The following analysis is simply to illustrate exactly where goals were scored from on the pitch and where each and every assist came from during the 2011/12 English Premier League season.
The conclusions that can be drawn from the following are useful during the decision making stages of tactical strategies. How compact should a defence be? How deep should a team ‘park the bus’? How should a team treat spaces in and around the box? ….
There is a consistency within the data of the 1066 goals scored during the 2011/12 season; ignoring Tim Howard’s freak like goal and others such as P.Cisse’s outrageous goal against Chelsea from wide left, the goals scored can be broken down into six individual zones in and immediately outside of the 18 yard box.
It may have come as no surprise that the majority of goals were scored from within the 18 yard box, perhaps you weren’t expecting quite so many to have been scored within the central area of the 18 yard box. It is safe to conclude that by defending the central areas in your own half, you can reduce the number of goals scored. But it is near impossible to draw any meaningful tactical analysis from the location of goals scored alone.
The location of assist provides invaluable information in how to defend particular areas of the field; how many goals occur due to crosses? how many from more centralised passing? how many goals occur as a direct result of a long ball from within your own half? Is allowing a cross from the byline more dangerous than from deep?
If crossing does indeed provide a large percentage of the goals, it is imperative that full backs prevent crosses from coming in and teams should strategically cover these areas defensively? On the contrary, if the majority of goals are a result of a more centralised passing approach, it may be appropriate to play with a more compact defence to congest central areas – this approach obviously works two fold in that you can now deal with crosses coming in with the number of bodies in defensive areas.
Should a team purposefully channel the opposition into wider areas and deal with the central areas with more urgency? Simply put, each and every tactical strategy deals with threats in an array of different ways.
It is difficult to propose an attacking approach from the data above (in comparison to defensive tactics), but one solution you can draw from the data is that a mixed approach will provide you with more opportunities to score; no team should rely too heavily on crossing (see Kenny Dalglish’s 2011 Liverpool team) or playing with a total lack of width.
The research carried out here has been conducted to suggest solutions tactically. However, without the context of your own playing style it is difficult to propose definitive solutions from the data.
It must be noted that even with the data above, a number of other factors are not counted for. For example it would make sense with the data alone to sit back and counter attack into spaces left behind, however, the data ignores just how many times the ball was won in more advanced roles and as a result led to goals employing this methodology.
Nevertheless, the data offers valuable insight if the context of your playing style is in place. The fact is that one in four goals is scored in a way that is unpredictable and uncontrollable (as if football can ever be predictable anyway – there’s always going to be a beach ball flying around somewhere!).
End note – the goals scored location appears consistent from the fast paced English Premier League and the slower build-up approach in the Campeonato Brasileiro de Clubes da Serie A 2010. More information this similar study is found on blog.statdna.com here: http://blog.statdna.com/post/2011/09/28/An-Optimal-Passing-Strategy-for-Soccer-Guest-Post-5.aspx
All of the data in this article was collected manually by TPiMBW by watching every single goal and assist of the 2011/12 season.
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