Senin, 30 Desember 2013

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 & approachAdvantagesDisadvantages
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
  • >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
  • >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 & approachAdvantagesDisadvantages
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 & approachAdvantagesDisadvantages
1. Straight approach
  • 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


Netherlands – Argentina: Bergkamp Goal 1998 (HD), 2010 [online video]. By Frank de Jong. [viewed 23 December 2013]. Available from:
HUGHES, C., 1987. Soccer Tactics and Skills. Great Britain: Queen Anne Press
HUGHES, C., 1990. The Winning Formula. London: William Collins Sons & Co Ltd

Rabu, 25 Desember 2013

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:

1. Inside of the foot – Push

·         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)

·         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 – 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 – 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 – swerve

·         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).


Argentina 25 passes goal, 2006 [online video]. By kwanbis. [viewed 23 December 2013]. Available from:
HUGHES, C., 1987. Soccer Tactics and Skills. Great Britain: Queen Anne Press
HUGHES, C., 1990. The Winning Formula. London: William Collins Sons & Co Ltd

Selasa, 12 November 2013

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).

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.


CARLING, C., WILLIAMS, A.M., & REILLY, T., 2005. Handbook of Soccer Match Analysis. London: Routledge
Carroll, R., 2013. Video Editor v Performance Analyst [online][viewed 12 September 2013]. Available from:
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:

Sabtu, 02 November 2013

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.

BlackpoolWigan 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.


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.

Minggu, 18 Agustus 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.

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 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 (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:

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:

Senin, 22 Juli 2013

What is the most effective tactic to score corner goal in League 2?

In the book “Soccer Tactics and Skills”, Charles Hughes (1987) argued that the best way to score corner goal consists of 3 factors:
1.      Near post
2.      Inswing
3.      Keep it simple (Variety on a theme, not variety on sole criteria of doing something different)
By analysing 178 League 2 corner goals, it would be tested whether his argument can be applied to League 2 or not.
There is not much difference in terms of the sides of corner. 50.6% of corners were from the left side of the goal.

Type of delivery

The above chart shows that most of the corner goals were delivered by inswing (61%). 30% of them were outswing and 9% of them were ground pass which included medium or short corner. The finding fits the argument of Hughes that inswing is the best way to score corner goal.

Delivery target area

In terms of delivery target area, the result is not as dominant as the result of delivery type. Although near post was the most popular delivery target area, it was not dominant with 36%. In fact, the percentages of mid-goal area and far post were close with 32% and 26%. 5% of corners were delivered to touchline area which means they were short corners. Only 1% of corners were medium corner which were delivered to the edge of the box for long shots. By looking at this chart, Hughes’s argument about near post delivery is not very strong here because the difference between near post, mid-goal area and far post were within 10%. Near post is still a better choice but it is not a dominating factor as inswing delivery. Then the data would be compared with each other for in-depth analysis.

Which side vs. Type of delivery

The above chart shows that the preferences of delivery were different depending on which side of the corner it was. If the corner is taken at the left side of the goal, most of them were delivered by inswing. It could be explained by the fact that most of the players were right-footed. It is interesting to see which approach the team would use in the right side corner. 45 right side corner goals were delivered by inswing. That means teams chose a left-footed player to deliver the corner for the purpose of inswing delivery. However, 36 right side corner goals were delivered by outswing. This number is much more than the number of left side outswing corner (17). On the other hand, the numbers of ground pass delivery in both sides were similar. No matter which side we look at, inswing is still the most popular choice of delivery although it is more dominant in left side corner. In the right side corner, teams still prefer to do inswing delivery but there was considerable amount of outswing delivery also.

Type of delivery vs. Delivery target area

The above chart shows that inswing and near post combination scores the most corner goals (42). It fits the argument of Hughes. Another finding is that it is less likely to score corner goal at far post by outswing delivery (12 goals). The difference between inswing and outswing was less if the delivery target area is mid-goal area. The difference was 11 goals compared to the difference of near post (24 goals) and far post (23 goals). In short, for inswing delivery, it would be the best to deliver the ball to near post and far post, especially near post. For outswing delivery, it would be the best to deliver the ball to mid-goal area.

Keep it simple?

The result fits the argument of Hughes because 63% of corner goals were scored directly by the corner cross. 26% of corner goals were assisted by passing. Some teams may prefer to do flick-on headers to make assist but the data shows that it may not be a good choice because only 16% of corner goals were assisted by flick-on headers. If we consider passing assist only, flick-on header is a better choice than feet pass as shown in the chart with 6% more assists.


Reviewing the 3 factors mentioned by Hughes, I would say 2 of them were dominating factors in League 2: inswing delivery and keep it simple. They were proved by evidences. 61% of corner goals were delivered by inswing. 63% of corner goals were assisted by direct corner cross. However, the data shows that although near post is the best choice of delivery target area, it is not a dominating factor with 36% of corner goals delivered to near post. The same type of analysis could be applied to the data of different leagues and the results could be different.


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