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Dominate the boxes and reign

Penalty area (Wikipedia)
Penalty area (Wikipedia)

You find the article in german here

One ring... or two penalty areas to rule them all (after J.R.R Tolkien, Lord of the Rings)

The "Shoot" "Shoot" shouts in the stadium as soon as an attacker approaches the goal with the ball have become increasingly rare in the stands. For many years now, shots on goal have practically only been taken from inside the penalty area. Risky shots from outside are, with few exceptions, dispensed with in our post-Roberto Carlos era. The collective continues to combine until a promising goal opportunity with a high chance of success arises from the shortest possible goal distance.

The game has changed

The following example from the NBA illustrates in an impressive way how the game in the NBA has changed in the course of the time between 2001 and 2020, also thanks to data analysts.

Dirk Goldsberry processed and analyzed countless data for his graphic and then visualized the insight in a simple way. The visualization and statement is a real eye opener.

NBA the game has changed
NBA the game has changed

Over time, risky one-point shots have been continuously eliminated in the NBA. Either three point shots or simple one point shots. Little to nothing in between.

The shooting position in football has undergone a similar change in recent years. To illustrate this, here is the Barcelona shot location map for the 2020-21 season. (via Barcelona Universal).

Barcelona Shot Location 20/21 (Barca Universal)
Barcelona Shot Location 20/21 (Barca Universal)

Box-to-box dominance

Dominant teams have a lot of strategic possession and move the ball and opponents. With their positional play and individual quality, they can often and creatively play their way into the opponent's penalty area. On the opposite side, they have a good "rest-defense" that can quickly stop many counterattacks and prevent the opponent from entering their own penalty area with continuity,.

Thus, in football, the number of touches of the ball in the penalty areas are excellent indicators to evaluate the dominance of a team.

Defensive "bus parkers" or catenaccio teams form a massive block in front of the penalty area to prevent the opponent from entering the penalty area. However, these teams have few face-off options due to the deep and player-intensive block in front to get into the opponent's penalty area with continuity.

"Those who always defend at the back and hope for the football god up front don't need attackers, they need miracles." Juanma Lillo

In the following graphs we have visualized the most dominant teams. For this we used the number of touches of the ball in the opponent's penalty area (touches in box p90) and the number of touches of the ball by the opponent in your penalty area (touches in box allowed p90).

Dominate the boxes and reign

Super League 2021-22

Super League 21-22 Domination of boxes
Super League 21-22 Domination of boxes

  • The much touches and few touches allowed quadrant stands for dominance

  • If there are few touches on both sides, it is called neutralizing or ball shoving, yawn

  • The box rattles when the opponent has much more of your penalty area than you do....

  • Lots of ball touches in both penalty areas is a spectacle and certainly very entertaining for the fans. But a little less so for the nerves of the two coaches.

Bundesliga 2021-21

Bundesliga 21-22 Domination of boxes
Bundesliga 21-22 Domination of boxes

Serie A 2021-22

Serie A 2021-22 Domination of the boxes
Serie A 2021-22 Domination of the boxes

Austria Bundesliga 2021-22

Austria Bundesliga 2021-22 Domination of the boxes
Austria Bundesliga 2021-22 Domination of the boxes

Europe TOP-5 Leagues & Super League

In the following chart we compare the dominance in the Top'5 leagues including the swiss Super League across all leagues. For this purpose, we have integrated the currently three best-ranked teams per league. In other words, the Top3-of-Top5. Which teams are most dominant across leagues?

Top-5 Leagues 21-22 Domination of boxes
Top-5 Leagues 21-22 Domination of boxes

Touches in the box per 90 minutes

Most touches on the ball: Manchester City 35, Liverpool 32, Real Madrid 29, Inter 26

Least allowed: Manchester City 10, Young Boys 11, Marseille 12, Liverpool 13

Manchester City under Pep Guardiola is the most dominant team in the top-5 leagues with an average possession of over 67%. They touch the ball a full 35x per game in the penalty area, while only allowing their opponents 10 touches. These are outstandingly strong figures.

