Defensive Zone Exits: Rob Kiernan is a rock at The Rock

Rob Kiernan, courtesy of Donald Fullarton
Rob Kiernan, courtesy of Donald Fullarton

written by – Rangers Report

With so much attention being focused on Rangers’ struggles on defence, particularly with how they handle counter attacks, I decided to shift some of my attention towards tracking who is getting the ball out of the defensive third & how they are doing it.  Much of this work is inspired by Jen Lute Costella’s tracking similar concepts in hockey for her blog & now for her start-up company – LCG Analytics.

Given the camera angles at Dumbarton’s stadium & some intriguing directorial decisions by the Rangers TV crew there will be a margin of error but this is what I was looking for –

  • controlled exits from the defensive third – when a player either dribbled the ball out of the zone or when they completed a relatively short pass out of the defensive third
  • clearances – the opposite of a controlled exit.  Basically, the defender kicks/heads the ball out of the zone with no real passing target.  I think it is safe to say that we all know a clearance when we see it. Additionally, I tracked how many of the clearances were headers.
  • pressured v unpressured exit- was the player under pressure from an opposing player when they made the defensive zone exit or clearance
  • flipping possession to the other half – regardless of how the ball left the area, did it lead to Rangers establishing possession in the opposing half of the pitch?  Ideally, Rangers defenders are able to trigger a counter of their own in order to attack an unorganized defence.
  • Only defensive zone exits in the run of play are accounted for…meaning when Wes Foderingham triggers the team bringing the ball up the  pitch – those plays were not tracked nor was the play tracked if Rangers voluntarily played the ball back into the defensive third.  So basically, plays were tracked only when the opponent gets the ball into their attacking third & a Rangers defender retrieved it to get it out of the zone.
Player Controlled Exit Pressured Opp Half Clearance Pressured Opp Half Headed Cl Total Exits
Rob Kiernan 2  0 1 8 8 1 6 10
James Tavernier 5 3 5 2 2 1 2 7
Danny Wilson 2 1 2 5 5 1 4 7
Nicky Law 2  0 1  0  0  0  0 2
Andy Halliday 1 1  0 1 1 1  0 2
Lee Wallace 1 1 1  0  0  0  0 1
Martyn Waghorn 1 1 1  0  0  0  0 1
Totals 14 7 11 16 16 4 12 30
First Half 7 4 6 5 5 1 5 12
Second half 7 3 5 11 11 3 7 18
  • Rob Kiernan was yet again the busiest defender, accounting for a third of the total Defensive Zone Exits.  Of those exits, 80% were clearances & on each of those plays he was under pressure.  When he wasn’t pressured, he took the time to have a controlled exit – via a pass or dribbling the ball out.  He also led the team with six headed clearances.
  • James Tavernier led the team with five Controlled Exits & even though he was under pressure on 60% of his exits – each time he brought the ball out of the defensive third it resulted in Rangers gaining possession in Dumbarton’s half.
  • Controlled exits led to Rangers getting possession in the offensive half 79% of the time & clearances led to possession in Dumbarton’s half 25% of the time.  However, there were no unnecessary clearances given the Rangers defender was under pressure each time.
  • The back line was very composed, often gaining possession & then passing it amongst the four defenders until a quality exit point was available to leave the defensive zone.
  • For the second straight week, Lee Wallace only had one Defensive Zone Exit.  He did make several defensive plays but would then pass to a teammate for the exit.


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