Most players love scoring goals (especially those playing for German teams), but luckily for the beautiful game, there are some players that don’t want to score and would rather craft the perfect assist.
So, if you have a mentality like Xavi, what’s the best way to do it?
Using Opta data for assists made in the Premier League over the last three seasons, we can plot where these passes originated from (excludes corners):
It is clear that to rack up the assists, a direct style isn’t the way to go. Only 14% of all assists come from long balls, and 29% from crosses (many of which are also classified as long balls). Over two thirds of all assists are short, precision passes made from just in front of the box and wide within the box.
Now that we’ve seen where assists originate from, we can ask; where do these passes go to?
It must be noted that the plotted locations shown below might not match the exact location of where a shot was taken from, but there is little in it.
Other than the outliers, such as Tim Howard’s clearance/goal, the vast majority of passes that ended up as assists were aimed between the penalty spot and the goal mouth. This comes as no surprise, as from this position, the 'angle of view' of the goal is so large that nearly 100% of the resulting shots hit the target.
So, if you want to emulate Xavi, your best chance is to get the ball either just in front of the box or at the side of it, and play it to your striker where he can’t miss! Simple.
At Kickdex, this type of analysis is of real interest. Not just because of what we have shown here, but because it opens up many other avenues of analysis, including:
- Estimating the ‘value’ distribution between the shot and the assist
- Assessing the ‘quality’ of a key pass (a pass that led to an attempt but not a goal)
- Evaluating how ‘useful’ a pass was that is not an assist or a key pass
We’ll be expanding on these topics in future blog posts, but if you want early access to our data engine, signup here.