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Know Your League Context: Insights for Player Preparation & Recruitment – Part 1: Team Formations

The overall study (Parts 1-4) extracted the fixtures data of the top seven European leagues over the past two decades, representing 43 competitions, 269 teams and more than 61,000 fixtures.


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By Dr. Martin Buchheit, Maxime Settembre, Adrien Tarascon, Dr. Karim Hader, Adam Stokes, Dr. Allan Munro, Dr. Derek McHugh and Raymond Verheijen

With 250 million footballers playing in 200+ countries around the world, there’s a popular belief that football is played differently in each country given stereotypes like the English fighting spirit, Spanish toughness, French flair, German efficiency, and the like.

If these stereotypes are true, then understanding how football is played in each league can add context to a team’s foreign player recruitment process, help tailor player development, and better equip coaches preparing matches in European competitions.

But given the limited research on this topic to date, it’s difficult to ascertain whether there are indeed differences between leagues.

Comparing Between-League Differences

There is limited research available today looking at differences between leagues. To our knowledge, no one has examined between-league differences in team formations and player management. In Part 1 of this first-of-its-kind new study, we begin by looking at team formations and how these formations have evolved over the past two decades in the top seven European leagues, i.e., the English Premier League (EPL), the French Ligue 1, the German Bundesliga, the Dutch Eredivisie, the Italian Serie A, the Portuguese Liga and Spanish Liga.

Study Reveals First-Ever Findings on Team Formations and Player Management

The overall study (Parts 1-4) extracted the fixtures data of the top seven European leagues over the past two decades, representing 43 competitions, 269 teams and more than 61,000 fixtures. In Part 1 of this study published in here, you will learn:

Team Formations:

  • What were the most used formations over a 15-year period?
  • Do these formations differ by league?
  • What trends were observed and are they league-specific?
  • How often do teams change formations within a season?
  • Which formations are on the decline, and which formations are teams shifting to?
  • Do teams make adjustments in relation to their opponent’s formation? How does match context (i.e., home vs. away) affect this?

To find out the answers to these questions and to explore in detail the analysis, tables, and graphs based on this research, please read Part 1 of the study here. We encourage you to read the full paper to understand the approach, data sources, limitations, and practical applications behind this study.

Meanwhile, please feel free to reach out to one of our performance experts at to see how your performance science practices stack up.



  • Coaching & Development
  • Human Performance
  • PIRI
  • Soccer
  • Sports Performance Analysis

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