St. Mirren’s entry points of success against Rangers

written by – Rangers Report

After a few weeks of a self-induced holiday from tracking stats, I decided to test out a new set of data to collect from today’s draw against St. Mirren.  Throughout this season, I have tracked Rangers entries into the final third, initially only tracking their controlled entries & then in recent months, all entries into the attacking third.  Given that the season was unwinding & the importance of the games had faded away, I wanted to experiment in this last game.

On a side note, here are the results from the ten matches in which I collected data on both controlled & non-controlled entries into the final third.  Controlled Zone Entries (CZE) refer to when a player dribbles the ball into the final third or makes a direct pass to a teammate already in the attacking third.  Non-Controlled Entries (NCE) refer to long balls into the area, balls into a crowd of defenders, & thru-balls.

  • Of 520 controlled zone entries – 65% led to positive results
  • Of 256 non-controlled entries – 30% led to positive results
  • Shots were generated on 16% of CZE & 6% of NCE
  • When Rangers had 70% or more Controlled Entries in a match – they led to average of 11.8 shots on those controlled entries
  • Matches with less then 70% ratio of CZE, Rangers averaged six shots from CZE

Given Rangers domination of possession this season, they are clearly going to generate more possession going forward into the final third & are more likely to be able to have a controlled entry – which has a much higher rate of resulting in something positive.

I began to wonder – what happens when the opponent enters Rangers defensive third.  Would teams be forced to play long, hopeful balls into the area (a non-controlled entry)?  Would they see similar success rates on controlled entries?

Then, as I investigated how these stats were tracked in ice hockey, I realized that there may be a benefit to also track where the entry point was when the opponent brought the ball into the final third.  Were they getting through the midfield & entering on the left, right, or centrally?  Also, were there trends in which it was ‘easier’ to get a controlled entry in certain attacking areas, rather then being forced into a non-controlled entry?

Danny Wilson, courtesy of RFC

Here are the results from Sunday’s league finale against St. Mirren:

CZE L C R Pos Res Success Rate Highlighted Team results Non-controlled Entry L C R Pos Res Success Rate Highlighted Team results Total Entries
1st Half 12 2 5 5 5 0.42 goal, 3 shots, free kick, 3 throw-ins 10 2 5 3 1 0.10 throw-in 22
2nd Half 7 4 2 1 4 0.57 goal, 2 shots 8 3 5  0 1 0.13 15
Totals 19 6 7 6 9 0.47 2 goals, 5 shots, free kick, 3 throw-ins 18 5 10 3 2 0.11 throw-in 37

The same disclaimer I have used for Rangers entries into the final third applies here as well.  This just measures where & how the ball gets into Rangers’ defensive third.  It does not track the play beyond the entry except for the final result.  Any defensive breakdowns that occur after the entry are a separate entity to be evaluated.

Entries on the left side of the pitch reflect James Tavernier & Rob Kiernan’s main area of defence.   Centrally, it’s obviously the two center backs & then entries on the right are on Lee Wallace & Danny Wilson’s side of the pitch.  Given Rangers fluidity in midfield it is difficult to say whether Jason Holt or Gedion Zelalem were supporting Wallace or Tavernier the majority of the time.  Andy Halliday tends to play centrally.

Some observations:

  • Controlled Entries on left: 33% success rate (2 shots & goal)
  • Controlled Entries through center: 57% success rate (2 shots & goal)
  • Controlled Entries on right: 83% success rate (shot)

For the most part, Tavernier & Kiernan limited St. Mirren’s success on the left — until extra time when St. Mirren managed to turn entries up the left flank into two shots, including the equalizing goal.  While St. Mirren did see a high rate of success on Wallace & Wilson’s side – the extent of that damage was quite limited.

  • Controlled Entries: 32% left, 37% centrally, 32% right

St. Mirren did not appear to have a specific game plan of where to attack Rangers back four.

  • NCE: 0% success rate on left
  • NCE: 20% success rate through center
  • NCE: 0% success rate on right
  • NCE: 28% left, 56% centrally, 17% right

St. Mirren generated nothing when relying on a non-controlled entry (mostly long balls).

  • 63% of total shots came directly from controlled entries, 0% from non-controlled entries
  • Shot generated on 26% of controlled entries

Notice St. Mirren enjoyed a higher rate of shots being generated on controlled entries then the results from the ten match study of Rangers entries.  This is largely a byproduct of volume.  Rangers averaged 52 CZE in that ten game span, St. Mirren had 19 on Sunday.  Defences clearly pack layers of defenders when Rangers attack, while so often Rangers defence are tracking back as the opponent attempts a counter.

  • 30% of all entries on left, 46% centrally, 24% on right
  • 55% of left entries were controlled
  • 41% centrally were controlled
  • 66% of right entries were controlled

The high rate of entries on the right being controlled makes me wonder what was happening in front of Lee Wallace & Danny Wilson.  What happened when Jason Holt was supporting them & what happened when Gedion Zelalem was in support?

Note:  these statistics only reflect when St. Mirren was able to get into Rangers defensive third.  It does not reflect when play was broken up prior to their entry.  There were times when defenders were able to step up & break up the play.  Going forward if you had a team of people tracking different elements of the play, you may be able to get a more complete picture the defensive play, especially in the midfield.

You can follow Rangers Report on Twitter @TheGersReport

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