A look at how Controlled Zone Entries have affected Rangers performances

Gedion Zelalem

written by – Rangers Report

If you’ve been a regular visitor to the site, you’ll notice one of the stats that I’ve been tracking is Controlled Zone Entries – which basically records which player is either bringing the ball into the final third or is completing a short pass to a teammate in the final third.  I’ve also been including this disclaimer with the stats:

This data is meant to be an entry point to further understand where Rangers attack is being generated.  It is, however, only a starting point.

These stats would have much greater meaning if passing in the final third was tracked.  The players mentioned above are the catalysts for advanced play in the attacking third, but the ultimate results usually fall upon the feet of their teammates.

These stats have been recorded for eight recent matches & it seemed like a good time to see which players have been keys to Rangers best performances & what seems to be happening when the team has struggled (I use this term loosely given Rangers only have one loss).

Of those eight matches, wins against Raith Rovers, Morton, Falkirk & to a lesser extent Queen of the South were the team’s most comprehensive performances.  Wins against Livingston , Dumbarton & St. Mirren have been more laborious & then obviously there was the loss to St. Johnstone.

Here are the Controlled Zone Entries for each of those matches & then how many of those CZEs led to a positive team result (i.e. a shot, corner, foul, throw-in, or sustained possession).

image (1)

Raith Dumbarton St Johnstone Morton Falkirk QoS Livi St Mirren
Rangers CZE 32 40 49 45 28 48 38 36
Positive Results 25 25 32 35 20 38 30 19
Success rate 0.78 0.63 0.65 0.78 0.71 0.79 0.79 0.53
Expected Goals 3.0 0.7 1.3 2.8 2.5 2.1 1.3 2.0

In those aforementioned games in which Rangers impressive play matched the result you see success rates of 78%, 78%, 71%, & 79%.  In the other matches that weren’t as  clinical you see success rates of 63%, 65%, & 53%.  The 1-0 victory is the one outlier here…they had high rate of success in creating a positive result in the final third – but the goals weren’t coming as a result.  This was a match in which the team was very diligent in their efforts in breaking down the final third, even though they weren’t scoring they were dictating play.

James Tavernier

Now let’s see which players have been the biggest factors in driving possession into the final third.

image (1)

The colors represent the following:  Blue:  Rangers, Red:  Barrie McKay, Yellow:  Gedion Zelalem, Green:  James Tavernier, Purple:  Lee Wallace, Tiel/Light blue:  Nathan Oduwa

Raith Dumbarton St Johnstone Morton Falkirk QoS Livi St Mirren
Rangers CZE 32 40 49 45 28 48 38 36
Barrie McKay 7 2 5 6 5 8 9 7
Gedion Zelalem 4 8 9 10 2
James Tavernier 6 8 15 2 7 8 3 4
Lee Wallace 5 2 4 5 1 4 5 4
Nathan Oduwa 3 6 11 2 5 3

This is not the complete list of players with CZEs, but these five players are consistently the ones that the team relies on to drive possession into the final third – so we’ll narrow our analysis to their impact.

  • In those four wins in which Rangers’ performance was the most impressive there were a total of 153 Controlled Zone Entries, in the other three games there were 163.  So the split is relatively close.  The success rate was 77% in those four ‘quality’ performances & 65% in the ‘not-as-impressive’ performances.  So this is truly where you’d have to study what happened when they got in the final third to see where the breakdowns happened, which is not the purpose of this post.
  • The Zelalem impact:   notice the dip in total CZEs in that Falkirk match that he missed – Rangers went from three straight games of 40+ to 28.

image (1)

  • This is pretty even distribution of entry points into the final third.
  • Gedion Zelalem missed two of these games, so it’s safe to project that the CZEs between him & Barrie McKay & Nathan Oduwa would have been even closer.  That would represent an ideal diversification of Rangers attack with possession being driven through the heart of midfield & both flanks.  Also notice that Lee Wallace & James Tavernier perfectly balance out.

image (1)

  • The balance has been thrown into a blender.
  • Barrie McKay is the one consistent factor as there is no variation on his impact on Controlled Zone Entries
  • Two numbers skew in opposite directions – one is Nathan Oduwa – who missed two of the matches mentioned here & averaged 4.5 in the two he did feature.  He had 5.25 per game in the other four games.  So it is clear that when he does not play, it has a real impact on Rangers’ game plan.  James Tavernier’s numbers are the most skewed here as he goes from contributing 17.4% of the CZEs in the other four games we looked at & 31.3% here. A lot of that is driven by the 15 CZEs he had against St. Johnstone where he really tried to take the team on his shoulders.
  • Gedion Zelalem was missing for one of these games, so you could project that is production would be closer to Barrie McKay’s.

What have we learned through this small sample size of stats?

  • First off this is a very small sample size & trends after eight matches are barely trends. So this no ‘silver bullet’ study, but merely a look at what has happened so far.
  • Based on this small sample size, you can argue that Rangers perform much better when they have a real balanced approach to entering the final third.  The keys to this balance is having Nathan Oduwa, Barrie McKay, & Gedion Zelalem in the lineup.  Then the underlying key is maintaining balanced CZEs from the fullbacks.

You can follow Rangers Report on Twitter @TheGersReport

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