In the zone: The emphatic goal-scoring impact of football's second six-yard box

In the zone: The emphatic goal-scoring impact of football's second six-yard box

When we look at where goals are scored from, we consistently see the largest percentage of goals scored in the 11v11 game come via shots taken from within the second six-yard box .  In the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, 40% of all open play goals were scored from this area, and in last season’s Premier League this figure was 35%, or one in every 3 goals.  So, what is the second six-yard box?  And why is it so prolific within goal scoring?

 Graphic above demonstrating shot location from open play goals at the 2023 Women’s World Cup

What is the second six-yard box?  And why should we be getting the ball in there?

The second six-yard box represents a space from six to twelve yards out from the goal and is critical within goal scoring .  At the 2023 Women’s World Cup, six teams scored all of their open play goals from the second six-yard box, with Germany registering the highest amount with four.  Tournament winners Spain created 29% of their shots from this area, resulting in more than half (6) of their 13 open play goals (54%). 

Playing the ball into this area can bring huge rewards with teams more often than not getting a shot on goal.  71% of all balls received in the second six-yard box in last season’s Premier League resulted in a shot on goal , with Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes creating the most goalscoring opportunities with eleven of his fourteen passes into this area resulting in a shot on goal (82%) and 79% resulting in a goal.  Three players however, West Ham United’s Jared Bowen, Arsenal’s Gabriel Martinelli and Bournemouth’s Philip Billing played into this area seven times, creating a goal scoring opportunity every time. 

Chelsea’s Sam Kerr has amassed more than 50 open play goals across over 70 WSL appearances.  40% of which have come from the second six-yard box.  Having received the ball 25 times in the second six-yard box last season Kerr got a shot away 24 times, a whopping 96% of the time, scoring three goals in the process.  Throughout her WSL career she has scored one goal for every four shots in this area.

Kerr consistently displays the ability to scan and position herself in a position that allows her to make the right movements at the right time to get across her opponent and score, often first time from a wide range of crosses.  Check out the video below to observe how she and other clinical players achieve this:

In the 2022-23 Premier League season it may come as no surprise that Erling Haaland led the way in this area, receiving the ball 38 times and getting a shot away 92% of the time, with a very impressive return of one goal for every 2.9 shots.  Fast forward to this season’s Premier League and after 15 games Tottenham Hotspur’s Son Heung-Min has kicked things off in style, scoring five goals from just eight second six-yard box shots, a huge return of 62%, or one goal for every 1.6 shots.

What does this look like for players in talent boy's academies?

In a recent case study, we analysed over 380 goals within professional boy’s academies and found that for under 16s playing 11v11, a massive 51% were scored from within the second six-yard box within the 11v11 game.  Also playing 11v11 this figure was lower at under 14s with 31%. 

Moving into the younger ages, pitch areas are adjusted to a relative pitch area (RPA), ensuring they provide the best and most relevant playing experience based on the age and stage of the players.  Playing 9v9 we found that 34% of under 12’s goals came from the second six-yard box, while playing 7v7 this was slightly lower for under 9s at 33%. 

While this information is taken from a case study, we would encourage you to check out what this might look like with the players and teams you coach as we can see large variations across different ages and stages of development.

Further reading:

Want to know more about how you can use goal location insight when working with your players?  Check out this blog by Si Houston and Mark Neville who outline the importance of ensuring your area size is as relevant as possible for the players you are working with

Did you know 90% of goals are scored from inside the boxHere’s a blog on how this looked at the 2023 Women’s World Cup, along with some tips on how you can work on this with your players:

Need a quick finishing session to use with your players?  Why not try the “Fox in the box” with Vinny Halsall for a practice that encourages players to think about their movement and timing when finishing?