Why Keeping Possession Is Not Enough To Win Soccer Games

As we saw in the World Cup 2018, the duration of a match in which a team keeps possession of the ball is not necessarily the way to victory. Below is a part of a powerpoint presentation I made on a study done examining the keys to effective passing in soccer. I had to leave out some slides due to the size of the document and because some of the jokes and videos wouldn’t have made much sense without the context of me presenting the information. Nonetheless, there is some value in the short, chopped up version of this presentation for both players looking to increase their “dangerosity” and coaches who want their teams to increase their passing behavior to score more goals.

Some of the key takeaways are:

  1. Simply keeping possession is not really enough to win games

  2. It is about using the possession to bypass defenders (packing) and create high quality chances on goal

  3. High quality chances on goal involve less pressure on the shooter, less defenders between the shooter and the goal, and close proximity to the goal

  4. Passes from the midfield (especially the top of the penalty box Zone 14) into the penalty box (Zone 17) are the most dangerous passes

  5. Overplaying defenders building out of the back doesn’t increase space control over the opponent as much as overplaying defenders from the midfield into the attacking third

  6. Overlaying defenders from the midfield into the attacking third is correlated with scoring goals and winning