Getting To Know Antonio Conte

antonioconte_1

It appears that it’s time to start paying attention to Chelsea again in the Premier League.

This time last season, as everyone remembers, the Blues were in the midst of a baffling and unexpected slide that saw them dip down toward the relegation zone by the midpoint of the campaign. José Mourinho was sacked, and while Chelsea righted the ship somewhat down the stretch, they were much too far out of contention to be relevant. The only question that remained was whether it would be a one-year aberration or a sign of trouble to come at Stamford Bridge.

We surely don’t have a definitive answer just yet but all early indications point to Chelsea being back on track. After three weeks of match play, the Blues are second in the league tables with nine points on a perfect 3-0-0 record and a plus-five goal differential. Only Manchester City has been more impressive from a numbers standpoint, with identical points and record but a plus-six differential. It’s still very early but only one other club (Manchester United) has won its opening three matches.

As a result, Chelsea is already being viewed as an EPL title challenger once more. The football betting odds at Betfair currently have the Blues at 5.5 to win the league, behind the two clubs from Manchester but ahead of everyone else. And those odds are only going to improve if they keep up their level of play against a tricky field of competitors throughout September.

But it’s how Chelsea has turned things around that’s most interesting. And really, there’s no other way to put it than that Antonio Conte already seems to deserve a tremendous amount of credit. The former Juventus player and manager, who’s also coached the Italian national team of late, signed on to man the resurgence at Stamford Bridge this past summer, and looks to be well suited indeed to Premier League play.

General Philosophy

From a philosophical standpoint, Conte is known as a manager who’s not afraid to share his opinions with players or upper management, and who puts a great deal of stock in preparation. The best way to describe him, as was done in Telegraph’s handy write-up of everything you need to know about Conte, is that he takes a no-nonsense approach. He’s known for having fallen out with Juventus ownership even after helping the team to return to glory following match fixing scandals, and he apparently doesn’t hesitate to berate even star players when he deems it necessary. Andrea Pirlo is quoted in the Telegraph piece essentially giving credit to Conte for knowing when to push his buttons with a hard-hitting but accurate critique.

In terms of his outlook on match preparation, Conte is recognised as something of a workaholic, for lack of a better term. Part of the “no nonsense” approach mentioned previously is that he plans in detail for each game, as opposed to relying purely on his own tactics or development to lead to success.

Tactics & Formation

Those tactics, however, are generally known to favour a 3-5-2 formation, which would be a little bit unusual in the Premier League. A thorough article questioning whether 3-5-2 could work for Chelsea described Conte’s Juventus teams in simple but apt terms: it was a cerebral team backed by power, pace, and skill. More specifically it was a squad backed by exceptional talent on the defensive end that could afford to keep just three players back, relying on Pirlo’s distribution and some creative and talented attackers to generate quick offensive pushes.

Many among the Chelsea faithful doubted whether a similar approach would work at Stamford Bridge – particularly after watching Louis van Gaal try and fail to implement something similar with Man Utd. in recent seasons. Perhaps, then, it shouldn’t be surprising that Conte has come out with something markedly different in the early going. The Blues appear to have favoured a 4-2-4 formation for the most part, and clearly it’s gone well.

A 4-2-4 asks a lot of the wingers, but as this is undeniably a position of strength for Chelsea, it appears that Conte has simply adjusted his tactics to take advantage of what he’s got. The formation showed itself off in a recent 3-0 win over Burnley in which Eden Hazard and Willian each scored while doing outstanding work out wide. Running a 4-2-4, the Blues are stable at the back while still being able to spread out opposing defenses, ultimately still using some of their top talents out wide to penetrate and attack the box. Again, it’s asking a lot of the wing players, but thus far they’ve been up to the task.

Time will tell how Conte settles in as manager at Stamford Bridge, given that we’re only in the beginning of September. But at this early stage his hard-nosed approach appears to have struck a cord with a team that’s visibly playing harder than a season ago, and the on-field strategy has been effective.

