Professional football players cover a total distance of 10-14km per game (1-3), including about 800m of high-intensity running (running speed > 19.8km×h-1 – 25.1km×h-1) and 300m of sprints (running speed > 25.2km×h-1)(2, 3).
There is a marked difference between each positional role and the distance they cover during a game. A study from the 2005-2006 Premier League season (2) shows that:
- Central defenders cover about 10km per game. They cover less distance in high-intensity running and sprints compared to all other positions.
- Full-backs cover about 10.7km per game. They cover more distance in high-intensity running and sprints compared to central defenders, more distance in sprints compared to central midfielders, but lower distance in high-intensity running and sprints compared to wide midfielders.
- Central midfielders cover about 11.5km per game. They cover a high distance in high-intensity running, but they have lower distance covered in sprints compared to full-backs and wide midfielders.
- Wide midfielders cover about 11.8km per game. They cover more distance in high-intensity running compared to all other positions, and sprint more than central defenders, full-backs and forwards.
- Forwards cover about 10.3km per game, and cover a high distance in both high-intensity running and sprints.
The positional differences in total distances covered, distance in high-intensity running and distance in sprints has shown to be similar between Premier League (2), Spanish Primera (4) and Italian Serie A (1).
Positional differences in Norwegian football
The positional differences in Norwegian elite football has shown to be similar to the numbers reported from English Premier League.
A recent Norwegian study (5) from a team playing in the Norwegian elite league Tippeliga has compared the distances covered for central positions (central defenders, central midfielders, forwards) and lateral positions (full-backs and wide midfielders), and found a significant difference between these two groups.
Figure 1. Total distance covered during a game, distance in high-intensity running (19.8km×h-1 – 25.1km×h-1) and distance in sprints (> 25.2km×h-1) for central and lateral postions. Data from reference (5).
Players in the lateral positions cover a higher total distance, distance in high-intensity running and distance in sprints compared to players in central positions.
These results suggests that lateral players might have a greater opportunity to express themselves compared to players in central positional roles. In addition, the team tactics could depend on lateral players to contribute more than central players both defensively and offensively, resulting in lateral players covering a larger distance in all running categories.
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