Zone Entries 2.0 – Adding new layers to the stat via Rangers win over Progres Niederkorn

written by – Rangers Report    photo courtesy of – FC Progres Niederkorn

Long time followers of this blog will remember that Controlled Zone Entries were a stat that I tracked weekly for Rangers back in 2015-16.  I continued doing so for the club I consulted last season & this season I plan on adding a couple of additional layers to the results.

What are Controlled Zone Entries (CZE) & what are Non-Controlled Entries (NCE)?

  • Controlled Zone Entries occur whenever a player gets the ball into the final third via a controlled play.  Controlled plays included direct passes to a teammate in the final third or when a player dribbles the ball into the attacking zone.
  • Non-Controlled Entries include:  long balls into space in the final third, a pass that is towards a teammate but the receiver will have to battle with a defender for that ball, or through balls.  Through balls are a high risk/reward play.  They create opportunities for a teammate to play in  space in the final third, but they also tend to create 50/50 battles for the ball.  I love a good through ball, but it is still classified as a Non-Controlled Entry.

Why does this stat matter?

  • I originally was intrigued by the results that came from the hockey analytics world, where the trends are if you enter the attacking zone with a controlled play you are more likely to generate a shot.
  • Shots occur way more often in hockey than in football, so I began to not only track shots that are generated but also other positive plays such as earning a throw-in, getting a cross into the box, earning a free kick or simply retaining possession as the ball comes out of the final third.  The results over two seasons have been pretty consistent.
  • Last season, the team I consulted for had a positive result on 70% of their Controlled Zone Entries vs. 31% of their Non-Controlled Entries.  More importantly, they generated a shot on 17% of their CZE, while only getting a shot on 6% of their NCE.  These numbers were pretty consistent with Rangers’ results in 2015/16.  Controlled entries are more than twice as likely to lead to something positive & typically three times more likely to lead to a shot being created.

Learning from the location of entries

  • I track where entries occur as well – left, central, or right.  Trends can begin to develop, as in – do teams have more success while playing certain opponents when they enter the final third on the left flank or the right flank.  Are there defenders that can be exploited?  Do the opposing full backs get caught up the pitch?
  • Controlled Zone Entries that are central tend to be more dangerous & they are also the most difficult route into the final third
  • Given that I also track the opposing team’s entries, you can see trends on defense that other teams are taking advantage of

The New Stuff

  • I have begun to tabulate whether the CZE was via a pass or the ball being dribbled in.  The goal is to begin to see strengths & weaknesses in certain players that can be useful information for a coaching staff.  Player A is more successful passing the ball into the attacking third & when he dribbles in it doesn’t lead to positive results as much.
  • Tracking zone entries tells you who gets the ball into the final third but often that player doesn’t influence the ultimate result.  That’s always been a weakness of this stat.  To address that, I have added a new layer to the data which measures:  was the first/next pass completed after the entry into the final third?  If a player passed it in – did he put his teammate in position to complete the next pass?  If he dribbled the ball in, did he complete the first pass inside the final third?
courtesy of FC Progres Niederkorn

Rangers v Progres Niederkorn:  June 29, 2017

Controlled Zone Entries

  • Not only did Ryan Jack lead the team in controlled entries into the final third, 100% of them led to a successful first/next pass & 73% led to  a positive result…including the ultimate generation of two shots.
  • Notice that 100% of Wallace’s CZE were passed in, while 100% of Dalcio’s were dribbled in.  It’s only one match, but if that trend continues Rangers will become quite predictable up the left flank.
  • 14% of the CZE led to shots being created

Non-Controlled Entries

Controlled % is the rate of total entries that were controlled.

  • As a team, Rangers had moderate success on NCEs – which is usually an indicator of the oppositions defensive weakness being exploited.
  • Notice that even though Kranjcar had a high number of Non-Controlled Entries, he had a high success rate.  That’s probably an attribute to his vision & ability to create plays that put his teammates in position to succeed if they can beat the defender to the ball.
  • Also, notice that only 11% of the team’s first/next pass was completed (compared to 68% on CZEs)
  • 8% of NCEs led to shots
  • Rangers seemed to be targeting getting into the final third via the right flank, with 46% of the entries coming on that side. Fifteen of those total entries came from Tavernier (8) & Kranjcar (7).
  • However, you can see that Rangers had a much easier time entering the final third via a controlled play on the left side (81% control rate, compared to 39% centrally & on the right).  66% of those left sided CZE led to positive results, including three shots.
  • Central controlled entries are the most difficult path into the final third & also the most rewarding.  86% of these CZE led to positive results, including three shots. Additionally, the first/next pass was completed 86% of the time.
  • 43% of central CZEs led to shots, while the shot rate was 8% via left sided CZE & 18% from right sided entries.
  • Even though the entry points weren’t very balanced, you can see why Rangers targeted their entries on the right side (vs. Progres’ left sided defenders).  A 53% success rate on NCE isn’t normal (especially given there were 17 NCE on that side), plus you can see it was much easier to make that first/next pass on the right sided Non-Controlled Entries.

How about trends on defense?

First off, it should be noted that 75% of the final third entries were generated by Rangers.  They had 93, while Progres Niederkorn only had 31.  Of those 31 entries, only 10 were controlled entries.  So sample size will make some of these results ‘sensitive.’

  • Note the markings of left, center, & right are from the point of view of Progres Niederkorn’s attack.  So, a left sided entry is actually against the right side of Rangers defense (Tavernier & Bates), while a right sided entry is against Wallace & Cardoso.
  • 45% of all entries & 60% of controlled entries came against Tavernier & Bates’ side.  We all know that Tavernier has a reputation for getting caught up the pitch…but the fact that only 17% of those CZE led to positive results (& 0% on the other side) highlights the defensive support of players like Bates, Cardoso, Ryan Jack & Jason Holt.  Small sample size but promising results.
  • But… is a bit of a concern that Progres had a 38% success rate & completed 50% of their first/next pass on those Non-Controlled Entries vs. Tavernier & Bates.  They will likely target that side of the pitch again on the 4th of July.

Lastly, it is interesting to combine that entry data with where key passes came from (key passes are the passes that set up shots).

  • 40% of Progres Niederkorn’s key passes came from Zone 16 (again success on the Rangers right side of the defense).
  • The other 60% was broken up evenly (20% each) from Zones 14, 15, & 11

For Rangers:

  • 42% of key passes came from Zone 14
  • 25% from Zone 18 (two of those were from corners)
  • 25% from Zone 15 (again Rangers exploiting the left side of Progres’ defence)
  • 8% from Zone 17 (the most dangerous area for key passes)

8 thoughts on “Zone Entries 2.0 – Adding new layers to the stat via Rangers win over Progres Niederkorn

    1. Thanks.

      Can you help me? CZE – Kranjcar 8 – Passed 0.75 – Dribbled 0.25 – Next pass 0.25 – Success Rate o.63. What is the calculation to get the success rate?

      Again thanks


      1. The 0.75 & 0.25 are percents. 75% of the entries passed in, 25% dribbled in. 25% of the first/next pass completed after the entry.

        Success rate is the percent of times the controlled entry led to a positive result (shot, corner, throw-in, etc).

        Thanks for reaching out


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s