skills pivotal for progress and success [9, 11].

For at least the last 20 years it has been sadly quite traditional for the junior football masters to regress in the technical and tactical aspects when making a transition from the junior football systems to professional teams [12]. The situation is further aggravated by the stalled progress of the youth Russian picked teams on the global arenas [6, 10]. This situation urges the national sport community to develop, test and implement sound training solutions and standards for the national youth football to secure good and sustainable progress at the excellence training stage.

It should be emphasized that presently the young ambitious and skillful football players at the excellence stage, when they come to the Russian Premier League (RPL) clubs, find themselves unprepared for transition to the new training standards – that appear low enough as verified by the poor competitive accomplishments of the RPL teams in the European football events [6] including the UEFA Champions League and UEFA European League competitions. No wonder that only one national footballer was contracted in the last season by a leading foreign football club.

Objective of the study was to analyze the English versus Russian Premier Leagues competitive performance statistics with an emphasis on the players’ game positions and field control zones, and offer new training methods and practices applicable at the excellence training stage.

Methods and structure of the study. We applied for the purposes of the study match replays and analyses with a mathematical data processing toolkit to analyze the English Premier League (EPL) versus Russian Premier League (RPL) competitive performances in the Russian Championship and UEFA European League, with the following clubs sampled for analysis: Spartak FC (Moscow), Zenith FC (Saint Petersburg), Manchester United FC (Stratford), Manchester City FC (Manchester), Arsenal FC (London) and Chelsea FC (London).

Technical and tactical aspects of the competitive performance data were digitalized and filled in special forms to sort out and classify by success levels the individual technical/ tactical actions (TTA) in (1) defense zone, (2) central zone; and (3) attack zone. The individual competitive performance was rated by the accurate to inaccurate TTA ratio i.e. TTA success rate, with an action rated successful when the ball reached the teammate or kept controlled by the player.

Results and discussion. The EPL/ RPL competitive performance analysis found a relatively small proportion of sagged individual TTA success rates for the study period – versus the high proportion of the TTA regresses (both in attack and defense) in the Russian elite football in the period when the players make a transition from the home match system to the RPL. It was found, for instance, that in the in the national RPL/ EPL championships the center backs are evenly active in supporting the attacks (7,9±3,8 and 7,6±2,2 times per match, respectively); whilst in the UEFA European League matches the RPL center backs show a meaningful (р<0.05) regress from 7,9±3,8 to 3,7±1,2 times per match versus their EPL peers tested with progress from 7,6±2,2 to 8,2±2,3 times per match (р>0.05), with the other conditions being equal. (This disproportion is manifested, among other things, in the short-to-mid-distance passes, with the RPL/ EPL center backs scoring 31,4±5,4/ 27,4±2,3 points (р>0.05) in the national matches and 23,8±3,4/ 28,7±4,8 points (р>0.05) in the UEFA European League matches). Such competitive performance regresses were found typical for the national players irrespective of their game positions – versus the stable performances in the EPL. This finding urges to further analyze what are the key skills of the national players that suffer most in the transitional period versus their game roles.

It should be also mentioned that the EPL/ RPL competitive performance analysis found the RPL  left/ right full backs scoring lower than their EPL peers in the short-to-mid-distance passes in the defense and attack zones, and in the passes and dribbling in the penalty zone. The RPL central midfielders were also found to score lower than their EPL peers in the short-to-mid-distance passes in the defense and attack zones, in the encounters in the defense and central zones and in dribbling in the central and attack zones [3]. This finding demonstrates the need for individualized focused training systems to secure the individual technical/ tactical progress in the excellence training stage with due priority to the game situation modeling tools so as to bridge the gaps in the national elite football competitive performance standards.

The study data and analyses may be beneficial for the coaching teams in their efforts to encourage individual progress by a variety of modern training tools in the excellence training stage. The individual/ teamwork training tasks for the 16-17 year-olds shall be designed to improve the game-position-specific skills and TTA that were found to sag in the RPL players versus their EPL peers when they make a transition from the junior football to professional teams. The coaches are recommended to be as specific as possible in setting special requirements to the individual practices (including the counts of contacts, ball control algorithms, time/ space limitations etc.: see the Diagram hereunder) to step up the difficulty levels and versatility of the skills mastered and excelled in the trainings.

Conclusion. The EPL versus RPL competitive performance analysis factoring in the players’ game positions showed the need for a focused individualized training of the technical/ tactical skills in attack and defense to effectively model the key game situations in the junior and excellence training systems so as to have them flexibly customized to the technical and tactical skills of the junior players in different game positions to secure their competitive progress.

Diagram 1. Teamwork excellence training model for the 16-17 year-olds


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Corresponding author: adugbley@inbox.ru


The article analyzes the key theoretical and practical basics for the modern football training systems. Objective of the study was to give substantiations for a few training methods and practices applicable in the sport excellence stage to meet the modern requirements to the competitive performance in elite football. In this context, one of the goals of the study was to analyze the competitive performance of the English versus Russian football premier-league teams and factor in the players’ game positions and field control zones. We applied match video replays to mine and analyze the English Premier League (EPL) versus Russian Premier League (RPL) competitive performance statistics and find, among other things, the key technical/ tactical actions critical for the competitive success. The study data and analyses may be beneficial for the coaching teams of the national Children and Youth Football Sport Schools in their efforts to improve the excellence training systems.