One of those days

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Wednesday was one of those very special days.

One of my PhD students, Ron Smith, completed the formal paperwork for his PhD at the University of Canberra. He is submitting his thesis at 1.30pm on Friday.

Ron has just celebrated forty years as an association football coach. During that time he has had many roles in professional football in Australia and Malaysia.

I persuaded Ron to register for his PhD to connect his world of coaching expertise with the academic debate about performance in association football. I think his enrollment is a great example of an alternative entry pathway.

The title of his thesis is An Investigation into Goal Scoring Patterns in Association Football.

His abstract is:

This thesis investigates goal scoring in professional association football. There has been a vibrant debate in the research literature about how goals are scored. Researchers have discussed the location of the scorer on the field of play, the number of touches of the ball taken, the type of pass, the number of passes in the sequence preceding each goal, and when in a game goals are scored. There has been a growing interest in identifying the most successful area of the field where the final pass leading to a goal was made and has led to debate about one area in particular, Zone 14. The quantification of the number of passes preceding goals has fueled debate about the tactical success of ‘possession based’ football and ‘Direct Play’. Approximately 90% of goals in association football are scored within 23 yards of the goal and the majority of these with less than five passes.

This research presented here analyzed goal scoring in Open Play to determine if the most successful method of gaining entry into the scoring area was from ‘Passing the ball behind opponents or to a player level with the last defender’, compared with ‘Crossing’ the ball and any ‘Other Methods’ that were not included in the other two categories. This new approach maps 7 areas of the field, rather than the 18 used in the extant literature, to record where the final pass was made in each category. It is argued that the use of 7 areas sensitive to the offside law yields a much better analysis of performance. Data were recorded about in which ‘third’ of the field possession was regained and the number of passes in each sequence. The thesis presents new operational definitions for the quantification of lost possession. It is argued that these definitions provide a more accurate account of events preceding goals specifically in relation to what the literature has regarded as ‘zero’ pass goals. Data for this study were gathered from three seasons of the English Premier League and the Australian ‘A’ League and three tournaments of FIFA World Cups and UEFA European Championships. A total of 3,175 goals in Open Play were analyzed. These data enabled comparisons to be made within and between league football and international tournaments. Goals were captured and coded with Sportscode Elite software. Data were analyzed with SPSS software V.19.

The results presented here report that the most successful method of scoring in all international tournaments and in 4 of the 6 league competitions was from ‘Passing the ball behind opponents’; the vast majority coming from an area identified as Zone 14+, the area between the half way line and the penalty area. The majority of goals were scored with 5 passes or less and from regained possessions in the middle third of the field in every competition. The least successful category for scoring in 11 of the 12 competitions was from ‘Crosses’. The evidence from this research provides coaches with the most effective of three strategies to score goals in professional association football while leaving them to decide how best to implement these strategies with the players at their disposal.

I am delighted that Ron will be submitting his thesis for examination.

Many years ago (1986), Howard Becker wrote about “getting the thesis out of the door”. I thought I might send Howard this picture of the culmination of four years work.

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#AC2015 Performance Against Elo Ratings in 32 Games

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The Asian Cup 2015 concluded yesterday evening in Sydney.

The Final was the thirty-second game of the Tournament.

I looked at the performance of teams in these 32 games in relation to their Elo Ratings.

Higher Elo rated teams won 24 of the 32 games played at the Tournament. Of these:

  • 22 higher rated teams scored first and won their games.

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  • 2 higher rated teams did not score first and won their games

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  • 8 Higher Elo rated teams lost to lower rated teams in the Tournament

Of these eight games, DPR Korea (v Saudi Arabia), Uzbekistan (v China) and Iran (v Iraq) scored first and lost. Iran lost to Iraq in a penalty shoot out.

The five games where a lower Elo rated team scored first and won were:

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UAE defeated Japan in a penalty shoot out.

The data I used for this post can be found here.

Photo Credit

DSC_0188 (Joshua Sadli, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

140428 Performance Against Ranking

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Introduction

The 2014 AFL, NRL and SRU football competitions are at different stages in their competition cycle. I have been monitoring teams’ progress in each competition against previous year’s ranking.

AFL

After six Rounds, this year’s pattern of performance against previous year’s ranking is:

AFL 6

Geelong and Fremantle were the two teams to play below their 2013 ranking in this Round. They were defeated by Port Adelaide and North Melbourne respectively. Fremantle were defeated at home.

Carlton overcame the largest end of third quarter deficit this season, 14 points, to defeat West Coast. North Melbourne were able to overcome a 3 point end of third quarter deficit to defeat Fremantle.

Round 6 was a low scoring Round. The average profile of total points scored by winners and losers up to and including Round 6 is:

AFL 6 WL

NRL

After a turbulent start to the season, there was some stability around performance against 2013 Ranking. The Storm were the only higher ranked team to lose in this Round. They were defeated by the Warriors at home.

NRL 8

SRU

After a relatively stable season of performance against 2013 Ranking, week 11 of the Super Rugby competition was very volatile. Only the Cheetahs performed to their ranking in their defeat of the Stormers. It was the Cheetahs first win since Round 2. The performance of the Round was the Highlanders’ defeat of the Sharks in Durban.

SRU 11

Notating Performance

My record of winning and losing uses a basic notation.

NRL Legend

My aim is to have a visual scan of performance. Week 11 of SRU makes for interesting viewing in this context. I hope that my notation gives a sense of trend against which to compare any performance. This week, Fremantle, the Storm and the Sharks all lost at home to lower ranked teams. Such defeats tend to make supporters nervous. Carlton’s comeback at home against West Coast gave their supporters a significant boost after early season defeats.

This is their season to date:

Carlton

Photo Credit

Pastels (verdienter Kunstler, CC BY-NC 2.0)