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Original Research ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01738

Play-by-play network analysis in football

 Florian Korte1*,  Martin Lames1, Daniel Link1 and Johannes Groll1
  • 1Technical University of Munich, Germany

This study identifies dominant and intermediary players in football by applying a play-by-play social network analysis on 70 professional matches from the 1. and 2. German Bundesliga during the 2017/2018 season. Social network analysis provides a quantification of the complex interaction patterns between players in team sports. So far, the individual contributions and roles of players in football have only been studied at match-level considering the overall passing of a team. In order to consider the real structure of football, a play-by-play network analysis is needed that reflects actual interplay. Moreover, a distinction between plays of certain characteristics is important to qualify different interaction phases. As it is often impossible to calculate well known network metrics such as betweenness on play-level, new adequate metrics are required. Therefore, flow betweenness is introduced as a new playmaker indicator on play-level and computed alongside flow centrality. The data on passing and the position of players was provided by the Deutsche Fußball Liga (DFL) and gathered through a semi-automatic multiple-camera tracking system. Central defenders are identified as dominant and intermediary players, however, mostly in unsuccessful plays. Offensive midfielders are most involved and defensive midfielders are the main intermediary players in successful plays. Forwards are frequently involved in successful plays but show negligible playmaker status. Play-by-play network analysis facilitates a better understanding of the role of players in football interaction.

Keywords: performance analysis, Football, temporal networks, Flow centrality, intermediary player

Received: 30 Apr 2019; Accepted: 12 Jul 2019.

Edited by:

Daniel V. Barreira, University of Porto, Portugal

Reviewed by:

Gibson M. Praça, Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil
Hugo B. Sarmento, University of Coimbra, Portugal  

Copyright: © 2019 Korte, Lames, Link and Groll. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Mr. Florian Korte, Technical University of Munich, Munich, Germany,