How coaching can benefit from performance analysis

Generally, performance analysis can be classified into two main categories: notational analysis and motion analysis. The two systems have different focuses. Notational analysis provides factual record about the position of the ball, the players involved, the action concerned, the time and the outcome of the activity, etc. Motion analysis focuses on raw features of an individual’s activity and movement, for example, identifying fatigue and measuring of work rate. For further details about motion analysis, please refer to my previous post. The two systems contribute for the performance analysis which has three main aims:

  1. Observing one’s own team’s performance to identify strengths and weakness
  2. Analysing opposition performance by using data and trying to counter opposing strengths and exploit weaknesses
  3. To evaluate whether a training programme has been effective in improving match performance

Performance analysis is not just about analysing matches and games. It is essential in the training programme to help coaches improve players’ performance. The following figure shows the coaching cycle.

coaching cycle

Figure 1. The coaching cycle

Performance analysis plays a key role in this cycle. Starting from the top, “Performance” means the performance in the game or training. “Observation” can be from the coach or video camera. Since research indicates that coaches are able to recall fewer than half of the key incidents that arise during the game, video camera is a better way which can record all the key events (actions and movements) for further analysis. In “Analysis”, it means analysis of data which include data management. For example, using performance analysis software to code the game, editing footages from the camera, extraction of data from data provider, etc. These are the areas in which the performance analyst spent most of the time. The product of this “analysis” stage can be statistical analysis and video recordings. In “Interpretation”, it can be put in two ways according to my experience. It could be done by coach or performance analyst. Some analysts have the authorisation from coach to interpret the data and then write a report or make a presentation to the coach or team. Some coaches just want the data from performance analysts and the coaches will interpret the data by themselves. It really depends on the coaches’ preference and the partnership between the analyst and the coach. After that, “planning” means the coach plan what to do after knowing what went wrong or which part the team did well. The coaches have to evaluate the performance prior to this planning stage. Otherwise, he doesn’t know how to improve the team’s performance in the next match. In most of the cases, it means the planning of the coaching session using the result of the performance analysis. “Preparation” means the execution of those coaching session in the training so prepare the team for the coming game. It will go back to the “Performance” stage and the whole cycle keep going.

In my opinion, performance analysis plays a key role in three stages in this cycle: “observation”, “analysis” and “interpretation”.

Reference

CARLING, C. et al., 2005. Handbook of Soccer Match Analysis. Oxon:  Routledge

Football Basics – Factors to be considered in attacking by crossing

In my opinion, there are 5 factors to be considered in attacking by crossing:

  1. The space available
  2. The position of the defending players
  3. The position of the attacking players
  4. Technique for crossing the ball
  5. How to attack the crossed ball

1. Space Available

Space has two different meanings in this factor. Firstly, it means the space in the prime target area. As I mentioned last week, the crosses hitting to the back of the defence is the best option because it is difficult for the defenders to clear. Therefore, if there is space in the prime target area, the ball should be crossed into that space as soon as possible. Secondly, the second meaning is about the space available on the flank for the winger to make a cross. In other words, it is hard for the winger to cross the ball if he is tightly marked and he has no space at all.

2. The position of the defending players

In this factor, there are 3 types of defenders to be considered:

  • Defenders in the prime target area
  • Immediate opponent: the defender’s marking will affect the timing and technique of the cross
  • Goalkeeper: it will affect the placement of the delivery of the ball. Firstly, the position of the ball affects the position of goalkeeper. The nearer the ball is to the Goalkeeper; the more likely it is that the goalkeeper will be in the front half of his goal.

ball and GK 1 (1) with colour

In the above figure, the ball is in the wide area (red) so the goalkeeper (blue) stands near to the near post.

 ball and GK 1 (2) colour

In the above figure, the ball (red) is in a deeper area so the goalkeeper stands further from the near post and goal line.

No doubt, if the goalkeeper is covering the near post, it would be better to cross the ball into the far post of the prime target area because the goalkeeper can’t see the players in the far post, vice versa.

3. The position of the attacking players

After considering both space available and the position of the defenders, the next thing is to consider the position of the attacking players because they are the players to exploit the space. There is no point in crossing the ball to space without attacking players to take advantage of it

4. Technique for crossing the ball

The best technique in crossing the ball is a swerve kick with the inside of the foot because of two reasons:

  1. The swerve will tend to take the ball away from GK
  2. It let the player put considerable pace on the ball without sacrificing accuracy

5. How to attack the crossed ball

In this factor, there are 3 things to be considered:

  • Angle: it should be at least 90 degrees to end up with a good shot. In 90 degree, the player comes across the line of flight. With even greater angle, the player has a better angle to see the ball which makes him a better chance of making a good contact with the ball.
  • Timing: the attacking players should come late but at speed. A common mistake of strikers is that they go into the target area too early. It gives time for the defenders to recover their positions and deny the space available of strikers. This is a clip I find on youtube which shows a good timing of attack from Ronaldo. The cross was made by Beckham.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F6QyPrwDwko
  • The contact: the contact should be the top half of the ball because the aim is to drive the ball downwards to make it more difficult for the goalkeeper to save it. In terms of which part of the body should be used, I prefer using the head rather than the feet because it requires little adjustment to the running stride.

