A tactical comparison of the 4-2-3-1 and 3-5-2 formation in soccer: A theory-oriented, experimental approach based on positional data in an 11 vs. 11 game set-up

Publication: Contribution to journalJournal articlesResearchpeer-review


The presented field experiment in an 11 vs. 11 soccer game set-up is the first to examine the impact of different formations (e.g. 4-2-3-1 vs. 3-5-2) on tactical key performance indicators (KPIs) using positional data in a controlled experiment. The data were gathered using player tracking systems (1 Hz) in a standardized 11 vs. 11 soccer game. The KPIs were measured using dynamical positioning variables like Effective Playing Space, Player Length per Width ratio, Team Separateness, Space Control Gain, and Pressure Passing Efficiency. Within the experimental positional data analysis paradigm, neither of the team formations showed differences in Effective Playing Space, Team Separateness, or Space Control Gain. However, as a theory-based approach predicted, a 3-5-2 formation for the Player Length per Width ratio and Pressure Passing Efficiency exceeded the 4-2-3-1 formation. Practice task designs which manipulate team formations therefore significantly influence the emergent behavioral dynamics and need to be considered when planning and monitoring performance. Accordingly, an experimental positional data analysis paradigm is a useful approach to enable the development and validation of theory-oriented models in the area of performance analysis in sports games.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0210191
JournalPloS one
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)e0210191
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 01.01.2019

Research areas and keywords

  • Adult
  • Athletic Performance/physiology
  • Data Analysis
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Soccer
  • Spatial Behavior/physiology
  • Young Adult