ISSN: 1899-1955
Human Movement Special Issues
Current issue Archive Human Movement
Original paper

The effect of playing formation on the passing network characteristics of a professional football team

Scott McLean
Paul M. Salmon
Adam D. Gorman
Jason Wickham
Elise Berber
Colin Solomon
1, 2

  1. Centre for Human Factors and Sociotechnical Systems, University of the Sunshine Coast, Sippy Downs, Australia
  2. School of Health and Sport Sciences, University of the Sunshine Coast, Sippy Downs, Australia
  3. Brisbane Roar Football Club, Brisbane, Australia
Human Movement 2018 vol. 19(5) special issue, 14-22
Online publish date: 2018/12/14
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The playing formation of football teams influences how players interact with each other via passing. The aim of this study was to use network analysis to determine the passing characteristics of playing positions within a professional a professional football team across two consecutive competitive seasons, when playing two different formations.

In season one (2016/2017) the team played 1-4-2-2-2 in 21 matches, and in season two (2017/2018) the team played 1-4-2-3-1 in 21 matches. Network analysis was applied to calculate the individual centrality metrics of indegree centrality (IDC), outdegree centrality (ODC), closeness centrality (CC), and betweenness centrality (BC) for the playing positions, using the Social Network Visualizer (SocNetV). The centrality metrics were compared across the playing formations and as a function of match outcome.

The forward positions in 1-4-2-2-2 had significantly (p < 0.05) more outgoing passes compared with 1-4-2-3-1. The defensive midfield positions in 1-4-2-3-1 had a significantly (p < 0.05) higher %BC compared with 1-4-2-2-2. The forward positions had increased %IDC and %ODC when playing 1-4-2-2-2 in matches drawn compared with 1-4-2-3-1.

The current study shows that subtle changes to playing formation elicit differences in the passing contributions of the players. The results suggest that coaches may adopt the playing formation 1-4-2-2-2 compared with 1-4-2-3-1 owing to the increased passing involvement from the forwards.


network analysis, centrality, performance analysis, football

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