Reference

HUGHES, C., 1987. Soccer Tactics and Skills. Great Britain: Queen Anne Press

HUGHES, C., 1990. The Winning Formula. London: William Collins Sons & Co Ltd

Football Basics – Crossing

Why crosses are essential?

When a team attacks in the attacking third, there are two ways to attack generally: central attacks and flank attacks. Due to the importance of zone 14, the majority of the defenders would concentrate on defending the central area. The defenders’ aim is to deflect attack toward the flanks which is away from the danger area (zone 14). As a result, a good attacking team should be able to attack effectively down the flanks. The two flanks are the areas where a team can expect to find most space in the attacking third of the field.

crosses

Figure 1. Organisation chart showing the options of attacking in the final third

Generally, I divide flank attacks into three main categories:

  1. Crossing from the goal-line (It happens usually when the winger beats the defender(s) by dribbling or pace and run towards the goal-line)
  2. Wing crosses (The crosses are from the wide or deep area along the touch line)
  3. Diagonal passes (It can be classified as passing or crossing because I think it is a combination of both depending on where the pass is made. It is very similar to crossing when it is used in flank attacks from wide areas to exploit the space between the rearmost defender and the goalkeeper)

What is the prime target area?

Charles Hughes suggested the concept of “prime target area” for the wingers to cross the ball. He argued the most successful type of crosses is to cross the ball to the back of the defense and into the prime target area. The prime target area extends out 8 yards, from 2 yards inside the 6-yard box to the penalty spot, and across 20 yards, the width of the 6-yard box.

prime target area Figure 2. The prime target area (red) in the penalty box

Where to release the ball?

There are three different positions to release the ball in crossing: goal-line, wide area and deep area.

Goal line:

goal line Figure 3. The goal-line area to deliver crosses

This area is just inside or outside the penalty area near the goal line. As mentioned before, it is difficult for the winger to get into this area unless he can beat the defenders by dribbling or by pace. Moreover, it is rarely possible for the winger to play the ball to the back of the defense because the defenders will position themselves in and around the 6-yard box

Wide area:

wide

Figure 3. The wide area to deliver crosses

This area is within a few yards of the touch line and next to the penalty box. Usually the winger makes cross on the run without halting his stride.

Deep area:

deep

Figure 3. The goal-line area to deliver crosses

This area is just inside the attacking third of the field. Therefore, it is more suitable for the full backs to cross the ball.

The organisation chart in figure 1 is a guideline for the topics I am going to cover in the following few weeks. Since zone 14 was discussed before, I will focus on three types of flank attacks.

Reference

HUGHES, C., 1987. Soccer Tactics and Skills. Great Britain: Queen Anne Press

HUGHES, C., 1990. The Winning Formula. London: William Collins Sons & Co Ltd

Football Basics – The passing check list

The concept of passing check list was suggested by Charles Hughes in the book “The Winning Formula”. Before explaining the check list, it is worthy to understand more about his philosophy of how to play football.

Football is a space invasion game. If the team can’t bring the ball forward to invade the space in opponent’s half or defending third, they can’t score. Therefore, his philosophy is that the player should always try to play the ball forward whenever possible. He thought attitude (positive or negative) is the key difference between success and failure. Forward passing is only one of the ways to achieve this goal. For instance, the player can make a shot, dribble or run with the ball to play the ball forward also. He argued direct play embodies a positive attitude and possession play (movements with high numbers of consecutive passes) embodies a negative attitude. The following table briefly summarises his thought in comparing direct play with possession play:

Possession Play

Direct Play

  • Playing to avoid defeat
  • Fear of losing the ball
  • Playing to win
  • Desire to score

As a result, he made a passing check list to explain his philosophy and give a guideline to players how to play forward whenever possible. The check list is in order of priority from an attacker’s point of view.

Passing Check list:

  1. A pass into space behind the defence
  2. A pass to the feet of the most advanced attacker
  3. A pass beyond at least one defender
  4. A cross-field pass to switch the line of attacker
  5. A pass backwards to a supporting player

1. A pass into space behind the defence:

This type of pass is in the top of the priority list because it can cause the defenders more problems. After the pass, the defenders are not facing the ball anymore, they have to turn around and run towards their goal. There are three ways to execute this type of passing.

1.1   between the centre back and the full back – straight pass

straight

  • centre forward makes a diagonal forward run
1.2   between the centre back and the full back – diagonal pass

diagonal

  • ball is played diagonally from central position for winger to run into space behind full back
1.3   diagonal pass over the head of defenders

diagonal over head

  • The aim is to invade the space behind defenders for centre forward or winger making forward runs

2. Passing to feet of the most advanced attacker

  • It is played behind most of the opponents in order to make them turn around and retreat

3. Other forward pass (beyond at least one defender)

  • The attacker should play the ball past as many opponents as possible (Penetration)
  • The defenders have to adjust their positions after that.

