New study by PD Dr. Daniel Link on the impact of the Corona pandemic on the structure of play in German soccer leagues

The "International Journal of Sports Medicine" provides a forum for the publication of articles that address both basic and applied information that advances the field of sports medicine and exercise science and provides a better understanding of biomedicine
Dr. Daniel Link, Private Lecturer at the Chair of Performance Analysis and Sports Informatics

How has the game of soccer changed as a result of the Corona pandemic? This question was addressed by a study conducted by the Chair of Performance Analysis and Sports Informatics, which examined the effects of the special competition conditions - in particular the lack of spectators - on the structure of the game in the Bundesliga and the 2nd Bundesliga. It was shown that tactical and physiological performance parameters as well as the contact behavior of the players changed.

The study was conducted by Dr. Daniel Link, a private lecturer at the Chair of Performance Analysis and Sports Informatics. The study, titled "How the COVID-19 Pandemic has Changed the Game of Soccer," was published in the "International Journal of Sports Medicine", which has an impact factor of 3.1.

The study was based on data from 1,863 Bundesliga and 2nd Bundesliga matches in the 2017/18 to 2019/20 seasons provided by the German Football League (DFL). "We had the opportunity to study player behavior on a globally unique database," said PD Dr. Link. "The study is based on player positions collected by up to 20 cameras around the pitch in each stadium," explained Gabriel Anzer, who supported the analysis of the data as an employee of DFL subsidiary Sportec Solutions AG.

Since performance parameters of soccer players are seasonally influenced by higher temperatures in the summer months, for example, the authors compared the data after the restart with that of the same match days in previous seasons. Based on player coordinates, the times when players were within two meters of each other were determined. It can be seen that these contact times tended to decrease both to teammates and opponents. The extent varies depending on the game situation: while contact times of the player in possession of the ball did not change in the last third, a decrease of 8.2 percent in the Bundesliga and 14.4 percent in the 2nd Bundesliga can be observed in the first two thirds of the field. "Of course, we can't look inside the players' heads, but that players tried to reduce contacts when they were not absolutely necessary in the game situation seems quite plausible," Link said.

Other results show changes in both tactical and physical areas. The impact on the 2nd Bundesliga is much greater here. "It is possible that the teams in the Bundesliga were better able to compensate for the new framework conditions," Link suspects. In the 2nd Bundesliga, the increased number of passes (+15.2 percent) could be interpreted as a tendency toward a faster passing game in the home ranks, with the intention of keeping the ball longer. This is matched by the lower number of overplayed opponents per pass (packing) (-14.7 percent), which also suggests a less risky game. The significantly higher success rate for long passes (+15.6 percent) is striking. The reason for this could have been that less pressure was exerted on the pass recipient (-8.6 percent).


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To the article „How the COVID-19 Pandemic has Changed the Game of Soccer” in the journal „International Journal of Sports Medicine“



PD Dr. Daniel Link
Chair of Performance Analysis and Sports Informatics
Georg-Brauchle-Ring 60/62
80992 München

phone: 089 289 24498
e-mail: Daniel.Link(at)

Text: Romy Schwaiger
Photos: "International Journal of Sports Medicine"/privat