The purpose of this study was to analyse the different styles of play (counter-attack (CA), fast attack (FA) and positional attack (PA)) in the football teams of Manchester United (MU), F.C.I. Milano (IM) and FC Barcelona (BA). The sample included 36 games (660 offensive sequences) from the 2009/2010 sporting season. The design used in the present study was descriptive and was based on an observational methodology applied to the acquisition of data, using a specific instrument to observe the offensive process (Sarmento et al. Medicina (Kaunas) 2010;46:401–7). The study of the data reliability was calculated by the intra and inter observer agreement (Cohen's κ>0.9). The analysis of the results showed that the teams of IM and BA tended more often to adopt the PA to perform their offensive action, while the MU played significantly more often in CA (X2(2)=36.8; p=0.000; n=245). The zones more often used to recover the ball possession are those that belong to the midfielder defensive sector. However, when the teams performed CA, they tended to recover more balls in zone 5 (central) of the field, when compared to other styles of play. In all the offensive styles, the IM is the only team that performed more frequently the last pass and the end action in the same zones (central zones). Curiously, the teams of BA e MU present regular tendencies in the zones more often used to perform the last pass (left hand zones and right hand zones, respectively) and the last action (central zones) in the PA and in the FA, but present different tendencies in relation to the CA. The MU team scored more goals through the CA, and the IM and BA scored more goals through the PA Although some studies tended to prove which is the most efficient style of play, we think that the important thing is not the duration of the offensive sequences, the number of passes, or the velocity of the ball, but the obstacles that a team finds while attacking in its way.
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