Ajax 3-1 City: A Closer Look At City's Final Third Entries

Mike Hewitt

In addition to looking at Scoring Chances, one of the areas I have wanted to dig around a little this season is City's final third entries.

We have plenty of data available on what teams do in the final third but not how they do it, which is of great interest to me. The difficulty is that - like in some of the studies I have seen in hockey looking at zone entries - you need a sustained period (i.e. a minimum of a season) to look a to make the data set worthwhile of analysis.

Herein lies the problem. To truly be able to record this data you need to be able to view the games with the ability to pause and rewind, often multiple times to accurately do this. Here in the UK, City games are shown on TV frequently but for those games that aren't it is nigh on impossible if you are only watching via a stream.

Moving forward, maybe this could be achieved through some form of co-ordinated project, who knows, as it is something I would dearly love to take a far deeper look into.

That said, I thought it worthwhile recording the data from last night's game to 'throw out there' as a little taster. As ever I'd be interested in your thoughts or any comments you have.

Breakdown of how entered

In total, I recorded that City had 40 final third entries in total. Based on some rough calculations in comparison to other games this season this number is slightly lower than previously seen.

These 40 entries were split as per the following five categories:

Short pass

8

Medium pass

5

Long pass

16

Dribble

9

Header

2

For the purposes of this, a short pass is recorded as being 0-10 yards, a medium pass 11-25 yards and a long pass 26 yards or over. Clearly all measurements were done by the naked eye so could be subject to a degree of error.

The long pass was the most used method of entry, used some 40% of the time and the following chart illustrates this further:

Ajax_zone_entries_overall_medium

I did expect a higher number of entries from players dribbling into the final third, but this could be explained with the full backs being pressed back more, no David Silva bringing the ball forward and indeed, an under-par Yaya Toure in a far deeper role.

Split between halves and last 30 mins

To the naked eye what was apparent watching the game was in the second half (especially after falling behind and Roberto Mancini introduced more attacking players) was City's propensity to favour the long pass. This is clearly illustrated below when we split the two halves and also add in the final thirty minutes of the game when City were desperately chasing a way back:

First half

Second half

Last 30 mins

Short pass

5

3

2

Medium pass

2

3

1

Long pass

3

13

13

Dribble

5

4

2

Header

2

0

0

In the first half, City had 17 final third entries in total with just three long passes as the method of entry. However, after the break City had 23 final third entries with 13 coming from long passes, some 56.5%. Even more telling as the fact that these 13 all came in the final 30 minutes when City abandoned the short and medium pass route, and even the dribble to some extent, all further illustrated here:

Ajaz_zone_entries_comparison_medium

Outcome per how entered

So we know how City entered the final third - and when - during the game, but what were the outcomes? The below table breaks down, for each of the entry categories, exactly what happened; whether City got a shot away or possession was lost for instance.

What is apparent is that almost half (42.5%) of City's total entries resulted in a loss of possession either through the pass going straight to the opposition (9) or a City player being tackled (8) with three instances of City retreating (with the ball) from the final third. From the 40 entries, City managed seven shots at goal; one scored, three saved, two wide and one blocked.

What would be of interest is to know whether these figures are consistent with a general average as they do suggest that many attacking forays result in very little in terms of tangible reward.

To opposition

Tackled

Played back out

Corner won

Shot blocked

Shot wide

Shot saved

Cross cut out

Header off target

Goal

Fouled

Short pass

3

2

1

1

1

-

-

-

-

-

-

Medium pass

1

1

-

-

-

-

-

2

1

-

0

Long pass

3

2

2

1

-

1

2

1

1

1

2

Dribble

-

3

-

1

-

1

1

3

-

-

-

Header

2

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Total

9

8

3

3

1

2

3

6

2

1

2

Shots per different type of entry

One of the key drivers in zone entries analysis in hockey is to look at hat are the drivers for getting shots away. Although the numbers for a single game may not tell us much they do look to be consistent in terms of a general representation of how City entered the final third as a whole, with four of the seven attempts on goal coming from long passes. There two shots on goal from (nine overall) dribbles however, indicating this tactic may have been abandoned too early.

Shot blocked

Shot wide

Shot saved

Goal

Short pass

1

-

-

-

Medium pass

-

-

-

-

Long pass

-

1

2

1

Dribble

-

1

1

-

Header

-

-

-

-

Type of entry per individual

So who were the players responsible for the final third entries? There were ten players who got the ball into the final third, with only Joleon Lescott and substitutes Mario Balotelli and Aleksandar Kolarov not getting on the 'scoresheet' in this respect.

Of note were the lack of dribbles from the full backs and the lack of anything from Yaya Toure, normally such a powerful presence in City's attacking play. On the balance of play it does appear that a majority of City's entries were on the left hand side of the field with Gael Clichy, Gareth Barry and Samir Nasri featured in the passing entries.

We can also see the evidence of the propensity for long balls with the defenders (and interestingly, Samir Nasri) witj high numbers of long pass entries.

Short pass

Medium pass

Long pass

Dribble

Header

Aguero

-

-

-

1

1

Barry

1

1

-

-

1

Clichy

2

2

2

1

-

Dzeko

-

-

-

2

1

Kompany

-

-

5

-

-

Milner

1

-

1

2

0

Nasri

1

1

3

-

-

Richards

-

-

3

1

-

Tevez

1

-

-

2

-

Yaya Toure

2

-

2

-

-

Total

8

4

16

9

3


Type of outcome per individual

The final category tells us the outcome per individual entry; were there any players who were likely to predicate a more successful (i.e. a shot on goal) outcome?

Again, it is difficult to tell given the low data numbers but it is interesting that the only two players whose entries resulted in more than one shot attempt were Micah Richards and Yaya Toure, players who City would have loved to have been far more involved from an attacking sense.

We can also see that Carlos Tevez had some impact from the bench with two of his entries (both dribbles) resulting in corners being won.

To opposition

Tackled

Played back out

Corner won

Shot blocked

Shot wide

Shot saved

Cross cut out

Header off target

Goal

Fouled

Aguero

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

2

-

-

-

Barry

2

-

1

-

-

-

-

1

-

-

-

Clichy

1

4

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Dzeko

1

1

-

-

-

1

-

-

-

-

-

Kompany

1

-

-

-

-

-

1

1

1

-

1

Milner

-

1

1

-

1

-

-

1

-

-

-

Nasri

1

1

1

1

-

-

-

-

1

-

-

Richards

1

1

-

-

-

-

1

-

-

1

1

Tevez

-

-

-

2

-

-

-

1

-

-

-

Yaya Toure

2

-

-

-

-

1

1

-

-

-

-

Total

9

8

3

3

1

2

3

6

2

1

2

Conclusions

With such a small data set it is difficult to draw many, if any, conclusions but I hope this formative dip in the water has provided a useful insight and it is definitely an area I am looking to explore more fully as time goes on.

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