Effects of Match Location on Playing Tactics for Goal Scoring in Norwegian Professional Soccer

Article excerpt

That sports teams in balanced competitions achieve better results when playing at home than away from home, is a consistent finding (Carron, Loughhead, & Bray, 2005; Nevill & Holder, 1999). This phenomenon, known as 'home advantage', exists in all professional team sports, but is most pronounced in soccer (Pollard, 1986, 2006a). However, despite much research (e.g. Downward & Jones, 2007; L. Page & K. Page, 2007; Nevill, Balmer, & Williams, 2002; Nevill, Newell, & Gale, 1996; Pollard, 2006b; R. H. Boyko, A. R. Boyko, & M. G. Boyko, 2007; R. Pollard & t2 Pollard, 2005; Sutter & Kocher, 2007), results have so far failed to isolate a dominant factor explaining the home advantage in soccer. In an attempt to understand this phenomenon, Carron et al. (2005) and Courneya and Carron (1992) proposed that critical behaviours such as strategic and tactical decisions have to be influenced. Similarly, special playing tactics have been recognized by Pollard (1986, 2006a) as one of many inter-related factors associated with home advantage in soccer.

Few studies have directly examined whether the primary/fundamental measures of match performance (i.e. technical and tactical aspects) differ as a function of match location in soccer (e.g. Lago & Martin, 2007; Sasaki, Nevill, & Reilly, 1999; Taylor, Mellalieu, James, & Shearer, 2008; Tucker et al., 2005). Two of these studies have considered how playing at home versus away influences the tactical aspects of match performance (Lago & Martin, 2007; Tucker et al., 2005). However, none of these previous studies has considered a direct assessment of opponent interaction in their analyses. Since the opposition creates the unexpected in a match, necessitating constant adaptation to constraints caused by the confrontation between two teams (Elias & Dunning, 1966; Grehaigne, Bouthier, & David, 1997), any analysis of the effect of match location on technical and tactical aspects of match performance must consider the interaction between the two opposing teams.

An assessment of opponent interaction for the analysis of the effect of match location on playing tactics for goal scoring is possible by using a case-control design. It necessitates the use of a control group with an adequate sample size of randomly selected events and logistic regression analysis to allow a more complex comparison of binary response variables (Nevill et al., 2002). This type of statistical analysis has been rarely used in the analysis of match performance in soccer (e.g. Ensum, Pollard, & Taylor, 2004; Pollard & Reep, 1997). Further, to consider opponent interaction in the analysis, one has to analyse opposing relationship between two teams (or players), rather than two opposing teams (or players) individually in isolation from the match context. It is possible to analyse opposing relationship when using a match play situation as the basic unit of analysis rather than a team (or a player), and therefore a team possession was used as the unit of analysis in this study. Since match play situations emerge from the dialectical interplay of play and counter-play produced by both teams (Grehaigne, Bouthier, & Godbout, 1999; Grehaigne & Godbout, 1995), it enables breaking down of a match play action without losing its confrontational nature.

Moreover, the use of categorical data based on multidimensional qualitative evaluation instead of unidimensional frequency data may improve our ability to describe a soccer match play action (Grehaigne, Mahut, & Fernandez, 2001; Hughes & Bartlett, 2002; Suzuki & Nishijima, 2004). This is because multidimensional qualitative evaluation permits the inclusion of data from the qualitative evaluation of different dimensions of performance involved in the opponent interaction.

Thus, the main aim of this study was to examine the effect of match location on playing tactics for goal scoring, counter attack ("direct play") vs. …