Training/Demands & Match Performance
Players move in many different directions and at various speeds, hence this activity is known as intermittent exercise.
The overall physical loads in professional soccer are great and vary with respect to the level of competition, playing position and responsibilities as well as environmental factors.
On average, all field players are required to run between 9-13 Km, (5.5 Miles-8.0 Miles).
The goalkeeper runs the least around a maximum of 4-6 Km, (2.5 Miles-4 miles). Overall; professional midfielders run the most, while strikers sprint the greatest distance. For example, a top centre-forward has been shown to sprint 900 m, (.5 Miles) and runs 1520m, (1 Mile) at high intensity.
Indeed players sprint on average once every 90 seconds.
Fig 1 below breaks down the total distance run of a top level midfielder into the percentage of time spent in different running activities.
Even in professional soccer, players are only in possession of the ball for around 2 minutes of the game duration. Most efforts are off the ball; e.g. support runs, contesting possession etc. On average, players only have a short rest for about 3 seconds every two minutes showing the constant effort required over 90 minutes. We must not forget that top-level players also move in different directions such as backwards and sideways running. Professionals spend 7% of their time moving backwards (e.g. centre-halves retreating to challenge for a long high pass) and that this type of movement actually requires more energy expenditure.
Not only do top level players simply have to run, they are constantly tackling, passing, dribbling, heading and shooting to name but a few. For example, professional central defenders show the greatest frequency of jumps per game (around 20) and these factors when added to the various sprints and distances run demonstrate the high physical loads placed on top-level players. The average number of passes per player in a game is roughly 35, while the number of interceptions ranges at 15. In general, match analysis show that a player touches the ball on average 60-120 times & for 2 seconds per touch equaling a total of 2-3 Minutes per match.