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Purpose:

The aim of this study was to examine the influence of the number of ball touches authorized per possession on the physical demands, technical performances and physiological responses throughout the bouts within 4 vs. 4 soccer small-sided games (SSGs).

Methods:

Twenty international soccer players (27.4 ± 1.5 y, 180.6 ± 2.3 cm, 79.2 ± 4.2 kg, body fat 12.7 ± 1.2%) performed three different 4 vs. 4 SSGs (4 × 4 min) in which the number of ball touches authorized per possession was manipulated (1 touch = 1T; 2 touches = 2T; Free Play = FP). The SSGs were divided in 4 bouts (B1, B2, B3 and B4) separated by 3 min of passive recovery. The physical performances, technical activities, heart rate responses, blood lactate and RPE were analyzed.

Results:

The FP rule presented greater number of duels, induced the lowest decreases of the sprint and high-intensity performances, and affected less the technical actions (successful passes and number of ball losses) from B1 to B4 as compared with 1T and 2T forms. Moreover, the SSG played in 1T form led to reach higher solicitation of the high-intensity actions while players presented more difficulty to perform a correct technical action.

Conclusions:

The modification of the number of ball touches authorized per possession affects the soccer player activity from the first to the last bout of SSG, indicating that the determination of this rule has to be precisely planned by the coach according to the objectives of the training.

Alexandre Dellal is with Olympique Lyonnais FC (Soccer), Lyon, France, and Tunisian Research Laboratory “Sport Performance Optimisation”—National Centre of Medicine and Science in Sport, El Menzah, Tunisia. Carlos Lago-Penas is with the Faculty of Sports Sciences, University of Vigo, Spain. Del P. Wong is with the Department of Health and Physical Education, Hong Kong Institute of Education, Hong Kong. Karim Chamari is with Tunisian Research Laboratory “Sport Performance Optimisation”—National Centre of Medicine and Science in Sport, El Menzah, Tunisia.