Performance Analysis In Soccer: Blending Coaching With Science

It's essential for soccer players to engage in continuous training at match-intensity, adhering to the principle of 'train as they play.'

For soccer coaches, success in this results-driven business hinges on the ability to prepare players to compete at their best, facing continual periods of physical exertion. It is essential for players at various skill levels within the game to engage in continuous training at match-intensity, adhering to the principle of ‘train as they play.’


In recent years, a significant debate has emerged, questioning whether coaches adequately prepare players to meet the high demands of professional soccer, especially as they progress through development phases and eventually enter the challenging first team environment. This scrutiny extends to coaches, performance specialists, fitness trainers, and medical practitioners.

The concern is whether they truly understand the specific demands posed by international, domestic, and European competitions, not to mention the psychological toll of frequent travel and time spent away from family.

The pressing question is whether coaches are pushing their players enough to foster development and progression to the next level.

Is there an emphasis on building both physical and mental ‘robustness,’ or are coaches overly cautious, fearing potential injuries?

The key lies in striking a balance between the art of coaching and the application of scientific principles of athletic development and match-preparation. Finding this equilibrium allows players to reach their full potential while staying injury-free and mentally strong.

An exemplary coach known for his relentless emphasis on effort is Atletico Madrid and Argentinian legend, Diego Simeone. His coaching philosophy revolves around considering effort as a non-negotiable aspect of training and competition. This mindset instils a work ethic and determination in players that can make a significant difference in their performance on the field.

Soccer Science Performance Introduction Course

For soccer coaches aiming to succeed in the ever-competitive world of the sport, adopting a coaching approach that prioritizes match-intensity training, understanding the unique challenges of different levels of competition, and fostering physical and mental resilience can play a pivotal role in shaping successful and accomplished players. By embracing both the art and science of coaching, coaches can empower their players to achieve their best, both individually and as a team.

The modern game has made us increasingly aware of the intricate connections between these different elements, necessitating a comprehensive approach to player development.

However, when it comes to analyzing match physical performance, there remains a tendency to focus on reporting isolated physical outputs, leading to what has been criticized as a “reductionist” and “one-dimensional approach” to understanding the game (Bradley & Ade, 2018). Elaborating on this issue, the reductionist approach involves breaking down the game into its individual components and analyzing them independently.

While this method can offer valuable insights into specific aspects of a player’s performance, it often fails to capture the complexities of how these components interact during a real match. Soccer is not a collection of isolated physical actions; rather, it is a fluid and ever-changing interplay of skills, decision-making, and teamwork. For example, evaluating a player’s running distance or top speed during a match provides valuable data but tells only a fraction of the story.

It doesn’t reveal the player’s decision-making under pressure, their ability to read the game, their tactical awareness, or how they interact with teammates. Focusing solely on isolated physical metrics may lead coaches to overlook crucial factors that contribute to a player’s overall performance and effectiveness on the field.

To fully understand match performance and its implications for training, coaches and performance practitioners must adopt a more holistic approach. This involves considering how the physical, tactical, technical, and psychological elements intertwine and influence each other during gameplay.

Integrating data from various sources, such as GPS tracking, video analysis, and player feedback, can help paint a more complete picture of a player’s performance and provide valuable insights for training improvement.

Emphasizing a multi-dimensional approach enables coaches to tailor training sessions that reflect the challenges players face during actual matches. It helps create a more realistic and game-specific training environment that fosters better decision-making, teamwork, and adaptation to dynamic game situations.

Acknowledging the complexity of soccer and recognizing the interconnected nature of its various elements are crucial steps toward enhancing player development.

Embracing a multi-dimensional approach to match analysis empowers coaches and performance practitioners to design more effective training programs, ultimately leading to sustained improvement and success on the field.

The match between Brazil and Chile for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Qualifier at Allianz Parque Stadium on October 10, 2017 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Recent research has shed light on the significant influence of tactical variables on match physical performance, especially during near maximum or high-intensity efforts. These factors encompass various aspects, such as team tactical strategy, formation, playing position, ball possession focus, and overall team game-style or philosophy.

