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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Possession Efficiency Ratio: A New Statistical Tool

Lionel Andres Messi in action for FC Barcelona in Tokyo, Japan
during the Club World Cup versus Santos FC on 15 December 2011.
Photo credit: Christopher Johnson of Tokyo, Japan.
"Leo Messi: 2011 Player of the Year."

Editor's Note:

This article was originally published on 27 February 2013. I have added additional statistics for comparative purposes.

Like most of the footballing world yesterday, I was watching the FC Barcelona vs. Real Madrid el clasico. Observing the usual lion's share of ball possession by Barcelona, a thought came to mind. How can we analyze the efficiency of ball possession more than the usual percentage (%) figure? Possession alone does not always translate into goals scored, chances created or shots on target.

We can easily look at the number of goals scored versus actual possession. Or compare the total attempted shots and goal-scoring chances against the actual time and/or percentage of ball possession. I wanted to use something different: Shots on target. That metric provides a clue that we can easily measure since it shows team and/or individual player efficiency. We normally see match stats that show shots attempted along with actual ones on target.

Possession Efficiency Ratio:
  • Shots On Target/Ball Possession Percentage (%)
FC Barcelona: 
  • 3 shots on target/65% ball possession = 0.046
Real Madrid:
  • 8 shots on target/35% ball possession = 0.228
Measuring and Comparing Efficiency

With this new metric in mind, Real Madrid was five times more efficient than Barcelona in this particular category. Ball possession is like money: It's great to have, but if you don't invest it wisely, inflation will erode its value.

Your thoughts? You can find me @worldfootballcm on Twitter to discuss this topic.

A special thanks to Pete Acquaviva @PDAcquaviva for his insights on this topic.
Statistics courtesy of WhoScored; Barcelona 1 - Real Madrid 3; 26 February 2013.

Update: 2 March 2013 
  • Real Madrid: 6 shots on target/28% =  0.214
  • FC Barcelona: 2 shots on target/72% = 0.027
Real Madrid was eight times more efficient than Barcelona using my new metric.

Statistics courtesy of WhoScored; Real Madrid 2 - Barcelona 1; 2 March 2013.

Update: 3 March 2013: The London Derby (For comparative purposes)
  • Tottenham Hotspur: 4 shots on target/39% = 0.102 
  • Arsenal FC: 2 shots on target/61%= 0.033
Spurs were three times more efficient than the Gunners using my new metric.

Statistics courtesy of WhoScored; Tottenham Hotspur 2 - Arsenal FC 1; 3 March 2013.

Update: 3 March 2013: Portland Timbers vs. New York Red Bulls (for comparative purposes)
  • Portland Timbers: 10 shots on target/63% = 0. 159
  • New York Red Bulls: 5 shots on target/37% = 0. 135
Portland was about 15% more efficient than New York using my new metric.

Statistics courtesy of ESPNFC; Portland Timbers 3 - New York Red Bulls 3; March 3, 2013.

Update: 5 March 2013: Champions League Return Leg (For comparative purposes)
  • Manchester United: 7 shots on target/37% = 0.199
  • Real Madrid: 10 shots on target/63% = 0.159.
Manchester United was about 25% more efficient than Real Madrid using my new metric:

Statistics courtesy of WhoScored; Manchester United 1 - Real Madrid 2; 5 March 2013.

Update: 6 March 2013: Champions League Return Leg (For comparative purposes)
  • Juventus: 5 shots on target/44% = 0.114
  • Celtic: 5 shots on target/56% = 0.089
Juventus was about 20% more efficient than Celtic using my new metric.

Statistics courtesy of WhoScored; Juventus 2 - Celtic 0; 6 March 2013. 

Update: 13 March 2013: Champions League Return Leg (For comparative purposes)
Bayern Munich, despite losing and not scoring, was about two times as efficient as Arsenal using my new metric.

Update: 23 April 2013: Champions League Semi-final First Leg (For comparative purposes)
Bayern Munich was about 14 times more efficient as Barcelona using my new metric. This figure represented the best possession efficiency difference in my small sample.

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