Goal Scoring Patterns in the Hyundai ‘A’ League after 14 Rounds 2015-16

Over the past 16 years I have done a lot of analysis on goal scoring patterns at different levels of the game, from World Cups and European Championships to the EPL and the A League. My interest is in how goals are scored in Open Play, where possession is regained and the number of passes made in the sequence leading to the goal.  Analysis shows that in Open Play the number of goals scored inside the penalty area is usually between 80% and 90% of the total, it is higher when goals from Set Plays are included. That being the case, goal scoring in football is highly predictable.  I wanted to know how scoring opportunities were created? Did they come from (a) crossing the ball, (b) playing the ball behind the opposing defence or to a player level with the last defender or from (c) any other method where the goal scorer was in front of the opposing defenders. I also wanted to know where on the field the final passes were made but let’s leave that for another article on goal scoring patterns. This type of analysis led to three categories of goals, which most coaches can relate to. I should add that my definition of a ‘Cross’ is a pass into the penalty area from outside the penalty area from the left or right side and within 20 yards of the goal line.

With the categories of goals in mind I have some interesting figures about the goal scoring patterns in the Hyundai ‘A’ League after 14 rounds. So far, 142 goals have been scored in Open Play in 70 matches, which equates to just 2.0 goals per game.  If the goals are placed in to one of the three categories mentioned earlier, the pattern is as follows, shown in Table 1.

Categories of Goals

Table 1 Total Goals Scored in Categories after 14 Rounds
A League 2015-16     Ball Behind   Other Methods    Crosses
All Teams (142)          75 (53%)         56 (39%)         11 (8%)
BRS          (19)            12 (63%)           6 (32%)           1 (5%)
WSW        (17)              8 (47%)           8 (47%)           1 (6%)
MCT          (28)           15 (54%)         12 (43%)           1 (3%)

If we compare the goal scoring patterns of the top three teams with the average figures for all teams in the league we see that Brisbane Roar are above the league average for goals scored by playing the ball behind opponents with 12 out of 19 goals, which is 63%; WSW are in second place and have scored 47% of their goals in this category, which is equal with goals scored from Other Methods but below the league average, while Melbourne City (MCT) are in third place with 15 out of 28, which is 54%. Overall the majority of teams scored more goals  (53%) from playing the ball behind their opponents than from Other Methods or Crosses. It is interesting to note the relatively low number of goals from Crosses by all teams. This may be explained by the fact that many people consider any pass that goes in the air to be a ‘Cross’ regardless of where it is played from on the field. My definition of a Cross, makes it easy to understand where they are played from on the field.

Goals from 5 Passes or less and 6 Passes or more

If we look at the number of goals scored with 5 passes or less compared with 6 passes or more we have the following data for all teams in the league and the top three teams.

Table 2 Number of Goals Scored from 0-5 Passes and 6+ Passes after 14 Rounds
Number of Passes         0-5 Passes                6+ Passes
All Teams                   116/142 = (82%)        26/142 = (18%)
BRS                                16/19 = (84%)            3/19 = (16%)
WSW                              15/17 = (88%)            2/17 = (12%)
MCT                                20/28 = (71%)            8/28 = (29%)

The majority of all goals (82%) were scored with 5 passes or less. BRS and WSW had (84%) and (88%) respectively while MCT had (71%). In the 2014-15 Hyundai ‘A’ League season, 196 out of 286 goals in Open Play (69%) were scored with 5 or less passes. Melbourne Victory won the league and scored 29 out of 41 goals (71%) from 5 passes or less. This season the teams at the top are scoring considerably more goals with fewer passes than last year and so are all the teams combined.  Speed of transition is obviously a key factor because if we look at the number of goals scored from where possession is regained; there are some differences between the teams.

Table 3 shows where teams scored from regained possession in the Back Third (B3rd), Own Half of Midfield (OHMF) and Their Half of Midfield (THMF), combined as Middle Third (M3rd) and in the Final Third (F3rd).

Regained Possessions in Each Third of the Field

Table 3 Goals from Regained Possession in each Third of the Field
Teams           Back 3rd           OHMF         M3rd         THMF           F3rd
All                 38 (27%)        30 (21%)    69 (48%)    39 (27%)     35 (25%)
BRS               7 (37%)           4 (21%)      7 (37%)     3 (16%)        5 (26%)
WSW             8 (47%)           4 (21%)      5 (27%)     1 ( 6%)         4 (21%)
MCT              8 (29%)           3 (10%)    11 (39%)     8 (29%)        9 (32%)

The majority of goals in Open Play usually come from regained possessions in the Middle Third with similar but lower figures in the Back Third and Final Third, as evidenced by the teams overall with (48%) in the Middle Third and (27%) and (25%) in the Back and Final Thirds.  BRS scored an equal amount from regained possession in the Back Third and Middle Third (37%), while WSW scored (47%) from the Back Third and (27%) from regained possessions in the Middle Third, which is quite unusual.

MCT have followed the trend shown by all teams in the competition by scoring the majority of goals (39%) from regained possessions in the Middle Third. Interestingly, BRS and WSW have similar figures to the league average for goals from regained possession in the Final Third but MCT have the highest figure of all teams, which is 32%. This may explain to some degree why MCT have scored the highest number of goals so far and have also conceded the second highest number in Open Play (19) but to be certain, every goal MCT have conceded would have to be reviewed to see if and how often the space in their own half  of the field was exploited by their opponents. It is unwise to make assumptions, especially in football.

Only Central Coast Mariners have conceded more goals in Open Play (24) than MCT and they are at the bottom of the league after 14 Rounds.

The Tables show the results for all teams in the league but I think it is always worth comparing the results of the teams at the top to see if they are following the trend of all teams or scoring goals slightly differently, which is exemplified after 14 Rounds.

For members of my website, http://www.thefootballcentre.com.au/ I have some additional information about the number of passes for each team for goals from regained possessions in each third of the field.

I hope this summary of scoring patterns has got you thinking and asking yourself why this has happened and what does it all mean for the coach?

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