Attacking and defensive styles of play in soccer: analysis of Spanish and English elite teams

Javier Fernandez-Navarro, Luis Fradua, Asier Zubillaga, Paul R. Ford, Allistair P. McRobert

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The aim of this study was to define and categorise different styles of play in elite soccer and associated performance indicators by using factor analysis. Furthermore, the observed teams were categorised using all factor scores. Data were collected from 97 matches from the Spanish La Liga and the English Premier League from the seasons 2006–2007 and 2010–2011 using the Amisco® system. A total of 19 performance indicators, 14 describing aspects of attacking play and five describing aspects of defensive play, were included in the factor analysis. Six factors, representing 12 different styles of play (eight attacking and four defensive), had eigenvalues greater than 1 and explained 87.54% of the total variance. Direct and possession styles of play, defined by factor 1, were the most apparent styles. Factor analysis used the performance indicators to cluster each team’s style of play. Findings showed that a team’s style of play was defined by specific performance indicators and, consequently, teams can be classified to create a playing style profile. For practical implications, playing styles profiling can be used to compare different teams and prepare for opponents in competition. Moreover, teams could use specific training drills directed to improve their styles of play.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2195-2204
    Number of pages10
    JournalJournal of Sports Sciences
    Issue number24
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016


    • Association football
    • factor analysis
    • La Liga
    • match analysis
    • Premier League
    • tactics


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