Defensive Third Exits: Marcelo v. Alex Sandro from Champions League Final

written by – Rangers Report    photo courtesy of  – AP

Over the past couple of years, summer football has offered an opportunity for me to track different kinds of stats as I break away from the normed stats I tend to collect during the regular season.  Dimitri Filipovic’s work tracking defensive zone exits during the Stanley Cup playoffs has been something I’ve wanted to replicate in tracking football matches for a while now.

The Champions League Final was the logical choice to try it out.

I wanted to keep it simple the first time around, so I decided on tracking Marcelo (one of my favorite players in recent years) & his counterpart for Juventus – Alex Sandro.

Alex Sandro, courtesy of AFP

I decided to record any time the player was clearly trying to get the ball out of the defensive third via a controlled pass, by dribbling out, or with a clearance.  I only included plays in which the player had the ball at his feet, deciding not to include headed clearances.

Here are the results:

Both players were effective at getting the ball out of the defensive third while attempting a ‘controlled play.’  For Marcelo, eight of his nine exits that came by dribbling the ball or by passing it out successfully led to Real Madrid getting the ball out of its defensive third with possession.  His lone clearance failed to retain possession for Real Madrid.

Alex Sandro was 4 for 4 on controlled exits, but his clearances led to bad stuff happening.

Around thirty seconds before this goal, Sandro’s failed clearance led to Real Madrid regaining possession, which eventually led to this first time clearance that Casemiro flung into the back of the net. Ironically, it was Marcelo who pressured Sandro into the first failed clearance.

This was my first attempt in over a year to track defensive third exits & I think there’s some real promise to gain some insight which players do a better job at getting the ball out of their third on controlled plays.  The assumption is that controlled plays (dribbles or passes) will tend to lead to sustained possession.

In the next week or two, I plan on going back to a couple of Rangers matches (one under Warburton & one under Caixinha) & track the defensive third exits for all four Rangers defenders to see what results I get.



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