This is a review of the spatio temporal dynamics research conducted by Javier Fernandez and Luke Bornn.
Soccer statistics are heavily focused on what happens when a player has the ball. However, what about the rest of the players on the field? Statistics have shown that players only have the ball for an average of three minutes per game. What are they doing the rest of the time?
Professional soccer teams have been increasingly adapting their playbooks to incorporate strategies for those players who do not have the ball in order to generate better scoring chances. One aspect is space occupation or the ability of a player to create space for himself in highly valuable areas – areas from which he/she will be able to assist the team in creating a scoring opportunity. A second aspect is generating space. This involves a player getting an opponent to focus on him/her in order to open up space for a teammate.
A model using player tracking data was used, as tracking data is more efficient and detailed in gathering information on human behavior. The model was used during a first division Spanish league soccer match. It gathered data regarding where players were located on the field, their velocity and how far they were from the ball. The position of the players was analyzed to determine what influence a player had in that particular area. The importance of that area to the team was also analyzed. Areas close to the opponent’s goal are always valuable but other areas become valuable depending on where the ball, teammates and opponents are located. The model evaluated the value each space had at a given point based on the location of the players on the field. Generally, most players will remain close to high value areas which is then what the model uses to determine importance.
Coaches spend a great deal of practice time focusing on the players’ ability to create and occupy spaces. This model can be used to help coaches determine how well their players are using space on the field and what areas need to be improved upon. Players have strengths and weaknesses in occupying and generating space and may be skilled in certain areas of the field. Coaches can look at this data, using players’ strengths as teaching tools for other athletes and using weaknesses to generate coaching plans to help the player improve their skills in that area.
In conclusion, the concept of space in a soccer game is extremely important given the minimal time each player has the ball within a 90-minute game. It is also a highly complex idea that requires further in-depth analysis in order to help coaches maximize their team’s potential.
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