Passing in the box

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Some more Zamora debate on TIFF lead me to dig up an interesting bit of info:

League-wide passing % in the 18-yard box: 43.6
Bobby Zamora's passing % in the 18-yard box: 56.2

That's part of what we mean when we say "defending from the front", right? You may not want your forwards playing near your own goal, but holding possession in dangerous areas does have a ton of value.

I was curious, so I pulled up the league leaders, minimum 30 attempts:

Player Team Passes Accurate Passes %
Adebayor Arsenal 44 28 0.636
Mido Wigan 53 30 0.566
Zamora Fulham 73 41 0.562
Ireland Man City 36 20 0.556
Keane Tottenham 32 17 0.531
Rooney Man Utd 40 21 0.525
Johnson Fulham 40 20 0.500
Santa Cruz Blackburn 37 18 0.486
Anelka Chelsea 44 21 0.477
Cole West Ham 42 20 0.476

Not bad company. Like many others have said, he does everything but score. If he scored a few more goals, he'd be a £20m striker.

what this also screams out is

what this also screams out is that he's passing too much! I'm sure there are others who pass as much as he does in the area, but it does suggest that he's passing off opportunities (probably having lost confidence in his ability)

As a team that is starved for

As a team that is starved for quality attempts, yes, he (and Johnson too!) should be more greedy in the area. The downside is giving away a goal kick, but the chances of doing that aren't too much higher than misplacing a pass or getting dispossessed some other way.

I was going to save this for another update, but here are league on-target, goal scoring and pass success rates from various spots in the penalty area (taken from the image in my last post):

Zone OT % Goal % Pass %
1+2 0.462 0.278 0.397
3+4 0.345 0.153 0.494
5+6 0.335 0.111 0.535
7+8 0.351 0.065 0.325
9+10 0.342 0.052 0.481

My gut feeling - if you're in line with the 6-yard box (zones 1-6), just shoot, you're probably not going to create a better chance. If you're off in the wider areas, you have a decision to make. From the numbers above (and I know there are many more potential outcomes), passes from just wide of the goal and near the goal line (7+8) look very dangerous, so shooting might be the best option there too. The corners of the box (9+10) are the only spots where passing seems like the best option. I need to decipher more of the data I'm using here, but this is probably a good time to run some simulations.

I can also look individuals and see what decisions they're making in these spots, but I'm not sure if the sample size is large enough to be meaningful.

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