Monthly Archives: August 2013

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.


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:


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.


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.


BBC Sport, 2012. Euro 2000: The French Revolution [digital image] [viewed 17 August 2013]. Available from:

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:

Sawh, M., 2010. manchester_united_1999 [digital image] [viewed 17 August 2013]. Available from:

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:

THE TELEGRAPH, 2002. Scientists find football’s golden square [online]. Available from:


‘Why foreign players migrate and the effect their involvement has had on English football since the inception of the Premier League’ (Part 3)

In parts 3, 3a and 3b of this blog we come to analysing the major different views and perceptions on the issue: the three that frequently appear include the notions that foreign players are having a seriously detrimental effect on the production, development, and opportunities available to indigenous talent: which is therefore having a negative effect on the performance and development of the national side (Maguire & Pearton, 2000). Finally, the migratory patterns that resonate towards the core of football have heralded a process of systematic ‘deskilling’ of ‘donor’ clubs, leagues, and nations such as Africa. These sentiments are strongly held in England, but are also echoed in other countries such as Italy, as former Italian U21 coach Cesare Maldini (2000) states:

“At youth level, our football is getting worse. We don’t have the players any more. The increasing number of foreigners in our game means the opportunities for the youngsters are vanishing”

However, if we refer to recent research therein lays a controversial alternative story for the former arguments. Solberg and Haugen’s (2008) research offers a useful insight behind the phenomenon of foreign player migration in football. The authors conclude in their research that despite the view point of the common English football fan and some senior figures in world football the migration of foreign players is actually having a beneficial effect on the development of indigenous players as opposed to a detrimental effect. Further advocates of this theory (Akindes et al., (2007) provide us with evidence that when African players migrate to Europe they gain further knowledge and ‘European’ football traits, thus developing them as players and individuals.


Although, this is also a two-way process whereby at the foreign players exchange their knowledge and ‘African’ footballing traits with the indigenous players, which creates a positive learning environment for both parties. Furthermore, Elliott and Weedon (2010) support these conclusions with their own branch of research, which concerned itself with players from the English Premier Academy League. Their evidence provided additional reinforcement for Solberg and Haugen’s findings and delivers a strong basis to argue that a process of ‘feet-exchange’ rather than ‘feet-drain’ – a term which is derived from the ‘brain-drain’ early work in the 1960’s which examined the issues that ‘donor’ nations face when a highly skilled workforce migrate or relocates (Iredale & Appleyard, 2001) – is actually occurring within the Premier Academy level.


‘Feet-exchange’ is a two-way process whereby foreign and indigenous players exchange their skills, technique and knowledge, and it offers a strong counter argument against the common views and negative perspectives, at least within the Premier Academy League level. In England the game is known for its pace and physicality (Elliott & Weedon, 2010), however, English players are seen as technically inferior to their European counterparts. Within Elliott and Weedon’s paper they include their qualitative based evidence in the form of interviews with various academy coaches and managers from the across the English Premier Academy clubs. One academy manager states that in his opinion:

“[Foreign players] are far more technically oriented . . . Technique is so important, it’s the great English drawback. Physically we’re good, tactically we’re okay, but technically we’re poor. The Dutch and the Italians totally leave us standing. The [foreign] boys we’ve got, their technique is really, really good, and there’s the challenge for the English boys, they’ve learnt that they have to work on their technique.” (Anon, 2010).


As previously mentioned, the English game is known for its pace and physicality, and herein lies the two-way process of ‘feet-exchange’: as foreign players must adapt and learn to deal with the physicality and pace of the English game – with the aid and exchange of knowledge, sometimes achieved purely through the observation of the indigenous players – and therefore the indigenous players also learn to hone and improve their technical skills by playing with far superior technical players (Elliott & Weedon, 2010). This transfer of skills is concluded by an academy coach in Elliott & Weedon’s paper, who states that foreign players ‘raise the bar’ for the indigenous players. Taylor (2007) further adds that:

“[Foreign players] brought in training [philosophies] and lifestyle ideas that are ahead of our own. They have broken down prejudice and national stereotypes. As a group, they have set standards of attitude and behaviour that have been as good for our society as they have been for our game.”

In summary the current research in particular that carried out by Elliott and Weedon (2010) has contributed to the dispersal of the popular discourse that foreign players are stifling indigenous players’ opportunities to play and develop, at least within the English Premier Academy League. Further research needs to be conducted to conclude whether the influx of foreign players is preventing the indigenous players from graduating into the first teams or is it that we as a footballing nation are just not producing players good enough to challenge the foreign imports.

Part 3a of this blog will naturally follow on from Part 3 with the perceived negative effects that the influx of foreign player migration has had on the performances and development of the England national team. To offer evidence for or against these claims I will analyse the performances of the national team over the past three decades, the latter of which heralded the influx of the foreign player migration trend.


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