Sports Medicine

, Volume 48, Issue 4, pp 799–836 | Cite as

What Performance Analysts Need to Know About Research Trends in Association Football (2012–2016): A Systematic Review

  • Hugo Sarmento
  • Filipe Manuel Clemente
  • Duarte Araújo
  • Keith Davids
  • Allistair McRobert
  • António Figueiredo
Systematic Review



Evolving patterns of match analysis research need to be systematically reviewed regularly since this area of work is burgeoning rapidly and studies can offer new insights to performance analysts if theoretically and coherently organized.


The purpose of this paper was to conduct a systematic review of published articles on match analysis in adult male football, identify and organize common research topics, and synthesize the emerging patterns of work between 2012 and 2016, according to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-analyses (PRISMA) guidelines.


The Web of Science database was searched for relevant published studies using the following keywords: ‘football’ and ‘soccer’, each one associated with the terms ‘match analysis’, ‘performance analysis’, ‘notational analysis’, ‘game analysis’, ‘tactical analysis’ and ‘patterns of play’.


Of 483 studies initially identified, 77 were fully reviewed and their outcome measures extracted and analyzed. Results showed that research mainly focused on (1) performance at set pieces, i.e. corner kicks, free kicks, penalty kicks; (2) collective system behaviours, captured by established variables such as team centroid (geometrical centre of a set of players) and team dispersion (quantification of how far players are apart), as well as tendencies for team communication (establishing networks based on passing sequences), sequential patterns (predicting future passing sequences), and group outcomes (relationships between match-related statistics and final match scores); and (3) activity profile of players, i.e. playing roles, effects of fatigue, substitutions during matches, and the effects of environmental constraints on performance, such as heat and altitude.


From the previous review, novel variables were identified that require new measurement techniques. It is evident that the complexity engendered during performance in competitive soccer requires an integrated approach that considers multiple aspects. A challenge for researchers is to align these new measures with the needs of the coaches through a more integrated relationship between coaches and researchers, to produce practical and usable information that improves player performance and coach activity.


Compliance with Ethical Standards


No sources of funding were used to assist in the preparation of this article.

Conflict of interest

Hugo Sarmento, Filipe Clemente, Keith Davids, Duarte Araújo, Allistair McRobert and António Figueiredo declare that they have no conflicts of interest relevant to the content of this review.

Supplementary material

40279_2017_836_MOESM1_ESM.docx (64 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 63 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research Unit for Sport and Physical Activity (CIDAF), Faculty of Sport Sciences and Physical EducationUniversity of CoimbraCoimbraPortugal
  2. 2.Instituto Politécnico de Viana do Castelo, Escola Superior de Desporto e LazerMelgaçoPortugal
  3. 3.Instituto de Telecomunicações, Delegação da CovilhãCovilhãPortugal
  4. 4.Complexo Desportivo e Lazer Comendador Rui SolheiroMelgaçoPortugal
  5. 5.CIPER, Spertlab, Faculdade de Motricidade HumanaUniversidade de LisboaLisboaPortugal
  6. 6.Centre for Sports Engineering ResearchSheffield Hallam UniversitySheffieldUK
  7. 7.The Football Exchange, Research Institute for Sport and Exercise SciencesLiverpool John Moores UniversityLiverpoolUK

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