BOFFINS on Wearside have quashed the worldwide football myth of “letting the ball do the work.”
New reseach by Sunderland University refutes the idea that world class players tire the opposition by keeping the ball, who will have to run further to regain possession.
The city’s research, being published in the Journal of Sports Science, shows pro footballers cover the same distances whether teams have the ball or not.
Academics looked at 810 English Premier League players in 54 matches with an equal amount of players from home and away sides, with data taken from the computerised tracking system.
Each individual player’s physical and technical performance was recorded, including how far they ran, the varying levels of intensity and how many passes they made.
Researchers found that no differences were observed for total distance covered by football teams with low percentage of ball possession and those who had the ball more often.
The trend continued when it came to high intensity running and sprinting.
Only last season Glasgow Celtic beat Champions League favourites Barcelona, despite only having approximately 16 per cent of ball possession.
Research showed running with the ball at a high-intensity was 31 per cent more by teams with a high percentage of possession than those with a low percentage.
In contrast, those teams with a high percentage of possession ran 22 per cent less at a high-intensity than those with a low percentage when they did not have the ball.
Dr Paul Bradley, a senior lecturer in sport and exercise science at the University of Sunderland, said: “We didn’t find any statistical difference in their physical exertions during the game.
“However, as expected the technical indicators did show superior differences between those that keep the ball, and those that don’t.
“The myth is that if you cover a large amount of distance then you tend to have a lower percentage of possession, but these findings show it isn’t the case at all.
“We always thought that there was truth in the old adage of let the ball do the work and let the other team chase after it, but it’s quite clearly not backed up by the facts.
“There’s less than one per cent difference between high and low percentage of possession football teams.
“They’re obviously superior in terms of how many passes they make, but not in distance.”