Controlled Zone Entries: Rangers v Raith Rovers

James Tavernier, courtesy of RFC

written by – Rangers Report

Part of the inspiration to tackle an analytical approach to covering Rangers was the belief that the ideas being utilized in the hockey analytical world could transfer over to soccer.  One stat that I have been playing around with lately is Controlled Zone Entries (CZE).  The goal of this statistic is to record controlled entries into the final third of the pitch & to calculate how often that turns into a positive play.  Positive plays range from retaining possession but leaving the final third to corners, free kicks, & obviously shots & ultimately goals.

This work is inspired by the work of Jen LCwho has rapidly ascended to the upper echelons of the hockey analytics world.  Discussing Controlled Zone Entries in hockey she wrote, “It is commonly held that controlled entries into the offensive zone generate more shots and thus we prize controlled entries more than dump and chase or chip and chase entries.”

“Controlled entries are those where the offensive player either carries the puck into the offensive zone on his stick or makes a short pass to a teammate as they enter the zone.”

It is in this vein that I will attempt to track Controlled Zone Entries for Rangers.  If a player dribbles the ball into the final third, or completes a short pass to another player then that will count as a controlled entry.  There will undoubtedly be a margin of error in this process but the goal is to identify which players are triggering the attacking play into the final third for Rangers.  The success after that entry is still reliant on his teammates ability to pass in the final third, or to create space for a shot.

Here are the results from Saturday’s victory over Raith Rovers:

Player CZE Pos Res Success Rate Notes
Barrie McKay 7 4 0.57 two corners generated
James Tavernier 6 5 0.83 shot on target & free kick
Lee Wallace 5 3 0.60 corner generated
Gedion Zelalem 4 4 1.00 free kick & two shot attempts
Nathan Oduwa 3 3 1.00 shot on target, penalty & goal
Martyn Waghorn 2 2 1.00 corner generated
Andy Halliday 2 2 1.00 corner generated
Jason Holt 1 1 1.00 shot
Kenny Miller 1 0 0.00
Nicky Law 1 1 1.00 shot
Totals 32 25 0.78

CZE:  Controlled Zone Entry, Pos Res:  Positive Result, Success Rate:  percentage of controlled entries turned into a positive result

  • Barrie McKay & James Tavernier accounted for 41% of the Controlled Zone Entries for Rangers.  The same duo accounted for 51% of the CZE against Queen of the South.
  • Gedion Zelalem’s intricate passing & vision tends to create real threats as he makes short, controlled passes into the final third.
  • Nathan Oduwa seemed to be playing a little more withdrawn on Saturday, but when he did carry the ball in to the final third, Raith simply could not contain him.  His CZE resulted in a shot on target, a penalty call & a goal.
  • Jason Holt had a very quiet match.  Last week against Queen of the South he had four CZEs & in this match he was limited to just the one.  That may have been a contributing factor to his exit from the match at the hour mark.

What are some next steps with this data?

If you had a team of analysts tracking the match, you would want to compare these results with what happens when Rangers enter the final third with ‘uncontrolled entries’, i.e. chip & chase plays, longer to medium balls into space or directed at a teammate, or a pass into a crowd of players.  If you could have that data side-by-side with Controlled Zone Entries you could really learn a lot about a team’s style of play & what drives their offensive success.

Another layer to this data would be to track individual players’ passing success rates in the final third, especially for a team like Rangers who really want to break down the opponent’s defence in the attacking zone.


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post match view from Avaya Stadium’s press box

On another note, I had the opportunity to cover the San Jose Earthquakes v Philadelphia Union  match on Saturday night.  I was there to report on Maurice Edu, but unfortunately he is battling an injury & he did not make the trip.  However, I used the game as an opportunity to track the Controlled Zone Entries in the match from the best seat in the house – the press box.

In the match, won by Philadelphia 2-1, both teams made 15 Controlled Zone Entries.  Compare that number to Rangers’ 32 & you automatically see the stylistic differences.

San Jose generated a positive play 73% of the time, while the Union had a success rate of 53%.  Interestingly, San Jose had the possession edge 56% to 44% but had no real cohesion to their game.

Also, on a geeky note it was a real treat to track the Goalkeeper Distribution Ratio without the play being interrupted by television replays.

You can follow Rangers Report on Twitter @TheGersReport 

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