4. Switching the attack

If the attack is on one side and there are too many players congested in a tight area, it means there will be space on the other side. The attackers should be ready to exploit it.

5. Passing back – the last resort (to supporting player)

The supporting player should have the time, space and field of vision to play the ball forward

My opinion

I agree with the theory about the passing check list but I don’t totally agree with his thoughts about direct play and possession play. I don’t think possession play is playing to avoid defeat. Instead, possession play can be used with positive attitude to penetrate the defence of opponent. Possession play can be interpreted as looking for the best chance to attack and they will attack it directly when the opportunity comes. However, some teams do pass the ball around for the sake of keeping the ball but not creating shots. It all depends on the interpretation of the team. A good example is the comparison of Barcelona and Swansea which was claimed to be British football’s Barcelona. Both teams are possession based but the key difference is the penetration in/ into the attacking third. Barcelona is using possession play to attack whenever possible but Swansea is using possession play to contain the opposition which is a defensive measure. For example, in the game v Hull City on Dec 9, 2013, Swansea had 67% of play in the middle third with only 1 shot on target in the first half (Telegraph, 2013). Another example is the stats of action zones from whoscore.com, Swansea have 25% in defending third and 26% in attacking third. On the other hand, Barcelona have 22% in defending third and 31% in attacking third. The stats illustrate the different approaches of both teams even they are both using possession play. There are many posts highlighting the problem of Swansea’s possession play football (e.g. Swansea’s set-up this season, A Breakdown Of Swansea’s Away Form In 2012/13, Possession Key To Swansea’s Relative Success, etc).

In conclusion, I don’t think there is a clear line between possession play and direct play. Moreover, there is no contradiction between them. A team can be possession based and play directly to attack the space when the opportunity comes. It is still a positive attitude. On the other hand, if a team keep making long pass directly from the defending third to attacking third with no accuracy when they face pressure, I think it is a negative attitude as they fear to lose the ball in their own third so they just clear the ball (or pass with no accuracy). The passing check list is a good guideline for players no matter which style of play their team use.

Reference:

HUGHES, C., 1987. Soccer Tactics and Skills. Great Britain: Queen Anne Press

HUGHES, C., 1990. The Winning Formula. London: William Collins Sons & Co Ltd

SINGH, A., 2012. Possession Key To Swansea’s Relative Success [online][viewed 25 December 2013]. Available from: http://thinkfootball.co.uk/archives/1347

SHUDDERTOTHINK, 2012. A Breakdown Of Swansea’s Away Form In 2012/13 [online][viewed 25 December 2013]. Available from: http://bitterandblue.sbnation.com/2012/10/26/3547056/a-breakdown-of-swanseas-away-form-in-2012-13

TELEGRAPH, 2013. Swansea City v Hull City: live [online][viewed 25 December 2013]. Available from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/competitions/premier-league/10500392/Swansea-City-v-Hull-City-live.html

THE INSIDER RIGHT, 2013. Swansea’s set-up this season [online][viewed 25 December 2013]. Available from: http://theinsideright.com/swansea-vs-liverpool/

Football Basics – Lofted pass techniques

Why use lofted pass?

Although ground passes are easier for the receiver to control the ball, there are some occasions that the only way to exploit space behind opponents is to loft the ball over defenders’ head. For example, if the back four defend well like a wall in front of the goal, then the only way to attack the space behind the back four is to loft the ball into the penalty area. Moreover, a good lofted pass can attack the space quickly. A good example was Dennis Bergkamp’s goal vs. Argentina in the 1998 World Cup. The long lofted pass was made by Frank De Boer.

Which basic techniques can be used?

There are three basic techniques: lofted drive, volley and chip. The following organisation charts shows the details of the techniques.

Air pass organisation chartFigure 1. Organisation charts showing the basic techniques of lofted pass

The following tables summarise the advantages and disadvantages of different types of techniques:

Lofted Drive:

Contact surface & approach Advantages Disadvantages
1. Instep – slightly angled  approach
  • > 40 yards
  • With considerable pace, giving little chance to recover
  • Ball not rise steeply, difficult to clear defenders nearby (<10 yards)
2. Instep – wided-angled approach

wide angle

  • >40 yards
  • Not difficult to control
  • Possible to put backspin
  • Steeper trajectory
  • Can’t be hit with as much pace as some other methods. Therefore, defenders have more time to adjust position when the ball is in flight
3. Outside of the foot

outside

  • >40 yards
  • With pace
  • Can be swerved away from defenders, making interceptions more difficult
  • Difficult to control
  • Not rise steeply
  • The ball will continue to roll away after pitching, difficult to judge the pace of the pass into space
4. Inside of the foot

inside

  • >40 yards
  • With pace
  • Be swerved away from defenders
  • Be swerved into path of attacker
  • Easy to control
  • Rise reasonably steeply
  • The ball will continue to roll away after pitching, difficult to judge the pace of the pass into space

