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Jul 2012
Special Football Planning, by Paco de Miguel

Professional Football

Paco de Miguel


Planning is one of the pillars that sustain athletic performance. There are many teams that season after season are dealing with congested calendar.

The calendar has become a major obstacle to persons responsible for programming the activities carried out, as well as another series of factors that influence directly in its design and development.

This document attempts to capture an idea of intervention in the planning considering all factors and elements that influence, from the mainly empirical information, although supported by the academic knowledge.

General Planning vs Special Planning

We consider special planning those in which there are a number of conditioning factors that have an impact in its design and its subsequent variability.

Special planning are basically based on three major pillars that are those who influence your design: pre-season, international players and congested calendar.

Preseason Type

Pre-season has been considered since long ago as one of the best times of the year to be able to assess and analyze the changes that occur based on different types of preparations and interventions.

The vast majority of work have been developed in order to assess the changes that produce different interventions on the players during this period analyzing parameters of all kinds. Effects on biomarkers (Proia et al., 2012), on concurrent strength and endurance training (Wong, Chaouachi, Chamari, Dellal, Wisloff, 2010), as they influence factors such as range of motion on the number of injuries (Bradley Portas, 2007), or as improving coordination (Tessitore et al., 2011).

But we do not have studies that relate to how it affects the type of preparation with the known Tours in contrast to a standard preparation during the preseason.

We could say that in football we are facing two major types of pre-season, on the one hand those in which the preparation is prioritized over other Club interests (a preparatory period in the place of origin interspersed with concentrations in selected places where training conditions improve significantly) or the pre-season with Tours where marketing and financial objectives prioritized on the preparation making trips usually distant from countries that have a strong demand for teams with highly recognized players.

There are many differences between one type or another preparation as described in table 1.

   Trips Training ConditionsGames
 Tour Pre-season - Long Trips.
- High Frequency.
- Very high temperature.
- Scarce resources.
- Low training frequency.
- Strong opponents.
- Number.
- Conditions.
Standar Pre-season  - Short and confortable. - Optimal temperatures.
- Optimal resources.
- Optimas training frequency.
- Opponents suitable any time.
- Optimal game number.
- Right conditions.
Table 1. Differences between a pre-season with tours and a standard preseason.

Making an empirical analysis based on the experience in a team for two consecutive seasons opted to perform the first standard way (Training Camp) and the second with a tour. We found some differences we believe they can be interesting, as a decline in the number of sessions (17% less) in the pre-season with tour (48 sessions) against the standard preseason (58 sessions).

Conditional analytic training (all tasks aimed to improve physical condition outside the context of the game) was affected and reduced by 24% in the pre-season tour, but in terms of the selection of tasks only considerably decreased the number of units of speed circumstance that occurred due to a different task orientation.

Technical-Tactical training increased 7% in the preseason tour, although the most important changes occurred in the conditional selection of tasks for logistics, weather conditions, etc., which were exhibited previously. Possessions were kept proportional in both pre-season given its general character within the structure of the sessions, but if there was a decline in tactical units made in the pre-season with tour, highlighting that these are relevant in this preparatory period, as well as a significant increase in the realization of positional games, which are tasks much more static with less conditional requirement (less demanding task selection).

International Players

There is great concern in the football community in the cost that have for players joining national teams. The main concern is the risk of injury to which can be subjected these players basically by three fundamental aspects: the change in methodology of training in a period of very short time, sometimes very long and uncomfortable travel and the overload of minutes of play.

Table 2 summarizes some constraints that may affect the preparation of the season.

 Pre-season  Season
They join the club latter. They finish later.
Less number of holiday days. 3 to 5 international breaks.
Less progression in training. Greater number of minues played.
Hasty preparation. More trips and ocasionally longer.
  Loss in the preparation.
Table 2. Conditions that are subject international players.

After a final phase of an international competition of national teams, players who have participated in it taking into account that they must incorporate to their respective teams for the pre-season usually they lose a number of sessions with regard to the rest of the group that will depend on the time in which they are knock out and in some cases reaching 60% less.

The number of minutes played in competition is increased substantially during a regular season, excluding the minutes played in the final stages of Euro or World Championship, which in turn would add far more. These players at the end of a season are around 800 minutes and an average of 8 games played more than those who do not go with their national teams.

Congested calendar

According to Odetoyinbo, Wooster, and Lane (2009) analyzing 3 games played in 5 days no significant differences found in the distance covered at different speeds, but they suggest it seems to affect the high intensities.

For King, Lake, Casais, and Dellal (2010) does not seem that the short time of recovery between matches affect performance although there is an increase in the time of recovery between efforts in the second half with regard to the first one and especially in the second game.

Playing two matches per week versus one, does not affect the distance covered, high intensity, sprint, sprint number, but it seems to affect the number of injuries (Dupond et al., 2009).

In a study which analyzed how affected the minutes of play on the players in the 10 weeks leading up to the 2002 World Cup by Ekstrand, Walden and Hägglund (2004) noted that a high number of minutes could adversely affect the performance of the players during the World Cup, however there was no impact on the number of injuries. Players who played 12 games against those who played 9 in the 10 weeks leading up to the World Cup performed below their level.

It seems that in the short term these competitive densities affect negatively the performance, nor in the number of injuries, in the same way that does not seem to affect medium-long term according to research from Carling, Orhant, and Sharqīyah (2010) in which analyzing a team at the highest level for 4 consecutive seasons there were not variations. It should be noted that in this study the number of players that took part in the 4 seasons was not very wide so the results should be interpreted with caution.

Making an own analysis product from the observation of the facts with a clear empirical character but on the other hand objective, in terms of the quality of the data, we tried to analyse how affects a congested calendar with a short recovery time on game distance , as well as their different speeds, in particular high intensity. Data of 4 games played (2 League and Champions League 2), were analyzed over a period of ten days evaluating only a short number of players (n=6) since only they played 100% of the minutes in these games.

Based on the pitch positional role were not differences but here is clearly reflected that the context is essential to interpret the results. Especially seen in the low intensity of the Centre back in the last game played much more holding the position for the long play of the opponent, as well as the high activity in the same game of defensive centre midfielder who was obliged to go far to high intensity as a result of the direct game of the rival, known as "box to box" efforts.

Conclusions following this intervention suggest us that after a short period of recovery between matches (48-72 h), performance is not conditioned and likewise does not seem to increase the number of injuries as a result.

Practical aplications

All of these factors directly influence the planning and this is what makes this especial. We can say that planning faces from the collective to the individual, i.e., you must plan for the group as a whole by the need for specificity, but at the same time always have to treat players on the basis of the use that is made of them in the games, almost permanently creating two working groups in which applied content and common contents and other different or complementary. There is from this collective approach to individual needs based on the pitch position and finally according to the individual characteristics of each player.