Penalty area outcomes and attacking play against varying opposition levels in elite football
Cardiff Metropolitan University
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Research in performance analysis in football has established that opposition effects are a major contributor to team performance and that penalty area entries are an effective indicator of successful and unsuccessful teams. Studies have shown that the number of penalty area entries does not vary against different levels of opposition however there seems to be a lack of a direct comparison between top, middle and bottom teams in terms of methods of attacking play leading up to a penalty area entry and the outcome of this entry. Post event analysis on matches involving Manchester United against the teams that finished in the top three places (n=6), middle three positions (n=6) and bottom three positions (n=6) of the 2013/2014 Barclays English Premier League was undertaken, using SportsCode analysis software to record actions relevant to attacking play. Intra observer reliability testing was conducted on the system, with Kappa scores indicating strengths of agreement ranging from very good to moderate for the variables. Results showed that top level teams allowed less final third entries and box entries than middle and bottom teams whilst positive outcomes from these entries was also lower in matches against top teams. The number of successful attacks from possessions originating in the final third did not differ depending on opponent level and the number of passes prior to a successful penalty area entry was not reliant on the level of opposition. The method used to enter the penalty area did not depend on the level of the opposing team however the outcome of each entry method was dependent on the opposition level. Set pieces were found to be less successful against middle and bottom teams with free kicks resulting in particularly low numbers of positive outcomes against top and middle teams. In conclusion the level of opposition does have an effect on the outcome of penalty area entries whilst a team does not appear to significantly change its style of attacking play when facing different levels of opposition. Results also showed less penalty area entries against top teams, in contrast to previous research.
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