Champions League Final: Statistical Analysis of Final Third Entries

written by – Rangers Report

Call it withdrawal, or simply an interest to track a non-Rangers match, I decided to track zone entries into the final third for Saturday’s Champions League Final.  Oh, what I do for fun…or the avoidance of day drinking given the time difference in California.

This work is not new, as it has hit the analytics mainstream (is there even such a thing?) in the coverage of the NHL  & has been applied to football in the past by Danny Pugsley in his coverage for Statsbomb & for the Manchester City blog – Bitter & Blue.  

As readers of this site know, I have tracked zone entries for Rangers matches throughout the season & recently used the info see how opposing teams were approaching their own entries into the final third.

Some background before presenting the results from Real Madrid’s victory over Atletico Madrid.  Zone Entries into the final third are broken into two different categories:

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.  Thru-balls can be a very dangerous pass, but they still usually involve a battle for the ball – which means it is not a ‘controlled entry.’

It should be noted that I do not include the following when I’m tracking play:  long balls from the goalkeeper, free kicks into the final third, or throw-ins.  One of the benefits of looking at these results, especially when tracking by player, is that you can really begin to see which players are effectively driving possession into the final third & which players’ decision making is stifling success in the final third from how they get the ball into the attacking third.

Also, teams have seen much more success when entering the final third with a controlled entry rather than a non-controlled entry.  In a group of matches in which I accumulated the totals for Rangers the results were:

  • 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

In preparation for Rangers’ Scottish Cup Final showdown with Hibs, I went back & tracked Hibs’ entries into the final third & the results were similar.  In those four league matches:  52% of Hibs’ CZE led to positive results, while only 22% of their NCE did.  In those matches, Hibs generated a shot on 20% of their controlled entries & only 6% of their non-controlled entries.

Ok, enough with the build-up.  Here are the results from the Champions League Final.

Fernando Torres & Luka Modric, courtesy of Clive Mason (Getty Images)

L, C, R:  refer to area of entry PR: means positive results (including corners, throw-ins, free kicks earned along with shots generated, crosses into the box & retaining possession but leaving the final third)

Real Madrid CZE L PR C PR R PR Pos Res Success Rate Highlighted Team results NCE L PR C PR R PR Pos Res Success Rate Highlighted Team results Total Entries
1st half 12 4 2 4 3 4 2 7 0.58 2 shots, corner, throw-in, free kick 9 1 0 6 0 2 1 1 0.11 throw-in 21
2nd half 25 6 3 13 7 6 6 16 0.64 7 shots, 2 corners, 3 throw-ins 2 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0.00 27
Extra Time 20 5 3 6 3 9 6 12 0.60 7 shots, 3 corners, free kick 3 0 0 2 1 1 0 1 0.33 shot 23
Totals 57 15 8 23 13 19 14 35 0.61 16 shots 14 2 0 9 1 3 1 2 0.14 shot 71

 

Atletico Madrid CZE L PR C PR R PR Pos Res Success Rate Highlighted Team results NCE L PR C PR R PR Pos Res Success Rate Highlighted Team results Total Entries
1st half 15 9 5 2 2 4 3 10 0.67 3 shots, throw-in 14 1 1 9 2 4 0 3 0.21 shot, corner 29
2nd half 24 17 12 4 1 3 3 16 0.67 goal, 5 shots, 3 throw-ins, penalty earned, corner 12 4 1 8 2 0 0 3 0.25 shot, 3 throw-ins 36
Extra Time 13 4 2 4 3 5 5 10 0.77 shot, throw-in, 3 corners 4 2 0 2 0 0 0 0 0.00 17
Totals 52 30 19 10 6 12 11 36 0.69 goal, 9 shots 30 7 2 19 4 4 0 6 0.20 2 shots 82

Overall, Atletico had 54% of the total entries into the final third, but Real Madrid actually had the majority of controlled entries (52%).  Of the non-controlled entries into the final third, Atletico had 68% of them.  When Real Madrid were entering the final third, they were doing so in control of the ball & the results are tilted in their favor.

This data is meant to be an entry point to further understand where & how entries into the final third occur.  These stats would have even greater meaning when looking at them in conjunction with what happens once the ball is in the final third.  I invite any of you to apply passing in the final third data to these numbers to see any correlations.

courtesy of fourfourtwo.com
courtesy of fourfourtwo.com

If you are wondering what impact game states (i.e. the score) had on how each team entered the final third – here is a chart of the entries with major events (goals, substitutions, penalties earned, etc.) time stamped:

image

As you can see, much of the first half was even, but Real Madrid did go in a bit of a malaise after scoring their goal as Atletico steadily began to outpace Real.  Diego Simeone’s tactical changes at the half also had a tangible impact on Atletico’s play.  Real went nearly the first ten minutes of the second half without an entry into the final third as Atletico dominated possession, eventually being rewarded with a penalty kick.

