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Team Focus: The Preference To Pass To The Right

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Team Focus: The Preference To Pass To The Right

 

As the domestic campaign in each respective league across Europe draws to an end, teams will naturally look at where to strengthen over the summer.

 

For the likes of Real Madrid, Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund - each of whom finished second in their respective league having won the title last season - it will mean returning to the drawing board and aiming to usurp their rivals at the summit of the table once again. 

 

This will mean weeks of planning for the next campaign, analysing the minor details of the team and areas that can be strengthened to ensure the strongest possible fight is put up to reclaim their place at the top of the league come May 2014. 

 

After league winning seasons from Barcelona, Manchester United and Bayern Munich, who finished second in their respective league in 2012 behind the aforementioned trio, it is clear to see that their summers of careful planning and investment in the necessary areas were enough to see them reclaim their domestic crown.

 

Interestingly, of the champions of Europe’s top five leagues - Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain added to Barcelona, United and Bayern - each have made more passes to the right than the left.

 

With the quintet seemingly keen to move the ball to the right more than the left, the ideology for success appears to be shifting play out towards the right side of the pitch, be it from the left flank into the middle or from the middle out towards the right flank. 

 

It’s understandable that Manchester United would look to move the ball to the right more than the left considering two of their best attacking outlets often play down that flank. Antonio Valencia and Rafael plas as attacking right midfielder and right back, respectively, while Ashley Young and Patrice Evra have most often occupied the left side. 

 

With United making 117 more passes to the right, it’s no real surprise to see Valencia and Rafael - when playing in the above positions - create a clear cut goalscoring opportunity once every 3 and 3.85 games, respectively, with those values higher than Young and Evra - one chance every 3.33 and 4.85 games, respectively. 

 

Perhaps notably also is that Young is predominantly right footed, while when comparing the players that have started as an attacking left midfielder, only one is principally left footed - Ryan Giggs. Granted, Wayne Rooney, Nani and Tom Cleverley - all of whom have started in that position - can all use their left foot, but it’s not a shock to have seen United have 40% of their attacking touches down the right wing compared to 32% on the left.

 

This is a far cry from Everton this season, who have instead seen 42% of their attacks - the highest proportion in the Premier League - come down the left wing through Leighton Baines and Steven Pienaar, with only 31% on the right; only Wigan Athletic have attacked on the right wing (30%) less this season. Focusing such a huge proportion down one flank is clearly a favoured tactic of David Moyes, the man replacing Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford next season, and it may therefore suit him to inherit a team of that ilk.

 

Team Focus: The Preference To Pass To The Right

 

A similar approach to United’s attacking pattern is undertaken by that of Bayern Munich, with the Bundesliga champions again favouring the right side with 39% of their attacks compared to 35% on the left. Like United, their preferred formation in the Bundesliga this season has been 4-2-3-1, the only system head coach Jupp Heynckes has utilised. On the right side, it’s Philipp Lahm and Thomas Muller, while David Alaba and Franck Ribery line up most frequently on the opposite side of the pitch.

 

However, unlike their English counterparts, it’s a player on the left flank that creates the most clear cut goalscoring opportunities, with Ribery providing a chance for teammates every 1.2 games, a substantial mark up from Muller’s 3.6. Yet, further back, it’s Lahm at right back creating the more chances, with the Germany international providing a chance every 3.85 games compared to Alaba’s 4.75. 

 

With Bayern playing two holding midfielders, the usually preferred pairing being Javi Martinez and Bastien Schweinsteiger, it’s no shock to see the latter make more passes to the right - 534 to 466 - with Lahm expected to overlap and push forward.

 

The Bayern full-backs also follow a similar pattern to United’s Rafael and Evra, with both the Brazilian and Lahm creating the same amount of clear cut goalscoring opportunities (7) in the same number of starts (27) at right back for their respective teams, while the frequency at which they present teammates with a big chance to score outweighs that of the left back for both teams.

 

Interestingly, of the champions, the teams to have attacked down the right more often - Bayern and United - have scored the second (94) and third (81) most goals this season, with Juventus (69) and PSG (63) occupying fourth and fifth place, respectively, and Barcelona netting the most (107).

 

Of the five teams, two have attacked more down the left side - Barcelona and Juventus - than the right, while PSG focus 35% of their attacks on either side. What is important to note is that the Italian and Spanish side utilise a different system to that of their German and English counterparts. Antonio Conte has preferred a 3-5-2 formation this season and Barcelona have used a 4-3-3 for 34 of their 35 games.

 

As such, the approach to domestic encounters would undoubtedly demarcate between the two teams playing different formations. With Juventus, for example, Stephan Lichtsteiner and Kwadwo Asamoah would provide the width as wing backs and with it, the creative threat from out wide. Yet, while Juventus have attacked more down the left, it’s Lichtsteiner who is more consistent when creating goalscoring opportunities, laying on a big chance every 3.4 games compared to Asamoah’s 5.5.

 

It’s also a similar pattern with Barcelona, with right back Dani Alves creating a clear cut goalscoring opportunity every 2.7 games compared to Jordi Alba, playing at left back, failing to match that figure with his 3.8.

 

Interestingly, the trio of Sergio Busquets, Xavi and Cesc Fabregas - those to have featured in central midfield most often for the Catalans this season - all, like Schweinsteiger, have made more passes to the right than the left, perhaps as they look to utilise Alves’ marauding runs from right back.

 

Either way, with the quality of creativity from the right side in each respective team, it’s little surprise that players will often look to move the ball to the right.

 

Further, but the stats also highlight the ability of the full backs in their respective teams. Such is their attacking competence and positional sense that they are able to move higher up the pitch, stretch the opposition and provide another threat when pushing forward.

Comments (2)

 
  • Hmmm not sure bout that. Coaches like to make right footed on the left and vice versa. Ribéry and Alaba are both right footed whereas if Muller is right footed too, Lahm is left footed. Rafael is left footed. I think its more the opposite of what you say. The fact that left footed play on inverted position, they "eat" less the line. (Im not an English speaker though)

  • I think the tendency is due to players being right footed. Even on my high school team, we play to the right, because the only player with a left foot plays left wing.

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