Volley Pass:

Contact surface & approach Advantages Disadvantages
1. Straight approach

volley straight

  • Over the heads of opponents who are a few yards from the ball
  • Played early
  • Long distances
  • With pace
  • Can be “dipped” by imparting topspin to the ball
  •  Difficult to control accuracy
  • Difficult to control pace
2. Sideway approach

volley sideway

  • Over the heads of opponents who are a few yards from  the ball
  • Long distances
  • With pace
  • Played early
  • Even more difficult to control accuracy
  • Difficult to control pace

Chip Pass:

Contact surface & approach Advantages Disadvantages
1. Straight approach

chip

  • Because of the backspin, the ball will rise very steeply.
  • Able to clear the heads of opponents only 5,6 yards from the ball
  • Possible to stop the ball in a small space because of backspin
  • Only 20-25 yards
  • Players running on to the pass may find the ball difficult to control as they would be moving against the spin

Reference:

Netherlands – Argentina: Bergkamp Goal 1998 (HD), 2010 [online video]. By Frank de Jong. [viewed 23 December 2013]. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XsZkCFoqSBs

HUGHES, C., 1987. Soccer Tactics and Skills. Great Britain: Queen Anne Press

HUGHES, C., 1990. The Winning Formula. London: William Collins Sons & Co Ltd

Football Basics – Ground pass techniques

There are five basic techniques could be used to execute a ground pass. The following table summarises the advantages and disadvantages of different types of techniques:

Type Advantages Disadvantages
1. Inside of the foot – Pushpush
  • Offers the best accuracy because of the large surface of the boo presented to the ball
  • Easy for defenders to predict
  • Difficult to generate power so it is unsuitable for long passing
  • Difficult to execute on the run because it is impossible to position correctly without interrupting the stride pattern
2. Instep (laces)instep
  • Easy to disguise intentions
  • Possible to add power and pace to make it available both for long passing and shooting
  • Can be made while running
  • It is a difficult technique to be executed
3. Outside of the foot – flickoutside flick
  • To be made with the minimum of the foot movement and maximum of disguise
  • Only be used over short distances
4. Outside of the foot – swerveoutside swerve
  • To be used to bend the ball around an opponent
  • Over long distance so it is a valuable shooting technique
  • Be used when running
  • Draw the ball away from the goalkeeper when crossed from a flank
  • The more swerve required, the more difficult it is to execute this technique
5. Inside of the foot – swerveinside
  • Bent around an opponent
  • Be used over short and long distances
  • The ball can easily be lifted a few inches over a defender’s outstretch legs
  • Great deal of swerve can be imparted
  • Draw the ball away from goalkeeper when crossed from the flank
  • Never go straight, always be spinning, possibly making control more difficult

The best footage I can think of to show the execution of the ground passes to create a goal is the second goal of Argentina vs. Serbia & Montenegro at the 2006 World Cup. Most of the passes involved were ground passes and some of the techniques they used are not covered in these 5 basic techniques (e.g. back heel pass).

Reference:

Argentina 25 passes goal, 2006 [online video]. By kwanbis. [viewed 23 December 2013]. Available from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q5W6vBI3mGE

HUGHES, C., 1987. Soccer Tactics and Skills. Great Britain: Queen Anne Press

HUGHES, C., 1990. The Winning Formula. London: William Collins Sons & Co Ltd

Football Basics – Passing

In the role of a football performance analyst, IT skill is one of the necessary skills in the skill set. However, it shouldn’t be over-emphasised. If what you are doing everyday is video tagging to clip and code the game footage, and then produce individual clips for individual players and coaches (e.g. putting all the shot clips together for the striker). Can you consider yourself as an analyst? Are you really analysing the game? It is a topic covered by some posts (e.g. Video Editor v Performance Analyst). My view is that a football performance analyst should do much more than that to analyse the game. For example, performance analyst should have some knowledge about data management and statistical analysis in my opinion. However, in order to analyse the game, should the analyst have some basic football knowledge also? Some posts have covered the overlapping area between the coach and the analyst (e.g. Should all coaches be analysts?). I firmly believe a football coach has a higher potential to be a better performance analyst because of the football knowledge. Therefore, I have decided to set up a new category called “Basics” in the website. “Basics” means football basics and my aim is to cover football knowledge about various techniques, principles of play and tactical knowledge, system of play (formation), etc. Apart from using text, I will use lots of diagrams and videos to explain the technical points in football.

