Something that appears to drive both coaches and fans nuts is a forward dropping a shot into the opposition goalkeeper’s hands. The apparent calamity of a missed opportunity is enhanced by enabling the opposition to attack you when your defense isn’t set and you are vulnerable. It’s a double blow.
But is it really that bad?
Firstly just how often does it happen? In 23 Championship games last year I recorded a shot dropping into the goalkeeper’s hands on 80 occasions. That is less than two shots per team per game – 1.74 to be exact (80/(23*2))) – not exactly huge.
In total the opposition received the ball from a turnover inside their own 20m line on 428 occasions. These turnovers are broken into three types for the purposes of this piece
(a) that drop into the goalkeeper’s hands
(b) that somehow end up with an opposition player other than the goalkeeper (a block picked up, a shot dropping short & the opposition picking the ball up, off the post etc.)
• other turnovers (tackle, pass) where the opposition picks up the ball
The outcome of the possessions from these specific turnovers are outlined below
|# Turnovers||Return||Pts per t/over|
|Shots – into goalkeeper’s hands||80||0-22||0.28|
|Shots – other turnovers||94||3-23||0.34|
|Other T/overs inside 20m||254||2-60||0.26|
Ignoring all other factors a ball kicked into the goalkeeper’s hands is no more dangerous than any other shot type that the opposition gets their hands on – and is only on a par with all other turnover types received inside the 20m line. Somewhat surprising. Averages hide a lot – and we are dealing with small volumes – but perhaps this is more of a reflection on goalkeepers than the attacking potential of the turnover. Goalkeeper’s, in the main, are not springboards for attacks but rather keepers (pun intended) of the flame whose primary job is to hand pass the hot potato to the first back that looks for the ball.
Of course there is an element to dropping a shot short that the above does not cover and that is the foregoing of a kickout. When a shot is dropped short you cannot gain any benefit from the possession that immediately ensues. This is most definitely not the case from a kickout.
Now we know that there are ways and means of controlling the kickout however at a macro level below are how teams fared in the above 23 games
|# kickouts won||Return||Pts per t/over|
The kicking team wins 67% of the kickouts scoring 0.32 points per kickout. The opposition wins 33% of all kickouts with a scoring rate of 0.40 points. If you drop a shot short it is this element that you are giving up.
Taking it all together; if a team drops 100 shots into the opposition goalkeeper’s hands they will give up 28 points (100 * 0.28). If they kick it wide they will give up a net ((67*0.32) – (33*0.40)) 8 points. That’s a rather large gap.
So there is a drawback – not necessarily from dropping a ball into the goalkeeper’s hands but giving up a turnover from a shot as a whole. It is not that you are giving a springboard for a counter attack when your defence is not ready but instead you are foregoing the ability to score off the subsequent kickout.
So the question now becomes do you change a player’s shooting mind-set to ensure all shots go dead so that you gain, on average, 0.35 (1.74 * (0.28-0.08)) points in a game? Or is the gain so marginal as to not be worth the risk of changing your player’s style?