Dribbling speed predicts goal-scoring success in a soccer training game

THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK

The best attacking and most expensive players in professional soccer are those that can score a substantial number of goals. Identifying those traits that may predict goal scoring success should be of immense interest to players, coaches, talent scouts, and professional soccer clubs (Ali, 2011). Exploring the predictors of success in specific functions, such as goal-scoring success, requires the use of inter-individual analyses of performance. These analyses are commonly used in evolutionary biology (Kingsolver et al., 2001) and recent application in soccer have demonstrated their utility (Wilson et al., 2019). Dribbling speed is considered critical to the outcome of soccer matches, and a previous study (Wilson et al., 2019) showed that a multidimensional metric of dribbling speed was a strong predictor of individual attacking performance when the objective was to take on and beat a single defender. Similarly, dribbling speed seems to be a strong predictor of an individual’s goal scoring ability in more complex attacking scenarios which involve a defender, goalkeeper, and goal.

STUDY OBJECTIVES

To identify the athletic and technical traits associated with goal scoring success when an attacker competes against a single defender and/or a goalkeeper.

MAIN RESULTS

After obtaining data from dribbling, sprinting, and technical dribbling tests in 23 elite male junior players, the authors observed that:

  • Players with higher sprint speed were more likely to take on defenders and be better at beating them.
  • Players with higher dribbling speed were more likely to score goals and less likely to have their shot saved by goalkeepers. 
  • Players with higher dribbling speed were more likely to use their superior technical skills to shoot from better positions and/or be better shooters.
  • Although players with higher sprint speed – but not dribbling speed – appeared to be more proficient at beating defenders, this skill did not enhance their scoring success.
  • Better sprinters but not dribblers either shot from poorer positions or had poorer shooting accuracy.

CONCLUSIONS 

Dribbling speed is an important technical aspect, being able to discriminate between players from different playing levels. Focusing on identifying the best training methods to effectively improve dribbling skills seems to be a smart strategy for soccer coaches and players. Focusing on a technical skill like dribbling is likely to result in substantial improvements in player performance.

FSI STATEMENTS

  • Developing dribbling speed is of fundamental importance for scoring goals and team success in soccer.
  • Faster players are more efficient to beat defenders but are not necessarily those with higher dribbling speeds and shooting accuracy.
  • Tailored training strategies are necessary to develop dribbling speed from the youngest soccer categories.
  • Coaches and practitioners are encouraged to evaluate dribbling speed ability throughout the distinct stages of development of soccer players.
  • Sprinting and dribbling speeds should be simultaneously developed throughout the process of growth of soccer players in order to develop more efficient players.

Ali, A. (2011). Measuring soccer skill performance: a review. Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports, 21(2), 170-183.

Kingsolver, J. G., Hoekstra, H. E., Hoekstra, J. M., Berrigan, D., Vignieri, S. N., Hill, C. E., … &Beerli, P. (2001). The strength of phenotypic selection in natural populations. The American Naturalist, 157(3), 245-261.

Wilson, R. S., Smith, N. M., Ramos, S. D. P., Giuliano Caetano, F., Aparecido Rinaldo, M., Santiago, P. R. P., … & Moura, F. A. (2019). Dribbling speed along curved paths predicts attacking performance in match-realistic one vs. one soccer games. Journal of sports sciences, 37(9), 1072-1079.