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Goal Scoring Patterns in the Hyundai ‘A’ League; this season and last

By Ron Smith | 30/04/2016 | 0 Comments |

Goal scoring patterns in the A League; this season and last

Total goals, Open Play and Set Plays
I find it interesting to look at patterns in football because it makes you realise that a number of factors are fairly predictable over time. For example the number of goals scored over a season. This season there were 22 more goals than last year in Open Play and 2 less than last year from Set Plays after 135 matches. For the first time in 'A' League history the average number of goals per game reached 3.1, up from last year's 2.9. The percentage of goals in Open Play in 2015-16 was 73% compared with 71% last season.

Of the 113 goals from Set Plays this season, 35% (40) came from corners, 27% (30) were from free kicks and 38% (43) were from penalty kicks. Last season there was a total of 115 goals, 35% (40) were from corners, 29% (34) were from free kicks and 36% (41) were from penalties; a remarkable similarity.

A question springs to mind: could I use this information to influence how I might prepare my team differently to make an improvement? What you might do first is analyse how your team scored (and conceded) goals to see if your team's figures were similar to the 'A' League, which are very similar to results from other competitions involving professional teams.

I have included Figure 1 to show the graph of the actual data from the last two seasons and Figure 2 to show the data represented as percentage scores.  The similarity of the graphs in both examples is quite amazing.

Figure 1: Actual Data                                                                                                  


Figure 2: Data expressed as a Percentage



The number of passes preceding goals in Open Play
This season 244 (79%) of the 308 goals were scored with 5 passes or less; last season the figure was 220 (77%) of the 286 goals. This evidence may be surprising when all the teams had a possession-based style of play, or does it simply mean that possession, i.e. making longer passing sequences does not equate to scoring a lot of goals. Maybe, possession is more about keeping the ball long enough to get the players and the ball into the opponents half when you cannot attack quickly in 'transition', or a means of tempting opponents to win the ball back when you are in the lead or a way to control the tempo of the game. The evidence provides a strong case for attacking as quickly as possible once you regain possession of the ball, but does that apply to each third of the field or just in the opponent's half?

Regaining possession and passing sequences
Of the goals in 2015-16 in Open Play, 86 came from regained possession in the Back Third, of which 65 (76%) were from 5 passes or less. There were 154 goals from regained possession in the Middle Third, of which 118 (77%) were scored from 5 passes or less. The Final Third accounted for 68 goals of which 61 (90%) were scored with 5 passes or less. These figures show that the percentage of goals scored from 5 passes or less was similar in the Back Third and Middle Third but slightly higher, as one might expect from regained possessions in the Final Third. In the 2014-15 season 82 goals came from regained possession in the Back Third, 130 from the Middle Third and 74 from the Final Third; the percentage of goals from 5 passes or less from regained possession in each third was as follows: Back Third 63%, Middle Third 80% and 86% in the Final Third.

It would be logical to expect more goals to be scored with 6 passes or more from regained possessions in the Back Third, because the ball has further to travel, but that is not the case. Figure 3 shows the higher percentage of goals from 0-5 passes compared with 6 or more passes from possession regained in each third of the field. The evidence supports moving the ball quickly from the Back Third, when the opportunity arises, rather than taking time by making numerous passes.

Figure 3 Goals and Regained Possessions

There are a couple of things to consider. When is the best time to attack quickly from the Back Third if speed of transition is the key to scoring more goals and secondly, how many attacks originate in the Back Third compared with other areas of the field? The answer to the first part of the question is logically when the opposition has four or five players unable to defend. The answer to the second part is more complex but generally more possession is regained in the Back Third and own half of midfield. The measure will be the success rate of reaching the Final Third from whichever third of the field you regain possession, regardless of how many passes it takes to get there. If you know your success rate of reaching the Final Third from regained possession in the Back Third you will have information that might influence how you plan to make improvements next season. In other match analysis that I have done, success rates of 30-40% are common in good teams that play from the back. Another factor that will influence the success rate of playing from the Back Third is the degree to which the opposition press to regain possession in their Final Third or drop off to consolidate closer to the halfway line.

Goals scored from playing the Ball Behind opponents followed by a Strike (BB&S), Other Methods (OM) and Crosses.
In my research into goal scoring patterns I have created three categories of goals in Open Play. Two of the categories essentially differentiate between goals from passing the ball behind opponents and goals scored from in-front of defenders; the third category is from Crosses from outside the penalty area and within 20 yards of the goal line.

In 2014-15 the number of goals from a ball behind the defence (BB&S) was 129 (45%), goals from Other Methods were 116 (41%) and 41 (14%) were from Crosses. In 2015-16 the figure were 158 (51%), 109 (35%) and 41 (14%) respectively. See Figures 1 and 2.

Subsequent Analysis
It is normal for one set of data to lead to more questions. The most obvious questions to follow on from the analysis of playing the ball behind the opposing defence are, where are the passes made from and which areas on the field are the most productive?  I have that information but because it will lead to more questions I will keep that for another article in the future.

The analysis shows how similar goal scoring patterns are from one season to the next and the question is, what can we do to improve our performance if we can predict what we expect to happen next year? There are three factors that I would investigate further and try to implement in training and games. The first is recognizing when to attack quickly from inside my own half of the field, without exposing the team to counter attacks. The second would be to analyse the success rate of playing through midfield when the whole opposing team is in a position to defend and the third would involve the timing and number of attempts to make forward runs from different areas of the field, particularly in the opponent’s half, because the most successful method of scoring goals each season was from playing the ball behind the opposing defence compared with scoring from in front of defenders or from crossing the ball.

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