It is only after Atletico’s equalizer, that you see Real close the gap in final third entries.


A closer look at the results:

Real Madrid:

  • CZE on left: 53% success rate (4 shots)
  • CZE through center: 57% success rate (10 shots)
  • CZE on right: 74% success rate (2 shots)
  • CZE: 26% on left, 40% central, 33% on right

While Real saw a great deal of success attacking on the right with Marcelo & to a lesser extent Lucas Vazquez leading the attacks, the real damage was done centrally.  This is where players like Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo & Luca Modric really thrust their influence on the match.

Heat-map for Bale, Modric, & Ronaldo - courtesy of whoscored.com
Heat-map for Bale, Modric, & Ronaldo – courtesy of whoscored.com

Atletico Madrid:

  • CZE on left: 63% success rate (3 shots)
  • CZE through center: 60% success rate (5 shots)
  • CZE on right: 92% success rate (goal & 1 shot)
  • CZE: 58% on left, 19% central, 23% on right

Daniel Carvajal’s tenth minute booking seemed to trigger a green light for Atletico to hone their attacks into the final third on his side of the pitch.  The floodgates opened once Carvajal left the match injured & Danilo came on as his replacement in the 52nd minute.  Seeing 58% of controlled entries happening in one entry point location is not a coincidence.  Atletico made a deliberate attempt to exploit Real here & while they did have some success – it’s ironic that their goal was scored via a controlled entry on the right side.  In fact, whenever Atletico entered the final third in Marcelo & Sergio Ramos area – it led to a positive result 92% of the time.

courtesy of whoscored.com
courtesy of whoscored.com

Real Madrid:

  • NCE: 0% success rate on left
  • NCE: 11% success rate centrally
  • NCE: 33% success rate on right
  • NCE: 14% on left, 64% central, 21% on right

Atletico Madrid:

  • NCE: 29% success rate on left
  • NCE: 21% success rate centrally
  • NCE: 0% success rate on right
  • NCE: 23% on left, 63% central, 13% right

Non-controlled entries that are sent into the final third centrally are often long balls looking for a break  in the heart of the defence.  Again, you do see that Atletico saw some success (albeit very minimal) while looking to exploit Carvajal & Danilo.

courtesy of Getty Images

Real Madrid:

  • 64% of shots came directly from CZE, 4% on NCE
  • shot generated on 28% of CZE, 7% of NCE
  • shot generated on 24% of total entries

Atletico Madrid:

  • 53% of shots came directly from CZE, 12% from NCE
  • shot generated on 17% of CZE, 7% of NCE
  • shot generated on 13% of total entries

Shots often happen indirectly after entries – for example, after a corner, free kick or a throw-in is earned.  However, these numbers only account for shots generated directly due to an entry into the final third.

While Atletico had a higher volume of entries into the final third, remember that the majority of controlled entries were actually in favor of Real.   Their ability to create shots are clearly on display here (Real also ended up having a Total Shots Ratio of 60%).  So basically, while Atletico spent more time in the attacking third – Real Madrid’s ability to enter the zone with control led to enhanced results.  Credit should go to Real’s defence for limiting Atletico to shots on only 17% of their controlled entries.

Casemiro, courtesy of Getty Images

Real Madrid:

  • 24% of all entries on left, 45% central, 31% on right
  • 88% of entries on left were controlled
  • 72% of central entries were controlled
  • 86% of entries on right were controlled

Atletico Madrid:

  • 45% of all entries on left, 35% central, 20% on right
  • 81% of entries on left were controlled
  • 34% of central entries were controlled
  • 75% of entries on right were controlled

These results beg further analysis of Casemiro’s play on Saturday.  Whenever Atletico looked to enter the final third centrally, they usually had to rely on a non-controlled entry.  Of those plays, only 16% were long balls coming from their own half.  This heat-map of the defensive midfielder helps support the claim that he was a major factor in disrupting Atletico’s attacks.

courtesy of whoscored.com
courtesy of whoscored.com

One last, particularly geeky note, it was intriguing to see how both teams relied more & more on controlled entries when entering the final third as the match went on.  Of Real’s entries, 80% were controlled.  In the first half only 57% of their entries were controlled, but then in the second half 93% were controlled & even in extra time 87% of their entries were controlled.  This is how a team of Real’s supreme talent should approach driving possession.

Even Atletico’s numbers progressed as the match went on:  63% of all entries were controlled (52% in 1st half, 67% in 2nd half, 76% in extra time).

You can follow Rangers Report on Twitter @TheGersReport

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