This research explores the influence of match importance on player activity in professional soccer. Therefore, we used an observational approach and analyzed 1,211 matches of German Bundesliga and 2nd Bundesliga. The importance measurement employed is based on post season consequences of teams involved in a match. This means, if a match result could potentially influence the final rank, and this rank would lead to different consequences for a team, such as qualification for Champions League opposed to qualification for Europe League, then this match is classified as important; otherwise not. Activity was quantified by TOTAL DISTANCE COVERED, SPRINTS, FAST RUNS, DUELS, FOULS and ATTEMPTS. Running parameters were recorded using a semi-automatic optical tracking system, while technical variables were collected by professional data loggers. Based on our importance classification, low important matches occurred at the beginning of round 29. A two-way ANOVA indicates significantly increased FAST RUNS (+4 %, d = 0:3), DUELS (+16 %, d = 1:0) and FOULS (+36 %, d = 1:2) in important matches compared to low important ones. For FAST RUNS and FOULS, this effect only exists in Bundesliga. A comparison of the two leagues show that TOTAL DISTANCE COVERED (+3 %, d = 0:9), SPRINTS (+25 %, d = 1:4) and FAST RUNS (+15 %, d = 1:4) are higher compared to 2nd Bundesliga, whilst FOULS is less in Bundesliga (-7 %, d = 0:3). No difference in player activity was found between matches at the beginning of a season (round 1-6) and at the end of a season (round 29-34). We conclude that match importance influences player activity in German professional soccer. The most reasonable explanation is a conscious or unconscious pacing strategy, motivated by preserving abilities or preventing injury. Since this tendency mainly exists in Bundesliga, this may suggest that more skilled players show a higher awareness for the need of pacing.
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- Match Importance Affects Player Activity
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