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Welcome to the OptaPro blog, featuring news and analysis from OptaPro's cutting-edge research team.

COLUMBIA BLOG: Holding the ball under pressure

Since early 2011 student researchers from Columbia University in New York, led by Professor Casey Ichniowski, have been carrying out qualitative analysis of numerous leagues and seasons of full Opta data in an attempt to further contextualise events that occur within a football match. Casey and his team have used a range of statistical methods to analyse the data. The result has been a number of short-form analytical blogs, covering many different aspects of the game including 'Team DNA', scoring possessions and tempo. We invite comment and debate on each.

You can read the first blog here. The second blog for OptaPro from Professor Ichinowski's team is a look at which players are most effective at holding on to the ball without assistance in advanced areas of the pitch:


Which player is the best at holding the ball under significant defensive pressure?

In an attempt to answer this question, we looked at each player's top five longest turns with the ball in heavily defended areas over the course of the 2011-2012 domestic club season. We assumed that turns starting in the final third and ending in the final quarter, not on the flanks or during fast breaks, must have been in the constant presence of defenders.

Below is a ranking of the top 50 players when looking at the mean in seconds of their five longest turns meeting these criteria. The list contains many expected names from big clubs as well as more than a handful of surprises. Maybe these lesser recognized players would likewise accrue goals and assists at the rate of the stars on this list if they happened to play for different teams.


Now please let us know your thoughts on this methodology. Feel free to comment below, or tweet us @OptaPro.

All images ©Action Images

Posted by Columbia University at 15:12


jim kelly said...
why limit to 5 longest posessions and cut out majority of the distribution? effective holders will have many more posesions and a simple mean provides better insight to their total effectiveness in this function. only using posessions moving from final third to final quarter can also rulle out many effective posession tho I appreciate the positive slant this provides to the result, however, how many goals still accrue from an effective posession where that criteria was not met? this is a very helpful metric to study, just think you may have tightened the data sample to a point where the benefit is missed?
February 5, 2013 12:49

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