UEFA Euro 2020 (2021) Databased analysis of assists in Open Play

In this blog post TSA will analyze and comment on an interesting tendency in the development of Open Play, which we have seen in the UEFA Euro 2020 (2021). We have analyzed all goals scored in the tournament (penalty shoot-outs excluded). As usually, we use a databased approach to analyze the games.

If you have been following our blog post, you will know we use different kinds of visual representations of a football pitch, which have been designed after scientific principles, to optimize the communication of data to football players.

For example, “The Pitch 2.0” is beneficial, when analyzing the distributions of assists in Open Play. TSA uses a systematic definition, which distinguishes Open Play and Set Piece related situations.

The distribution of assists in Open Play in the UEFA Euro 2020 (2021) is visualized below.

These data can be compared to “the normal distribution” of assists in Open Play (below) in the European Top Five Leagues.

Many of the patterns in UEFA Euro 2020 (2021)-data are quite as expected. As usually The Penalty Box Tracks on the last sixth of the pitch holds the most assists in Open Play (12 % & 14 %). Also, the percentages of assists from the central areas of the pitch are very much as expected on average.

What is very interesting is, when we compare to the data from the European Top Five Leagues, we see a new pattern evolving in the data from UEFA Euro 2020 (2021): More assists than expected (9 % & 6 %) came from the fifth area of the Flack Track on both sides. Usually, more assists come from the sixth area of the Flank Tracks, but in this tournament, it was the other way around.

The reasons to this can be multiple, but it is realistic to assume that coaches at the highest international level finally have realized that “the classic full back cross” is very inefficient and therefore the coaches have made a change in strategy. Perhaps we will see a change in tactics the coming years, when it comes crossing, so more crosses come earlier to exploit the space behind the defenders (take for example the first goal of the final by Luke Shaw).

Last, but not least. Congratulations from TSA to the winning nation, Italy.

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