Let’s Go With Yardage Gained

Image result for arjen robben dribble

Why don’t WhoScored/Sky/every major soccer provider give us a simple “yardage gained” number with every player. Yardage gained is simply (passing yardage forward + carry yardage forward + dribble yardage forward), if you’d like you could conceivably add in receiving yardage for certain types of players/passes but let’s stick with the basics for now. Backwards passes count as 0. Closer to goal, so passes to wings but “forward” don’t mess things up.

I’d be fascinated to see that. It’s not a perfect number but as a sort of baseline box score number, it is pretty fascinating. If you’ve been reading lately, you’ve noticed I’ve used yards/minute a lot (Here, Here, and Here for example) to try and isolate interesting players. Could you gain your team a lot of yards and not be a helpful player? Yes, of course. But why not know how your team is moving the ball up the field? In American football, the yard is the base of analysis (more specifically the yard per play which is roughly the equivalent of yard per ball loss in my opinion) because while you can score on long bombs, the closer to the end zone or goal the better for your team. You can have the best strikers in the world but without moving the ball forward you can’t win.

“Progressions” like those used at StatsBomb or Caley’s stuff are nice, but only get counted if you break into the Final Third, which I think is not the best cutoff and ignores most plays. I like looking at Zone Entries but again it gets a bit arbitrary.

The ubiquitous Zones

These “Events” are good stats for certain types of players and moves but we should shift more towards looking at yardage-gained based stats overall instead of progressions which happen just a handful of times per game. Of course tying it together with average field position is crucial, who cares if you are gaining more yards if you are starting 70 yards away from goal as a midfielder. Field position stats are also massively under-utilized currently (“midfielders” often lumped together for example). To tie this together some indication of how often a player loses the ball per pass or touch would round things off well (to round it off perfectly we’d add in a Danger Zone progression and shot rate).

Anyway, this is mainly a call to move toward a simpler yardage-gained metric instead of our current Final Third entries or 10 yard passes or Zone 4 entries. Those all have their place but Yardage Gained is a good basic stat we can all use.

Now to avoid a post being completely hypothetical, I will slap on a couple of yardage gained team-wide stats here (from a while ago so not updated.)

You can see how big of outliers Man City are in how often they carry the ball while Dortmund prefer passing.

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