Why passing is so important?

The first topic I choose for this new category is passing because it is very important in a football game. It is one of the two techniques used most frequently – controlling and passing the ball. When a player receives the ball, over 80% of occasions he will pass the ball to a teammate and on other occasions he will either shoot or dribble (Hughes, 1987). The FA emphasised the importance of passing by considering the technical demands of the game in the book “The Future Game” (FA Learning, 2010).

the-future-game

These are some key statistics mentioned in the book about passing:

  • More teams at the highest level now value the retention of possession, with leading teams often dominating possession in the ratio of approximately two to one (or 65% to 35%)
  • Players regularly reach 80% pass success, with some players in the world class level having pass success rates of 90% and above
  • 20% more passing and receiving situation during games comparing with 2002
  • One-touch passing: Champions League teams are creating as many as 50% of their goals with one touch passing sequences before the final strike at goal

To know more about passing, we can refer to the technical definition from the academic study (Ford et al, 2004):

Pass: player in possession sends the ball to a teammate (e.g. using the foot, thigh or chest; using various techniques such as ground, lofted, chip, flick or volley; over short or long distances)

There are different views to identify what a successful pass is. Some people said as long as a teammate has a touch of the ball then it is a successful pass (even the touch is bad and they lose possession). Another view suggests that the pass is successful if possession is retained (Carling et al., 2005). I prefer the latter definition.

Regarding the distance of the pass, Hughes (1987) suggested that short passes are 30 yards or less and long passes are more than 30 yards.

Generally, I divide passing techniques into two groups: ground pass and loft pass. There are many technical points to cover in these two passing techniques so I will leave it to next week. In conclusion, it is just a starting point of the new category. I will keep writing posts in other categories also. If you want me to talk about any particular topic, please feel free to leave the comment.

Reference:

CARLING, C., WILLIAMS, A.M., & REILLY, T., 2005. Handbook of Soccer Match Analysis. London: Routledge

Carroll, R., 2012. Should All Coaches Be Analysts? [online][viewed 6 November 2012]. Available from: http://thevideoanalyst.com/should-all-coaches-be-analysts/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+thevideoanalyst+%28thevideoanalyst.com%29

Carroll, R., 2013. Video Editor v Performance Analyst [online][viewed 12 September 2013]. Available from: http://thevideoanalyst.com/video-editor-v-performance-analyst/

FA LEARNING, 2010. The Future Game. Great Britain: FA Learning

FORD, P., WILLIAMS, M., & BATE, D., 2004. A quantitative analysis of counter attacks from the defensive third. Insight, 7(3), 29-32

HUGHES, C., 1987. Soccer Tactics and Skills. Great Britain: Queen Anne Press

OXFORDSHIRE FA, 2013. The-future-game [digital image][viewed 12 November 2013]. Available from: http://www.oxfordshirefa.com/~/media/countysites/oxfordshirefa/images/boxes%20300×290/the-future-game.ashx?w=300&h=290

Time Analysis of Championship teams

There are 337 Championship goals (updated to 17/10/2013). By analysing the time at which goals are scored during match play, the characteristics of the teams could be shown. The 90 minutes game was divided into six 15-min periods. The upward trend shown in the following chart fits the findings of researchers (Jinshan et al., 1993; Reilly, 1996) and the time analysis I did for League 2 last season. Moreover, it is worthy to note that more goals were scored before the end of halves. Therefore, there is a small upward trend in each half of the game.

time analysis of Championship teams

The following table shows the number of goals scored in six periods of different teams. The data were shown in a Red-Yellow-Green colour scale. That means, the higher number would be highlighted by red and the lower number would be highlighted by green for better visualisation of the data.

table of goals

Generally, most of the teams scored more goals in the second half which fit the general trend. However, Ipswich is an exception as they scored the most goals (5 goals) in the first 15 mins of the game. The following video shows these 5 early goals of Ipswich.

Burnley is a team showing a speical characteristic that they are strong in scoring before the end of halves. They scored 6 and 5 goals before the end of first half and full time. These number are remarkably more than the number of goals they scored in other time slots. The following video shows these 11 goals Burnley scored before the end of halves.

Watford scored the most goals (7 goals) in the last 15 mins of the game while Sheff Wed and Doncaster are the only teams which haven’t scored any late goal at the moment. There is an interesting fact that Doncaster haven’t scored any early goal in the first 15 mins of the game also.

