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Analysing Team Coordination Patterns from Player Movement Trajectories in Soccer: Methodological Considerations

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We analysed player trajectories from five eleven-a-side soccer games in the group stage of the European Champions League to reveal the coordination dynamics between opposing teams in open play attacks, through the use of team centroids and various measures of team dispersion. We found that the team centroids moved synchronously both along and across the pitch, the former showing a stronger coupling (e.g. r = 0.994 vs 0.756 for goals) of the teams' coordination dynamics, as expected. No crossing of the centroids of the two teams along the pitch occurred for any of the 14 goals scored from open play, and only six for all 305 open play attacks. We found little support for any general rule that team centroids converge along the pitch during critical moments in play, such as goals, shots on goal and tackles. Our results revealed few differences in coordination dynamics for attacks ending in a defensive tackle or a turn-over in possession from those ending in a goal, shot or header shot; nor did attacks ending in a goal, or a shot or header shot have more volatile, less predictable coordination dynamics than unsuccessful attacks. We recommend the use of smaller groupings of players within a team and self-organising maps to gain a greater insight into team coordination dynamics in eleven-a-side soccer in future research.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 August 2012

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