Tactical formation matchups associated with the outcome of soccer matches

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University of New Brunswick


PURPOSES: Though the link between statistics and outcome is well investigated in soccer, quantitative study of the interactions of differing formations via preferential occupation of space is underwhelming. This study aimed to provide statistical significance to long understood theories on formation favourability. METHODS: Every match played in Europe's top five leagues from 17/18 to 19/20 was analysed including each team's value for a series of outcome variables. ANCOVAs were run to determine statistical significance in formation favourability, using Team Quality as a covariate. RESULTS: Statistical significance was found in expected goals (xG), a measure of the quality of chances a team produces, (p <0.0001) and xG Against (p <0.0001) between the formations. 4-3-1-2 (1.42) ranked highest for xG whilst 4-2-2-2 (1.26) ranked lowest for xG against. Several formation matchups reported significant results. Most notably in xG for 4-1-4-1 (1.49) over 3-1-4-2 (1.23) (p <0.0001). CONCLUSIONS: Certain formations occupy space on a soccer pitch in a more favourable way to others. Those that generate overloads in midfield through pinning opposition defensive and attacking lines with as few players as possible tend to be more successful.