Football possession statistics and their impact on match results

Football possession statistics and their impact on match results

Ball possession is one of the most controversial points in soccer statistics. It would seem that whoever owns the ball has the initiative, controls the course of the match, creates more chances and wins more often. In fact, it turns out that this criterion is not at all fundamental for great victories. Experts from Mightytips looked at how the percentage of possession affects the odds of the playing teams.

soccer ball possession statistics

Ownership bet types

  1. Winning by percentage of ownership. Everything is simple here – the bettor chooses which team will win according to a given indicator. The outcome is available in duels of equal opponents, but more often the office sets handicaps for this type of statistics.
  2. Handicap… It is proposed to predict with what ball possession difference the match will end. The size of the handicap depends on the strength and style of both teams. For example, the handicap of team 1 (-10.5%) is the handicap of team 2 (+ 10.5%). For the first bet to play, team 1 must have at least 56% of the playing time, and for the second bet, team 2 must have at least 45% of the ball.
  3. Individual total. The bookmaker offers to predict whether one or the other team will have the ball more or less than the specified value. For example, team 1 – total over / under 55.5.
  4. Individual Total In Between. A simplified version of the previous market. Bettor is asked to guess the interval of two values. For example, Team 1 has 40-50% or 45-55% ball possession.

Influence of the percentage of possession on the chances of teams in the match

In the second half of the 2000s and the first half of the 10s, Barcelona and the Spanish national team raised the cult of possession to a new level. Catalan tiki-taka not only fascinated, but also brought results, and Fury Roja won the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012 just in this style. It is clear that many clubs and national teams sought to repeat such a success, only few of them had enough performing skills.

However, in recent years, many coaches and teams have learned how to competently resist opponents who have a lot of ball possession. For example, the French national team at the 2018 World Cup in Russia for 4 playoff matches only once surpassed the opponent in possession of the ball – in the quarter-finals with Uruguay (62% versus 38%). The Argentines in the 1/8 finals (60 to 40), the Belgians in the semifinals (64 to 36) and even tired Croats in the final (66 to 34) surpassed the French in this indicator, but this did not give a result – the French became world champions. And at the 2014 World Cup, the Spanish national team, which was then the reigning champion, did not even leave the group, having more than 60% of the ball possession.

Returning to club football, we note once again that Barcelona conquered the Champions League in the 2008/2009 and 2010/2011 seasons, possessing an average of 60% or more of the match time during the competition. But there was also Inter’s victory for Jose Mourinho in the 2009/2010 Champions League with an average ball control of 45% per game and just over 33% in the final against Bayern Munich. It is also worth remembering the 2011/12 season, which Chelsea won, beating Barcelona with 28% possession in the semi-finals on aggregate and Bayern Munich with 44% in the final. Have you not forgotten how in the 2016/17 season Rostov slammed the same Bayern Munich 3: 2 in their field, while owning the ball 24% of the time?

These are just a few memorable examples that tell us that ownership percentage alone does not directly affect a team’s odds in a match or tournament.

The importance of ball possession in conjunction with other factors

Ball possession is an important, but far from the main factor influencing the final score of the meeting. It is very important for each team not only to control the ball, but also to create dangerous moments. After all, if you control the ball exclusively in your own half of the field and in the center, dry statistics will reflect the numbers, but the team will not receive benefits from this. In this regard, Barcelona always stood out, which possessed the ball in the opponent’s half of the field and even on the approaches to his penalty area, thanks to which it squeezed moment by moment out of control.

Also, we must not forget about realizing our chances, since you can hold the ball for a long time, but not bring the attacks to blows. Or finish, but smear 19 out of 20 hits.

Another important factor is playing on the defensive. To achieve a result, as you know, all means are good. And if a team, having scored a goal, goes into deep defense and gives the ball to the opponent, but at the same time keeps the required score, who will throw a stone at it?

What should be considered when analyzing the percentage of ball possession?

  1. Play style. The most important factor that determines how long the team will hold the ball. With long passes, less time is devoted to control of the ball, but teams that love to play short passes (Manchester City, Arsenal, partly Barcelona, ​​although this style was previously their calling card) possess a lot and tasty possession.
  2. The power of teams. Another factor inextricably linked with the first. Whatever the style of the team, if a club from the English third division, who loves to control the ball, hits Chelsea or Manchester United in the Cup of the country, then with the percentage of ownership everything will be clear from the beginning. Another example is PSG in the French Championship, where Parisians are head and shoulders above most opponents, but in the Champions League they often face equal opponents.
  3. Main coach. Some of the world’s leading experts prefer to build the game of their teams by giving the ball to the enemy and playing number two. These include Jose Mourinho (Tottenham), Diego Simeone (Atlético), ex-Rubin and Rostov coach Kurban Berdyev. These specialists are ready to give up the opponent’s territory for the sake of reliable defensive play and the ability to score on counterattacks and from set pieces (free kicks, corners). But the head of Man City, Josep Guardiola, tries to set the game for each of his teams, starting precisely from the control of the ball.
  4. Composition and personnel losses per game. Let’s say a team prefers to play with horse-drawn passes, but two key center-forward were injured before the match. Willy-nilly, the coach will have to look for other moves and force his players to make crosses less often, to play more short and medium passes.
  5. Motivation and tactics. One team may need a victory bleeding, while the other enters the field, having already solved their tournament tasks. It is logical that the first team will go out of their way to finish off the victory and try to control the ball.
  6. The home stadium factor and the weather. If teams are tied, or the hosts look stronger, they will play offensive more often, which means possession of the ball. The support of the fans and the familiar lawn will help this. When it comes to weather, rain and snow kill good ball control. It’s a good idea to check the weather forecast before betting on ball possession. In bad weather, even the coolest teams prefer to play through a long pass.

Summarizing the above, we can conclude that ball possession indicators do not indicate the effectiveness of a team. Of course, many of the teams in control of the ball are often very strong and tactically savvy. But do not forget that in every game there are people on the field whose task is not to gain a certain percentage of possession, but to score as many goals as possible to the opponent. To achieve a positive result, the team needs not only to hold the ball, but also to accompany this process with attacks and shots on goal.

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