Physiological, perceptual and time-motion characteristics of man marking in small-sided soccer games
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Small-sided games (SSG) are a common training modality for soccer teams, and have been extensively researched in the literature. However, there are inconsistent findings regarding whether SSGs induce a sufficient intensity for optimal conditioning. Enforcing a man marking (MM) strategy during SSGs has been theorized to increase the intensity and running velocities of players. Currently, no study has quantified GPS-derived time-motion analysis data from MM SSGs. Hence, the purpose of this study was to compare the physiological, perceptual and time-motion characteristics of MM with non-man marking (NMM) in SSGs. Eight amateur players (mean age ± SD: 23.6 ± 3.3 years) participated in 2v2, 3v3 and 4v4 SSGs, with two repeats for NMM and MM for all three formats. Players were initially assessed for maximal aerobic speed, maximum heart rate (HR) and maximal sprint speed, with team allocation based upon results from initial testing and coach recommendations. Each session consisted of 4x4 min bouts, with 2 min passive recovery, during which players wore a HR monitor and GPS unit and reported their rate of perceived exertion (RPE). Average percentage HR (%HRave) induced small to moderate effects with MM compared to NMM (ES = 0.22 to 0.65), however great inter-individual differences renders assumptions unclear for 3v3 and 4v4. Comparisons between MM formats indicated a decrease in %HRave with increased player numbers (%Δ = 1.6-3.5%; ES = 0.39 to 0.86). Bout comparisons (NMM vs MM and player numbers (MM only)) for time spent ≥90% HRmax were predominantly unclear. Perceptual load increased with MM compared to NMM (%Δ = 6.7-17.6%; ES = 0.66 to 2.09), while increases in player numbers (MM only) reduced RPE scores (%Δ = 9.4-24.3%; ES = 1.14 to 3.61). 2 Time-motion characteristics revealed substantially greater total distance in MM irrespective of player number (%Δ = 6.8-14.7%; ES = 1.34 to 2.82). While only 3v3 MM elicited substantial differences compared to the NMM (%Δ = 21.2 ± 20.1; ES = 1.48 ± 1.27) for jogging (7-13 km/h), there were very likely increases in distances covered for both striding (13.1-17.8 km/h) (%Δ: 23.4-33.2; ES = 2.42 to 4.35), and high intensity running (HIR: 17.9-21 km/h) (%Δ: 47.3-104; ES = 0.91 to 1.68) for MM compared to NMM irrespective of player number. Comparing player numbers for striding revealed increased distances covered with increased player numbers (%Δ: 12.6-19.6; ES = 1.37 to 2.06), with similar findings identified for HIR (%Δ: 19.8-80.4; ES = 0.43 to 1.39). Player number comparisons (MM only) for maximum and average metabolic load (Pmax and Pave respectively) revealed predominantly unclear differences, while a very likely decrease occurred with Pmax and Pave for MM implementation in 2v2 (ES = -1.21 ± 0.71) and 4v4 (ES = -0.95 ± 0.5) respectively. In conclusion, this study demonstrates how MM substantially elevated perceptual load and distances covered when striding and running at high intensity regardless of player number. However, the lack of difference in internal load between MM and NMM, indicated by HR, suggests that SSGs with more players may not be prone to increased intensities.