Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Master of Science (Sports Science)


School of Exercise and Health Sciences


Faculty of Health, Engineering and Science

First Supervisor

Dr Fadi Ma'ayah

Second Supervisor

Associate Professor Anthony Blazevich


The physical and technical requirements of a range of small-sided football (soccer) games (SSGs) have previously been examined in order to compare their requirements to competitive match play. SSGs are used to combine the technical, tactical and physical components of normal match play in training in order to make the training sessions specific to football. However, most previous research has focused on youth players and it is known that the playing patterns, and thus session outcomes, are different for elite players. Consequently, research examining elite players is required in order to improve our understanding of the use of SSGs in professional football. The present body of research was implemented to investigate the physical, physiological and perceptual demands of SSGs (3v3 [i.e. three players on each of two teams], 6v6 and 8v8) over an entire season’s training and compare these demands to match play in twenty-three players of different playing position from an Australian A-League club. During match play the team adopted a modern 1-4-2-3-1 formation. The physical comparison included the following measurements: total distance (m), distance covered in high velocity running (speed > 4.16 m·s-1), total sprint distance (where speed > 6.93 m·s-1), number of repeated sprints efforts (≥3 sprints with <30-s inter-sprint recoveries), number of sub-maximal accelerations (acceleration > 1.79 m·s-2) and number of maximal accelerations (acceleration > 2.79 m·s-2). These were measured with the use of Global Positioning Systems. The physiological load was characterised as the mean heart rate expressed as a percentage of maximum heart rate (% HRmax), measured using heart rate monitors. Perceptual comparisons were made using each player’s Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) using the modified Foster model (0-10 scale). Significant differences were found among SSGs and match play in regards to physical variables, with SSGs eliciting a greater physical demand on players when compared to match play, for all variables except sprint distances. Furthermore, there were numerous large and moderate effect sizes discovered among playing positions, with wide midfielders and fullbacks typically producing the greatest number of high velocity runs, covering greater sprint distances and performing more repeated sprint efforts (RSE) during SSGs and match play. Central midfielders were found to cover the greater total distance and perform more sub-maximal accelerations, which would suggest they cover the greatest amount of distance at a moderate intensity. Finally, it was found that SSGs play a vital role in position specific training in football (with the addition of goalkeepers) and suggests that the demands on players are relative to match play. Although, additional drills are required to perform a greater number of high intensity efforts.