Defensive Zone Exits: Rob Kiernan leads the way again

Rob Kiernan, courtesy of RFC

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 Exits Pressured Opp Half Clearance Pressured Opp Half Headed Cl Total Exits
Rob Kiernan 6 1 5 7 6 3 4 13
Danny Wilson 4 1 3 4 3 0 2 8
Lee Wallace 2 2 1 5 5 1 1 7
James Tavernier 2 0 2 2 2 1 0 4
Barrie McKay 3 2 3 0 0 0 0 3
Gedion Zelalem 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 3
Andy Halliday 0 0 0 2 2 0 2 2
Dean Shiels 2 1 2 0 0 0 0 2
Nicky Law 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 1
Totals 22 9 16 21 19 5 9 43
  • Given the cut of Morton’s pitch, there is a definite margin of error in these stats.  Often I use demarkations in the grass to note where the exit point out of the defensive third is & while it is indeed a very nice looking pitch – it was also a nightmare for tracking the plays.
  • There was a good deal of positive buzz surrounding Rob Kiernan’s performance & the objective results definitely support the subjective opinion – i.e. the stats validate the ‘eyeball test.’  Not only did he lead the team with 13 exits out of the defensive third, 69% of those exits resulted in Rangers gaining possession in Morton’s half.
  • This was the first match that I had tracked in which Lee Wallace was relied up on to get the ball out of the defensive third.  Either teams had been avoiding him or he was making the play that triggered the exit by a teammate.  But in this match, he was much more busy clearing the ball out of the defensive third.
  • More than in recent games, there was a greater need for offensive players to track back to help the back four.  Barrie McKay, Gedion Zelalem, Andy Halliday, Dean Shiels & Nicky Law combined for 26% of the Defensive Zone Exits.
  • Last week, the defence was forced to trigger exits out of their zone 15 times & against Morton there were 43 Defensive Zone Exits.
  • 73% of the Controlled Exits led to possession in the attacking half, while 43% of the clearances had the same result.

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