Frees; From the Ground or the Hand

I have heard both Martin Carney & Martin McHugh lament the fact that the art of taking a free kick from the ground is passing. That teams are harming their own prospects by not cultivating a kicker who can take a free from the ground. Their argument, and one that I would suggest is generally accepted, is that taking frees from the ground is more constant. There are less moving parts thus the motion should be more repetitive. More repetitive leads to more reliability which leads to a better success rate (for some reason I have rugby kickers in my head as I write that).

Is this the case??

In entries to date I have noted the results of “deadballs”. This includes all shots from Sidelines, 45s, penalties and free kicks. Sidelines (from the hand) and 45s (from the ground) are the extreme of both cases; they have been omitted as they would probably skew the results. Similarly I have omitted penalties as I’ve yet to chart a missed penalty. Therefore we’ll look at all frees where a shot was attempted and monitor the success rates of those taken from the ground versus those taken from the hand.

Shots Scores Success Rate
Ground 255 160 63%
Hand 282 211 75%

Hmmm. Frees from the hand are more successful than frees from the ground. That’s not a small sample size either; it’s unlikely to be overly affected by one very good (or very bad) free taker. The immediate counter argument I would expect is that frees from the ground are taken from harder positions on the pitch thus there is a bias inherent in looking at the whole population. Luckily we segment the pitch so below are the results for frees inside the 21m line and frees between the 21m & the 45m line.

Segment From Shots Scores Success Rate
4 Hand 46 33 72%
Ground 43 20 47%
5 Hand 59 47 80%
Ground 52 46 88%
6 Hand 46 27 59%
Ground 50 26 52%
21m to 45m Hand 151 107 71%
Ground 145 92 63%
Segment From Shots Scores Success Rate
7 Hand 33 23 70%
Ground 9 8 89%
8 Hand 54 49 91%
Ground 22 22 100%
9 Hand 21 21 100%
Ground 17 14 82%
inside 21m Hand 108 93 86%
Ground 48 44 92%

Frees from the ground show a slightly better return inside the 21m line but overall the success rate for frees from the hand inside the 45m line is better than those taken from the ground (77% Vs 70%)

I have no problem with people pining for the loss of a particular skillset within the game (the midfield ‘fetch’ is one dying out with the advent of the shorter kick out routines) but call it what it is. Nostalgia. Don’t wrap it up in erroneous beliefs. There is no evident benefit to taking frees from the ground.

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2 Responses to “Frees; From the Ground or the Hand”

  1. Frees; From the Ground or the Hand – Updated « dontfoul Says:

    […] at the start of Summer I wrote a piece (here for background detail) about an interesting trend I had spotted; namely that frees from the hand, […]

  2. Frees from the Ground or the Hand; (’12 – ’15) | dontfoul Says:

    […] Conversion rates for frees from the hand and the ground were covered in two early pieces (see here and here). Just like now the catalyst for the original piece was commentators bemoaning the lack of […]

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