The following summarizes the publication of Faude et al. 2012 (see reference below) who investigated the influence of speed and power abilities in goal situations in professional football.
Data were investigated from the second half of the 2007/2008 German 1st league Bundesliga season. The authors analyzed 360 goals, which consisted of 322 from match-play and 38 from set-pieces (17 free kicks and 21 corners).
Goals were investigated with regards to a) rotation (of at least 90° of the players’ entire body), b) straight linear sprint, c) change of direction sprint (including two identifiable accelerations in two different directions), d) jump, and all actions also considered the presence of an opponent. Additionally, the authors distinguished between straight sprint and change of direction with or without the ball.
More than 80% of all goals analyzed consisted of at least one powerful action of either the scoring or the assisting player. In 62%, the scoring players fulfilled at least one powerful action before scoring by himself, as well as in 55% of the goals, the assisting player had a least one powerful action. The straight sprint was the most frequent action prior scoring a goal for the scoring and the assisting player. Furthermore, the straight sprint was dominantly performed by the scoring player without the ball and without opponent, while the assisting player sprinted most frequently with the ball. Strikers performed more powerful actions prior scoring compared to midfielders. As a consequence, change of direction and jumps seemed not as important in scoring compared to straight sprints, which was regarded as the shortest possible connection between two points.
The authors also compared their data with the one from a different article which showed similar data in Norwegian professional league games and stated that tactical aspects (for example counterattacking) influenced the physical demands of the game and therefore purposeful actions. Furthermore, it seems that straight sprinting is an important skills and therefore should be incorporated into training and monitoring of players.
The authors also speculate that change of direction might be of more importance in defensive actions and we suggest that most of the goals therefore required a possible overload of players, but definitely 2 players (scorer plus assistant player), a “final” pass and of course a change in pace that lead into the situation which ultimately lead to a finish and into a goal.
Faude, O., T. Koch and T. Meyer. Straight sprinting is the most frequent action in goal situations in professional football. J. Sports. Sci. 30(7): 625-631, 2012.