The juego de posicion is not simply about having the ball. It's not about playing to have it. It's about having it in order to play.

They are followed by Liverpool and Bayern Munich, who also stand out significantly from the other top teams and dominate games in their leagues on a sustained basis. In the Super League, Young Boys are once again in a class of their own by a wide margin.

In Spain's La Liga, it's noticeable that Real Madrid is not extremely dominant or wants to be.

They lack Barcelona as a rival at the moment, and both Sevilla and Real Betis are nowhere near as penalty area dominant. Carlo Ancelotti is known for letting his teams counter as well.

"The worst thing you can face in football is that you face a world-class team that defends deep in the penalty area and counterattacks." Jürgen Klopp

Out of competition, we have also integrated Ajax Amsterdam. Erik ten Hag's team manages to get the ball into the penalty area a full 40 times per game. Of course, this is also due to the lower level compared to the top leagues. Nevertheless, this is an incredibly high value. Wereldklasse!

Among the most un-dominant of the top-ranked teams we find FC Zurich, which proves that there are other qualities to be successful. Of the top-ranked teams, Zurich, Leverkusen and Basel (19x each) allow opponents the most touches of the ball in the penalty area per game.

Of the top-ranked teams, Sevilla, Nice (16) and Zurich (19) have the fewest touches of the ball in the opponent's penalty area on offense.

Our goal is for our graphs to be self-speaking. Enclosed are the values of various leagues for your interpretation.

Jupiler Pro League 2021-22

Jupiler Pro League  21-22 Domination of boxes
Jupiler Pro League 21-22 Domination of boxes

Eredivisie 2021-22

Eredivisie 21-22 Domination of boxes
Eredivisie 21-22 Domination of boxes

2. Bundesliga 2021-22

2.Bundesliga 21-22 Domination of boxes
2.Bundesliga 21-22 Domination of boxes

Ligue 2 2021-22

Ligue 2 21-22 Domination of boxes
Ligue 2 21-22 Domination of boxes

footballytics use-cases for data usage in football.

We divide the use of data at football clubs into the following areas:

  • Improve the team - Scouting Using data position specific for pre-scouting (longlist) to find the best and most suitable players to continuously improve the team. In addition, the creation and management of a shadow team to be able to react quickly and with brains in case of contingencies. Here is our dedicated article on player data scouting

  • Improve the game - match analysis Use data in game analysis to find optimization potential and improve the game and game structure with innovative tactical solutions.

  • Improve the performance - Performance analysis Define and report game philosophy metrics to measure and visualize the contribution to the game strategy on team level and down to player level on a weekly basis.

  • Improve the players - Player Coaching Use data to coach and improve players individually. Example: make strikers aware of the volume, position and value of their shots on goal.

Coach Scouting

When analyzing data and player performance, it is important to remember that the performance is not only achieved by the quality of the player. The coach can also influence the output and performance to a significant extent through his playing philosophy, innovative ideas and coaching.

In scouting and performance evaluation, it is an art to understand to which part the player and to which part the coach is responsible.

That's why, as with players, data can be used to scout coaches.

Both playing philosophy and tactical characteristics can be interpreted from the data. Using the available data, it is possible to search worldwide for game structure characteristics and to identify suitable and interesting coaches at an early stage.

As with player scouting, surprising names can be added to the long list. Because data does not have favorite teams and is not blinded by extreme events.

This coach longlist can then be trimmed down to a few candidates in a second step using video and live scouting.

In football, too, the few striking events are often overrated and the many many banal events underrated.

The "dominate the boxes" index is one of the values we use for our coaching scouting

(pre-scouting, longlist). Because:

For creating the scoring chances, the coach is the main responsible. For taking advantage of the scoring chances, the players are the main responsible.

Dominate the boxes and reign.

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footballytics - we know how to make the data talk

We combine the competences of football tactics, scouting and DataAnalytics and support clubs in interpreting and using data to make data-validated better decisions in scouting and match analysis.


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