After months of playing around with the Statsbomb data, I’ve finally managed to make a blog post out of it. One of the things that is unique about the Statsbomb data is that it tracks pressure events, so I’ve researched how passing is affected under pressure. I looked at lots of different breakdowns of passes with pressure, but I thought I could get more from the data if I visualized it.
I thought that normal pass maps were too congested, so I decided to make pass maps only using passes made under pressure. I think these can be useful to tell us how good a player is at passing by how they react to being pressed. I hope these pass maps filter out easy passes being made under no pressure, so we can focus on the more difficult passes being made. For example, look at the passes Toni Kroos made under pressure during the World Cup. Even when pressed, he completed most of his passes. However, most of these passes are out wide to the winger/full-back, suggesting most of these passes did not progress the ball much.
Compare this to Kevin De Bruyne’s passes under pressure. Whilst he doesn’t complete as many passes under pressure as Kroos, he attempts more direct passes which progress the ball more. Perhaps the map also suggests that De Bruyne roams around the pitch a lot, whilst most of Kroos’s activity is around the centre circle. Looking at the passes made under pressure in their own half (direction of play is left to right), does the map suggest De Bruyne takes more risks than Kroos, and is more willing to seek out the ball when under pressure? These are just hypotheses that could be investigated, but I’m just trying to demonstrate what insights we can gain from these maps. Obviously, the position/role each player plays should be considered.
These pass maps can help identify which players are not as good at passing when pressed, and hence worth pressing. As shown above, Dejan Lovren tends to pass the ball backwards, or makes an incomplete pass when pressed. He completed 70% of his passes when pressed. However, we should always put these stats into context. Is it possible that he was told by his manager to play the ball long, and these stats aren’t reflective of his passing ability?
Jan Vertoghen completed 86% of his passes when pressed. He may also have played full-back, but it’s clear that he completed more forward passes than Lovren. Furthermore, a defender comfortable on the ball may play a simple pass to a teammate when pressed, whilst someone less comfortable may look to ‘get rid’ or play a long ball up the field, which is more likely to lead to a loss of possession. This is something to consider if a defender has lots of ‘safe’ passes when pressed.
I’ll finish this article by showing other interesting pass maps.
In the France midfield, we can see Paul Pogba was more comfortable than N’Golo Kanté at progressing the ball when pressed. This may be why Maurizio Sarri doesn’t want to play Kanté at the base of his midfield. Now for some more ‘obscure’ players.
This is the Peru left-back. Whilst this is quite a small sample size, I like that he completed most of his passes when pressed in his own half, and that most of these passes are played forward. He also made 2 penalty box entries.
Last of all, Eredivise poster boy Ziyech. Not much to gain from this, but just look at the ballsy passes this kid attempts!
As I mentioned at the start, the data is from Statsbomb. Furthermore, the code to make the pitch for the pass maps is from @FC_rstats, and can be found here:
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