For instance, a team that prefers counter-attacking, sitting deeper, and exploding with forward runs will produce different physical outputs and related statistics compared to a team that employs a high-pressing strategy, applying pressure all over the pitch. Therefore, it becomes crucial for individuals to interpret the extracted data while considering the underlying tactical strategy and game model.

However, despite the clear impact of tactical variables on physical performance during match-play, it is common practice in elite soccer to analyze and report physical data in isolation from these tactical considerations.

This approach may overlook the true physiological cost of match-play, as merely examining running distances without contextual understanding can lead to misrepresentation. This misrepresentation becomes evident when we consider the variability of demands placed on specific players, playing positions, inter-positional units, and the team as a whole on a match-to-match basis.

This brings us to the important question raised earlier – are we effectively preparing players to meet the specific demands of the game, the system, and the tactical strategy? To optimize player development and performance, it is essential to align physical training with the tactical aspects of the game. Ignoring the interplay between tactical variables and physical performance can result in inadequate preparation for the challenges players will face during actual matches.

Coaches and performance analysts must adopt an integrated approach that considers both tactical and physical aspects of the game. By doing so, they can gain a comprehensive understanding of how tactical decisions influence players’ physical efforts and adaptability on the field. Tailoring training programs to mimic the tactical scenarios players will encounter in matches ensures better preparation and more effective performances. Recognizing the interdependence of tactical variables and physical performance is vital in modern soccer analysis and coaching.

To optimize player preparation and meet the demands of the game, coaches must embrace a holistic approach that considers both tactical strategy and physical conditioning. By doing so, players can better respond to the dynamic nature of soccer and excel in the context of their team’s game model or philosophy.

Match Polish Lotto Ekstraklasa between KGHM Zaglebie Lubin - Piast Gliwice 2:2. Sasa Balic (3) with hidden face.

Bradley & Ade’s (2018) study provided a novel approach to analysing physical data in match-play, helping to shed light on its true significance, and importantly telling the story behind the numbers.

By unpacking the data, coaches & performance staff are able to gain a more holistic understanding as to how, why and when the player, position or team accumulated the numbers we see generated on post-match reports. This is particularly evident when we see in the media numbers comparing teams and how far players have run without any link or statement considering the style of play.

The figure shown below from Bradley et al., (2018b) highlights the importance of breaking down the numbers, evidencing the high intensity distance covered in various tactical actions that occur both In and Out of Possession in match-play.

Figure 1 : Graphs highlighting High Intensity Distance per playing position, with and without context, from Bradley et al’s (2018b) ‘Context is King’ when Interpreting Match Physical Performances’ in Football Medicine & Performance.
Figure 1 : Graphs highlighting High Intensity Distance per playing position, with and without context, from Bradley et al’s (2018b) ‘Context is King’ when Interpreting Match Physical Performances’ in Football Medicine & Performance.

As the modern game is developing exponentially across all aspects of performance (physical, tactical, technical, cognitive), the margins for success, and injury risk, are even finer. Consequently, ensuring players are appropriately prepared and conditioned to perform the demands of their role is ever more crucial.

Although performing isolated high intensity running drills provide an effective and time-efficient method of hitting specific targets for players, it’s important to consider:

(1) whether the data is too rigidly respected to the potential detriment to time spent working on key tactical elements, and;

(2) whether a more holistic approach should be considered, whereby conditioning drills are constructed to more closely replicate the positional, and game-style, demands of the team.

Italian Serie A. Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Ac Milan celebrate after scoring a goal during the Serie A match between Ac Milan and Bologna Fc.

Consequently isolated positional tactical conditioning drills (see Figure 2 for an example) may provide an effective conditioning supplement to more generic training practices (e.g. Small Sided Games), and should be considered when planning conditioning drills (Bradley et al., 2019). Working alongside a coach to plan and implement these drills is not only key to help blend the art of coaching with the science of conditioning, but also to create crucial buy-in.

Figure 2 : Example of a Positional Speed Endurance Drill for a FB, focusing on overlapping runs to join the attack. Newton (2020) Published for ISSPF lecture.

Atletico Madrid and their coach have gained a reputation for adopting a distinct style of play that emphasizes physical intensity, evident in their rigorous training and consistent match performances. The philosophy of “train as you play” is deeply ingrained in soccer culture. However, in the modern game, the integration of performance analysis technology as a scientific tool, combined with the art of coaching, is more critical than ever.

