Friday, December 30, 2011

Possession Soccer Does Not Equal Winning

We have analyzed published results of a major European soccer league after the first half of the season. For each game we reviewed the ball possession (%), goal chances, and wins/losses, awarding three points for a win and 1 point for a tie. The results conclusively prove that domonating possession does not guarantee winning games. We found quite the opposite:

The teams that had 50% or more of ball possession generated 5.93 scoring chances per game and achieved 1.24 points per game (winning 32.7% of their games). The teams that had 50% or less possession generated 4.61 scoring chances and achieved 1.51 points per game (winning 41.8% of their games).

The results indicate that possession leads to more scoring chances but not to more wins. Why is that? We have long held the opinion that the quality of the chances makes the difference. Why would more possession generate poorer quality scoring chances? Extended possession allows the defending team to organize their defence. Therefore the attacking team has to work hard to find openings and quite often is forced to take shots from difficult positions, longer distance, or poor angles. A team that believes in fast break attacking after gaining possession does not allow the opposing defence to get into shape and balance. Hence the final passes set up shots for players with a clearer path to net. Therefore a fast breaking team will create better quality chances, score more goals and win more games.

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hrpschrd said...

The obvious exception to your rule about possession is Barcelona. They are all highly skilled players so that could be the reason they win but they beat all the fast-break teams even when they put 11 behind the ball. Your explanation?

soccer coaching said...

You are 110% correct. Barcelona, Spain National Team, former Brasil National Team are exceptional at possession and they will win most of their games. It takes a long time and careful selection of players to get there. What we are saying supports your view. Unless you have those skills, that tactiacl knowledge, and that level of understanding of your team mates, you are better off with a fast break system. The other interesting study, which to our knowledge has not been published, would be to determine how many of Barcelona's goals are scored after THEY transition fast as compared to a slower build up.