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Aston Villa v Man City: Final 1/3rd Zone Entries

Following on from yesterdays article, which looked at own half Zone Exits, today we'll investigate how teams enter the final 1/3rd of the pitch. To do this we shall look at the frequency, method and success % rate of final 1/3rd entries.

Michael Regan

I think we are all pretty familiar with the final 1/3rd concept in football. EPL Index tracks stats like pass completion% for the final 1/3rd and nearly every football game that features on TV has a territory map which features own 1/3rd, middle 1/3rd and final 1/3rd (opposition teritory).

But how do teams enter into the final 1/3rd, how often do they do so and which is the most succesful method of entry? These are the questions I will be answering along with how Tevez's goal affected how frequent and by which method both teams entered the final 1/3rd.

Final 1/3rd Entries

Villa Man City

Total 54 55
1st Half 25 28
2nd Half 29 27

Final 1/3rd zone entry numbers are incredibly close. The fair balance of possession may be one potential reason. Villa increased their number of zone entries in the second half when they were chasing the game and City were likely dropping deep to protect the lead. City's number dropped off by just the single entry.

Method Of Final 1/3rd Zone Entry

Villa Man City
Pass 27 32
Long Ball 15 6
Carry 8 14
Turnover 4 3

The method by which the respective teams entered the oppositions final 1/3rd is fascinating. City, the technically superior team, carried the ball and passed the ball in far more frequently than Villa. Villa entered the oppositions 1/3rd using far more long balls than City used.

Is the above table a fair indication of talent level and playing style? I think so, City work the ball well into the oppositions final 1/3rd whereas villa, an inexperienced side who are a little short on quality, tend to be more direct.

The next question is: Which methods of entering the oppositions final 1/3rd are successful and which are more likely to fail?

Final 1/3rd Zone Entry Success Rate (Aston Villa)

Aston Villa Pass Long Ball Carry Turnover

Shot 11.1% 20% 37.5% 0%
SoT 3.7% 0% 0% 0%
Fizzled out 62.9% 26.6% 25% 100%
Unsuccessful 22.2% 53.3% 37.5% 0%

Fizzled Out is defined as possession being retained for 2 or 3 phases then the opposition winning the ball back or the possession team retreating out of the the opponents 1/3rd with the ball

Unsuccessful is defined as the opposition intercepting the final 1/3rd entry. A failure to enter the zone by which ever method was used.

This is a pretty simplistic chart but it shows us some important information. Passing the ball into the zone may have resulted in a high percentage of those attempts fizzling out, but at least the ball was retained for a couple of passing phases, and was not lost immediately upon attempting to enter the zone. Playing the long ball into the zone resulted in a 53% failure rate for Villa, yet it was a tactic they increasingly relied on in the 2nd half.

Carrying the ball into the zone accounted for just 8 of the 55 zone entries but those 8 carries generated three shots, albeit one's off target.

3 shots from 8 carries

3 shots and 1 SoT from 27 passes

3 shots from 15 long balls

Carrying the ball in was the most efficient entry method for Villa vs City, and passing the ball in to the zone had the lowest failure % of any of the methods.

Final 1/3rd Zone Entry Success Rate (Man City)

Man City Pass Long Ball Carry Turnover

Shot 31.2% 0% 35.7% 0%
SoT 3.1% 0% 14.2% 66.6%
Fizzled out 53.1% 66.6% 42.8% 33.3%
Unsuccessful 12.5% 33.3% 7.1% 0%

City, like Villa, recorded a high 5 of their passing entries as having 'fizzled out'. The pass entries also have a very low failure%. City's success whilst playing the long ball into the final 1/3rd was non existent, although it is difficult to fully evaluate City's long ball ability with just 6 entries havving been recorded.

Note the shot % rate from passes and turnovers is high but the SoT % is low. In this game at least, the high quality scoring chances were created from turnovers in the oppositions 1/3rd.

City generated 10 shots and 1 SoT from their 32 passing entries.

Carrying the ball into the opposition zone generated 5 shots and 2 SoT from just 14 entries.

Turnovers accounted for 2 SoT from just 3 turnover entries.

Against Villa, passing the ball in had the lowest failure% and resulted in a high number of shots. Carrying the ball into the zone is another entry method which resulted in a low failure% and a high number of shots. But turnovers create the high quality opportunities and it's from this method that City scored the goal.

Final Thoughts

Despite differences in talent levels, not to mention playing styles between the two clubs, we can see that the failure%'s for each zone entry method are pretty similar. Yes, it's only one game and we cannot begin to attempt drawing conclusions, but the method of entry may be very important despite the aforementioned gulf in quality between any two teams.

Pass the ball into the zone and a team is likely to maintain possession, long pass the ball into the zone and a team may be lieky to have a high failure%. Turn the ball over in the oppositions zone and quality scoring chances should ensue.

Thanks for reading.