While data provides valuable insights, its true value lies in the ability to interpret it correctly and make sense of it from both technical and tactical perspectives.

Atletico Madrid’s success stems from their dedication to a play style that demands physical excellence and a cohesive understanding of tactics. This approach is cultivated daily through their training sessions, where players are expected to mirror the intensity and strategic elements of actual match scenarios.

Emphasizing this consistency between training and matches has proven to be a winning formula for the team. However, a key aspect that sets apart successful teams and coaches in the modern era is their ability to harness the power of performance analysis technology.

The vast amount of data generated during matches and training sessions can be overwhelming, but it holds tremendous potential if effectively utilized. Data-driven insights can help identify strengths and weaknesses, spot patterns in gameplay, and fine-tune tactics to gain a competitive advantage.

It should be known that raw data alone means very little if it is not interpreted correctly.

This is where the role of coaching expertise becomes invaluable. Coaches must possess a deep understanding of the technical and tactical nuances of the game to make sense of the data in a meaningful way. By blending their experience and intuition with the objective insights derived from performance analysis, they can devise strategies that leverage their team’s strengths while addressing areas that need improvement.

Analyzing data from a technical perspective involves assessing individual players’ performance, such as their passing accuracy, shooting efficiency, and defensive actions. This helps in understanding players’ strengths and areas for development, tailoring training sessions to enhance specific skills.

On the other hand, analyzing data from a tactical perspective delves into team dynamics, positional play, and patterns of play. Coaches can identify how the team functions as a cohesive unit, how they transition between attacking and defensive phases, and how they adapt to different game situations.

The integration of performance analysis as a science, complemented by the art of coaching, can lead to significant improvements in player and team performance. It allows coaches to make informed decisions, optimize training methods, and fine-tune strategies that align with the team’s overall philosophy. By effectively interpreting data, coaches can transform it into actionable insights that fuel a team’s growth and success.

In conclusion, while Atletico Madrid exemplifies the importance of training with a physical intensity that mirrors match-play, modern soccer requires a more comprehensive approach. Embracing performance analysis technology as a scientific tool and combining it with coaching expertise is essential. Data alone holds limited value; it is the ability to make sense of it from both technical and tactical perspectives that unlocks its true potential. Coaches who master this integration can drive their teams to new heights of performance and success in the highly competitive world of soccer.

Atletico players and staff celebrate after the UEFA Europa League Final between Olympique de Marseille and Atletico de Madrid at Stade de Lyon.

For soccer coaches, there are essential take-home messages that can greatly impact how you approach training and session design:

  1. Context is Key: Data becomes more powerful when you interpret it within the context of the game. Understanding what the data is truly telling us allows for better decision-making and more informed training strategies.
  1. Linking Physical and Tactical Demands: Unpacking the physical demands of the game in relation to tactical outputs provides a deeper understanding of positional requirements. By considering how tactical decisions affect players’ physical efforts, you can tailor training to better prepare them for match scenarios.


  1. Enhance Training Specificity: Greater contextual understanding enables you to enhance the specificity of your training prescription. This means creating training sessions that closely mirror the challenges players face during actual matches, improving their ability to adapt and perform under real-game conditions.


  1. Integrated Drill Library: Consider developing a drill library that encompasses tactical, technical, and physical targets in conjunction with each other. This approach allows you to address multiple aspects of player development simultaneously, fostering a well-rounded and versatile team.

By keeping these take-home messages in mind, you can elevate your coaching approach and lead your players towards more effective and successful performances on the field. Understanding the context of data, linking physical and tactical aspects, enhancing training specificity, and utilizing an integrated drill library will undoubtedly contribute to the growth and development of your team.

Soccer Science Performance Introduction Course

Mastering Soccer Science

A Game-Changing Performance Introduction Course for Coaches

In the ever-evolving world of soccer, success hinges not only on natural talent but also on cutting-edge knowledge and strategic prowess. Performance analysis, a crucial aspect of modern coaching, provides invaluable insights to unlock a team’s full potential.

As soccer continues to advance as a multi-dimensional sport, coaches must stay ahead of the game.

