Pressing Matters – Closing Down Metrics

So Mike Goodman’s piece about Arsenal for NordicBet and Will Gurpinar-Morgan’s Statsbomb piece finally jolted me into doing something about measuring ‘pressing’.

Now, when I was a lad, it was called ‘closing down’, but if you’re a football hipster it’s ‘pressing’ and the higher up the pitch you do it, the better you are. Or something.

In real life every team does it at some point when defending an opponent’s attack, and I’m interested to see where they do it on the pitch. Using data.

I’ve made a short vid with three examples.

Clip 1 shows Man City seeing Everton dawdling at the back in possession and deciding to push forward as a group. This ends with a one or two sideways/backwards passes before Everton lump it and lose it. Job done.

Clip 2 shows Everton not bothering to do the same to City. Instead they back off into the middle of their own half before closing opponents out one at a time. City have to keep going back before trying a difficult vertical pass that doesn’t come off.

Clip 3 shows City in their own half putting pressure on Everton players, forcing them back, and pushing up as a unit. The result is Everton having to move the ball backwards intot heir own half before deciding to lump it forward. They lose possession again.

So the key things here in every example is the opponent being forced to pass back or forced into misplacing a pass. The video shows you this is what happens when defenses apply pressure. Pour moi, this gives you more data points than fairly rare events like tackles or interceptions. Pour moi, it’s a more realistic measure of pressing than ones I’ve seen around.

Anyway, the vid:

‘High’ pressing is en vogue right now with managers like Guardiola and Klopp in the Prem. And its City that push highest on my measure (which concentrates only on outfield players).

I’ve narrowed the below graphic down to passes made in centre back areas. Red dots are backwards passes or passes that have gone astray. Blue ones successful. The graphic switches between opponents that City have played, and opponents that WBA have played. Proportionally, City force the oppo backwards or into errors twice as much as WBA:

Enjoy the football this weekend.

This entry was posted in Sports. Bookmark the permalink.