Ball Possession statistics

Ball possession, like Greek mythical creatures, has been a mystery. Few football fans are familiar with the nitty-gritty of ball possession calculation. As a result, it is critical to resolve the situation.

To begin with, what exactly does “Ball Possession” imply? It denotes the specific point at which a team or player has possession of the ball until he or she is dispossessed by the opposing team or the ball is out of play.

Ball possession can be classified into 6 major categories, namely:

  • Individual Ball Possession
  • Team Ball Possession
  • Individual Ball Action
  • Team Playmaking
  • Individual Ball Control, and;
  • Team Ball Control

In football, a team with superior ball possession has always been thought to have the best chance of winning. However, major upsets have been inflicted on the so-called superior teams. The Celtics’ victory over the overpowering, star-studded tiki-taka maestros, FC Barcelona, is one example.

Barcelona’s 89 percent of the ball – arguably the best ball possession ever recorded in the world of football – led to an incredible 955 passes in that game. Celtic had only 166 passes, but despite the odds, they defeated the giant with a 2-1 victory.

So, what are the most important factors to consider when calculating ball possession? What exactly does it entail? How does it work? Is having possession of the ball even necessary?

If these are some of the questions you get as a football fan, well… This article refutes the concept of ball possession calculation.

Ball Possession Calculation Methods

Though welcomed, the initial calculating methods provided little to no confidence in the methodology used. Why? The accuracy of the data gathered was called into question. From the traditional method of calculation, two well-known entities used technology to improve the accuracy of data collected from a variety of metrics.

Therefore, let’s consider the most common methods for calculating ball possession.

Time Method

This type of calculation entails manually controlling a clock in intervals of possession and dispossession of a specific team. The operator’s responsibility is to start and stop the clock in relation to the team in possession.

The flaw in this method is that the clock is operated by a human when one team intercepts possession. As humans, we are prone to getting carried away when advocating for a particular team. Ball possession may be difficult to calculate if a chance is missed or a tackle results in a goal. Furthermore, the operator may fail to switch when necessary, tainting the outcome of ball possession.

However, the time method can be used in leagues that do not have the necessary technology to compute the metric.

Number of Passes

Football’s commercialization sparked worldwide interest in soccer statistics. The possession of the ball has always been a key variable. You wouldn’t bet on a win for a team that averages 11% of total passes.

As with any commercial interest, there is always a desire to progress towards a more efficient method of gathering statistics.

This has resulted in the collection of data on the number of passes obtained by a specific team. The total number of passes is then divided by the total number of passes made throughout the entire game.

In fact, it was assumed that new procedure would be more accurate than the prior one. It didn’t take into account scenarios where a player was in direct contact with the ball, such as dribbling.

Contact Data

As the name implies, a team’s dominance is determined by the number of touches or points of contact they have with the ball.

Opta, a data provider business tasked with computing English Premier League measurements, has eliminated the manual procedure by using video from 4k resolution cameras that deliver high-quality imaging.

Opta chose to overlay live video feeds with software in order to track the number of passes completed by each team. An X-Y position and a time code are used to classify the events that are logged in the system.

While this method has faults, Opta claims that through their research, they were able to establish data obtained using the technology.

Chess Clock

Deltatre, a media business contracted by FIFA since 2002 to provide sports data analysis, uses the Chess Clock approach. A timing mechanism is used in this strategy. Two buttons represent the possession of the playing team, while the third button represents the ball while it is out of play.

This procedure has the potential to be erroneous. Why? A human is in charge of manually collecting the data by pressing the button whenever possession changes.

Deltatre, on the other hand, sorts the data to improve its accuracy. Deltatre accomplishes this by acquiring positional data via optical tracking technologies. In possession, injuries, corner kicks, and match breaks are not taken into account.

Which of the Ball Possession Calculation is Accurate?

On data acquired on the same events and in various tournaments, all of these approaches offer varying disparities, ranging from 4 to 7 percent.

Teams can be misled by the Opta analysis approach since its main focus is on the number of completed passes a team makes. The precision of the Opta methodology is entirely shattered by this Messi example. Furthermore, some football fans have classified it as being unrelated to the data computation.

The manual input is the drawback of using the chess clock approach. If there is late logged data or missing data, this approach could be 1-3 percent off.

However, ResearchGate’s study on individual ball possession using a tracking system provides a variety of benefits.



By Clive Banda

Football Dialogue is the Home to Football News & Content that is both instructive and timeless.

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