Enter the “Soccer Science & Performance Introduction Course” by the International Soccer Science & Performance Federation (ISSPF), a groundbreaking program designed to equip coaches with the latest tools and techniques to elevate their coaching game and maximize player performance.

The ISSPF’s Pioneering Approach

The ISSPF is renowned for its commitment to advancing soccer through the integration of science and performance analysis. Their Soccer Science & Performance Introduction Course is a pioneering initiative designed for soccer and performance coaches seeking to refine their coaching methods with data-driven insights. The course embraces an innovative blend of artful coaching and scientific principles to create a comprehensive approach to player development.

Unveiling the Course Curriculum

The Soccer Science & Performance Introduction Course is a comprehensive and immersive experience that covers a wide range of topics essential for modern coaching success. Participants delve into the following key areas:

Performance Analysis Fundamentals: Coaches gain a solid foundation in performance analysis, learning how to interpret and utilize match data to make strategic decisions.

Tactical Insights: The course emphasizes the connection between tactical decisions and physical performance during gameplay. Coaches learn to unpack the nuances of positional demands, leading to better training strategies and session designs.

Leveraging Technology: In today’s technology-driven world, the course explores the latest tools and software to enhance performance analysis. Coaches discover how to leverage data to develop tailored training regimens and optimize player development.

Developing a Drill Library: Participants are introduced to the concept of creating a drill library that integrates tactical, technical, and physical aspects of player development. This approach ensures a holistic approach to coaching, promoting well-rounded players.

Real-World Application: Throughout the course, coaches engage in practical exercises and real-world case studies, gaining hands-on experience in applying performance analysis to actual coaching scenarios.

Benefits and Beyond

The Soccer Science & Performance Introduction Course empowers coaches with the knowledge and skills to elevate their coaching game and transform their teams’ performance. Armed with a deeper understanding of performance analysis, nutrition and psychology, coaches can make informed decisions, create more tailored training sessions, and devise effective match strategies.

Soccer Science Performance Introduction Course

Why Is This Course Important?

  • Provides justification for the guiding of specific training methods, interventions & decision making processes within soccer
  • Highlights the practical application of modern, research based training methods & assessment tools
  • Provides an increased evidence & knowledge to understand key soccer science & performance processes across a range of coaching science topics
  • Discusses the most efficient training methods and detailed insights into developing player fitness alongside rehabilitation & training methodologies
  • Learn from industry experts in the area of football science, sport science & performance training in team sports
  • Help maximise your decision making through a better understanding & appreciation of football or soccer science

Who Is This Course For?

  • Individuals tasked with the responsibility for the training, preparation & coaching aspects of soccer players or team sports
  • Individuals with an interest in developing their knowledge in the training & development of individual soccer players or team sports

Who Is This Course For?

Outline of the Soccer Science & Performance Course:

Module 1: The demands of professional soccer: Physiological costs of the game
Lecturer: Dr. Vasilis Kalapthorakos (Greece)
Topic: Physiology

Module 2: Developing Resilience in Soccer: Mental Skill Development
Lecturer: Dr. Nikki Crawley (England)
Topic: Psychology

Module 3: Game model building & development: Reinterpreting Tactical Periodisation
Lecturer: Dr. Alejandro Romero-Caballero (Spain) Spanish Football Federation
Topic: Training Methodology

Module 4: Injury reduction strategies in professional soccer
Lecturer: Dr. Patrick Orme (England) Bristol City FC
Topic: Injury Prevention

Module 5: Leadership and Culture for High Performance Soccer
Lecturer: Maximillian Lankheit (Germany) San Jose Earthquakes FC, MLS
Topic: Psychology

Module 6: Current trends in leading European soccer teams: In-Possession
Lecturer: Chris Meek (England) England Football Association
Topic: Performance Analysis

Module 7: Soccer nutrition & the role of the nutritionist
Lecturer: Matthew Jones (England) West Ham United FC

Topic: Nutrition

Module 8: Competitive soccer training microcycle: Structure & justification
Lecturer: Dr. Manuel Segovia (Spain) Spanish Football Federation
Topic: Training Methodology

Junior football team stacking hands before a match

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