In Dutch sports media, there has been a discussion for over a week about how Ajax – but especially Tottenham – will play in the match of tonight. Will Tottenham go for the tactics of Real Madrid and Juventus, and thus give Ajax space to play their best game? Or will they go for the defensive playing style, and try to play on the counterattack? Discussing which tactics increase the chances of winning for Tottenham and Ajax is, of course, an interesting debate. But how do these tactics differ in the physical load that the players are exposed to?
Physical aspects of Tottenham-Ajax
When both teams opt for an open playing style, the tempo in the game will likely be high. The game will move from left to right, from back to front while allowing little time to recover between sprints. There will be constant movement over the field, while the player will cover large numbers of running meters (>15 km/h) and sprinting meters (>20km/h). Since there is little time to recover between sprints, the endurance capacity of the players will be essential to keep the pace until the end of the game.
If Tottenham opts for a defensive playing style, Ajax will have a higher percentage of ball possession on the half of Tottenham. This ‘decreases’ the playing area, which makes it important to perform short, explosive actions to get past your opponent. However, since the tempo of the game will likely be lower, this also allows for more time to recover between explosive actions (accelerations and decelerations). Therefore, explosive accelerations and decelerations will play a larger role in this playing style. However, one counterattack can make the difference between winning or losing the game. Resulting in close to maximal sprints for the players, exposing them to higher numbers of high intensity sprinting meters (>25km/h). Being able to perform short explosive actions and explosive sprints until the end of the game can make the difference in these games!
As we’ve seen above, the playing style of your opponent influences the demands placed upon your players. Therefore, you should physically prepare your players for different scenarios! When it is an open match, the focus will be shifted more towards recovering from sprints with little time between actions. Therefore endurance capacity will become more important in such games. If one of the teams goes for a defensive playing style, the focus will be more on performing explosive actions in smaller spaces, and being able to sprint close to your maximum speed in a counterattack while having more time to recover from these actions. Therefore, explosiveness becomes more important in these matches. It isn’t only about preparing for the tactics of the other team, it is also about being physically prepared to act upon the tactics of the other team!
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