However, if we just count the goals scored, it is not showing the whole picture of analysis because stronger teams scored more goals. If we want to analyse more in depth, we have to convert these data into percentage. The following table shows the same set of data in percentage form.

table of percentages

Charlton has their characteristic that they are partcularly strong when they started their second half. 50% of their goals were scored in the first 15 mins of the second half. The following videos shows these 4 early goals in the second half of the game.

Blackpool, Wigan and Yeovil are the similar teams which relied heavily on the last 15 mins to score goals. These three teams had more than 40% of their goals scored in this time slot.

Blackpool is the only team having less than 10% of goals in 4 time slots. In other words, nearly 80% of their goals were scored in 16-30 mins and 76-full time. It could be a useful stats for the team playing against Blackpool to decide when to put more effort to defend. The following video shows the 6 goals (46%) Blackpool scored in the last 15 mins.

Yeovil is another extreme example. They haven’t scored any goal in 2 time slots (16-30, 45-60) but they scored 50% of their goals in the last time slot. The team playing against them should pay extra attention to the last 15 mins of the game. The following video shows the 3 goals (50%) Yeovil scored in the last 15 mins.

Reference

Jinshan et al., 1993. Analysis of the goals in the 14th World Cup. In: J. C. a. A. S. T. Reilly, ed. Science and Football II. London: E. and F.N. Spon, pp. 203-205.

Reilly, T., 1996. Motion analysis and physiological demands. In: T. Reilly, ed. Science and Soccer. London: E. and F.N.Spon, pp. 65-81.

What is “Zone 14” in football?

Through the introduction of football performance analysis, football games has been analysed in many ways. Zone 14 was classified as the “golden square” in the pitch which helps teams score more goals. It was supported by evidences showing that successful teams had a better performance in zone 14. In this post, the two examples used would be France (1998-2000) and Manchester United (1998-1999).

Where is Zone 14?

By dividing the field into a six-by-three grid, there are 18 zones on the pitch. Zone 14 is the zone located in the middle of the pitch immediately outside the penalty area appears crucial for goal scoring (Taylor et al., 2002). It is shown in the following diagram.

zone 14 in 18 zones

The location of Zone 14 (Grant et al., 1998)

Why is Zone 14 so important?

It is one of the key factors to differentiate the successful and unsuccessful teams (Grant et al., 1998). Other researchers had the same result showing that successful teams attack through the centre of the field more effectively than less successful teams (Grant, 2000; Horn and Williams, 2002).

Generally, there are 4 key points that successful teams were found to play in Zone 14:

  1. More passes to all zones to the side and ahead of zone 14 (Horn et al., 2002)
  2. More forward passes from and within zone 14 (Horn et al., 2002)
  3. To make more passes in zone 14 compared with unsuccessful teams (Grant et al., 1998)
  4. To generate attempts on goal from possession regained in zone 14 (Horn et al., 2002)

The first example is France national team (1998-2000). In July 2000, France became the first nation to win the European Championship (2000) as World Champions (1998).

 France Euro 2000

France National Team in Euro 2000 (BBC Sport, 2012)

It was found that 81.3% of their assists in two competitions came from the central area (Horn et al., 2000). In other words, France’s attacking play was narrow. Another finding showed that the majority of France’s attempt at goal came from assists in central attacking area just outside the penalty area (Horn et al., 2000).

The second example is Manchester United FC (1998-99), which was the first English side to win Premiership, F.A. Cup and European Champions League in the same season.

Manchester United 1999

Manchester United 1999 (Sawh, 2010)

Grant and Williams (1999) did a research on this team and found that passing was the most common form of assist. Moreover, the majority of passing assists came from central attacking area.

What is Zone 14?

The above findings gave a brief idea what zone 14 is. Different researches have their own view but generally their opinions were very similar. Grant et al. (1998) argued that Zone 14 is the attacking midfielder area which is the crucial area for producing successful attack. Horn et al. (2000) and Taylor et al. (2002) both argued that Zone 14 is the key area which produces vast majority of passing assist. Grant and Williams (1999) did not mention zone 14 but they found that passing is the most common form of assist and the majority of passing assists came from central attacking area. In fact, some coaches know the importance of this zone but they refer it by using another name “The Hole”. However, from the perspective of performance analysis, the researchers had brought forward the understanding of how it works (Telegraph, 2002), which is shown in the following paragraph.

How to use Zone 14 effectively?

