Defensive Zone Exits: Danny Wilson anchors the backline v. Cowdenbeath

Danny Wilson, courtesy of Rob Casey (SNS)

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
Danny Wilson 6  0 6 2 1  1 1 8
James Tavernier 3 1 3 1 1  1 1 4
Dominic Ball 1  0 1 1 1 1 1 2
Lee Wallace 1  0 1  0  0  0  0 1
Jason Holt 1 1 1  0  0  0  0 1
 Totals 12 2 12 4 3 1 3 16
First half 5 1 5 1 1 1 1 6
Second Half 7 1 7 3 2 0 2 10
  • Danny Wilson handled 50% of the total Defensive Zone Exits on Sunday.  Of those exits, 75% were controlled passes out of the defensive third.  He did rush one clearance out of the defensive zone that came with no pressure & it resulted in a turnover.
  • His defensive parter, Dominic Ball, only had two clearances.  However, on a couple of plays he actually dispossessed the offensive player & moved the ball to Wilson for the controlled exit.
  • For some context, Rangers had 30 total Defensive Zone Exits in their match last week against Dumbarton.  So Rangers defense had very little to do on Sunday.
  • 63% of the Defensive Zone Exits came in the second half as Cowdenbeath had to chase the game a little more.
  • A real indicator of how much control Ranger had in this match is that on only one occasion did a non-defender have to drop back to make a Defensive Zone exit. Also, 75% of exits were controlled plays that led to possession in Cowdenbeath’s half 100% of the time.
  • Cowdenbeath only managed to pressure the defender on their exit on 25% of the plays.
  • Last week, 30% of the exits were headed clearances.  This week only 19% of the exits were headers.

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