Effective use of Zone 14 must be combined with positive, forward passing and tight possession from the back of the field (Telegraph, 2002). The keywords are “positive, forward passing” which lead to the next question “where the ball should be passed?”  According to the Horn et al. (2002), teams were more than 4 times more likely to score goals by playing directly into the penalty area than playing laterally to the wings. In other words, fewer goals would be scored through possession leaving zone 14 to the wide areas. Possession time is another reason why the ball leaving zone 14 should be passed into the penalty area directly. Horn et al. (2002) found that the ball was kept in zone 14 for 2.7 seconds in average in order to score a goal. If the possession lasts over 8 seconds, then it won’t produce an attempt on goal. That means quick attack is a key point in using zone 14. No doubt, moving the ball laterally rather than forward into the penalty area is likely to introduce more passes and longer time in possession, then the threat of zone 14 would be neutralised.

Who is Zone 14 for?

The zone 14 is effective only when exploited by a skilful player who can quickly change the direction of attack with a short pass or twisting run lasting no more than 8 seconds (Horn et al., 2002). Therefore, the players with the ability to play in zone 14 are highly technical. They should be the players that were regarded as the most exciting to watch. Grant et al. (1998) mentioned Zidane and Bergkamp as examples.

Zidane

Zinedine Zidane (Rascojet, 2011)

Here is an example showing Zidane’s play in Zone 14:

Arsenal v Ajax

Dennis Bergkamp (The FA, 2013)

Here is an example showing Bergkamp’s play in Zone 14:

Balance

Although Zone 14 is so important in attacking, it doesn’t mean that teams should not make crossing from both flanks. Crossing is a very effective way to produce goals also. In fact, Grant (2000) found that successful teams are effective at using crosses to score goals. The key point is that teams should avoid using zone 14 to attack wide areas, which is proved in previous findings. Instead of using short wide passes from zone 14, teams should switch the ball across the whole field, or move the ball forward all the way down one side to attack flanks and make crossing (Horn et al., 2002). In the example of Manchester United (1998-99), it was found that the team was able to make flank attack and have the ability to penetrate through central attacking area (Grant and Williams, 1999). In the France team (1998-2000), their attacking play was very narrow so there were not many crossing assists.

Conclusion

Zone 14 is located outside the penalty area. It is a factor to differentiate successful and unsuccessful teams because it provides most assist. The most effective way to use zone 14 is to make a forward passing into the penalty area. Moreover, the attacking play should be quick. The possession in zone 14 should not be more than 8 seconds. The importance of flanks attack should not be ignored because a successful team should be able to make both attacking styles.

In my opinion, the best way is to attack through zone 14 first as it is more effective. If they can’t penetrate through the central attacking area, then they attack the wide areas.

References

BBC Sport, 2012. Euro 2000: The French Revolution [digital image] [viewed 17 August 2013]. Available from: http://news.bbcimg.co.uk/media/images/60195000/jpg/_60195604_81575581.jpg

GRANT, A. & WILLIAMS, M., 1999. Analysis of the Final 20 matches played by Manchester United in the 1998-99 season. Insight, 1(3), 42-44

GRANT, A., 2000. Ten Key Characteristics of Successful Team Performance. Insight, 3(4), 26-27

GRANT, A., T. REILLY, M. WILLIAMS & A. BORRIE, 1998b. Analysis of the Successful and Unsuccessful Teams in the 1998 World Cup. Insight, 2(1), 21-23

HORN, R. & M. WILLIAMS, 2002. A Look Ahead to World Cup 2002: What Do the Last 40 Years Tell Us? Insight, 5(2), 26-29

HORN, R., M. WILLIAMS & A. GRANT, 2000. Analysis of France in World Cup 1998 and Euro 2000. Insight, 4, 40-43

HORN, R., WILLIAMS, M., & ENSUM, J., 2002. Attacking in Central Areas: A Preliminary Analysis of Attacking Play in the 2001/2002 F.A. Premiership Season. Insight, 5(3), 31-34

Rascojet, 2011. Zidane [digital image] [viewed 17 August 2013]. Available from: http://www.rascojet.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/Zidane.jpg

Sawh, M., 2010. manchester_united_1999 [digital image] [viewed 17 August 2013]. Available from: http://sackthemanager.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/manchester_united_1999_cham.jpg

TAYLOR, S., J. ENSUM & M. WILLIAMS, 2002. A Quantitative Analysis of Goals Scored. Insight, 5(4), 28-31

The FA, 2013. dennis-bergkamp-testimonial [digital image][viewed 17 August 2013]. Available from: http://www.thefa.com/~/media/Images/TheFAPortal/News%20Articles/2013/dennis-bergkamp-testimonial.ashx?w=620&h=349&c=facupgallery&as=1

THE TELEGRAPH, 2002. Scientists find football’s golden square [online]. Available from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/3028353/Scientists-find-footballs-golden-square.html

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