Playing position impact on in possession core skills

Playing position impact on opportunities to perform in possession core skills

No matter where or who we coach, it is important we give our players the opportunities to experience different playing positions on the pitch, to allow them to develop and to become more skilful. If we afford our players these experiences, they will be able to master the many varying game situations they will be faced with through their playing pathway. But to afford our players with these experiences, we ourselves have to understand the benefits and trade-offs of our players playing as a centre back compared to playing as a centre forward.

During the World Cup, Game Insights Analyst Katie Sorenson explored the opportunities players got throughout the tournament to perform the in possession and out of possession core skills. The in possession core skills we were able to monitor were finishing, moving with the ball, receiving and passing. The out of possession core skills we analysed were intercepting, pressing, challenging. We know these core skills happen a lot and all over the pitch.

We grouped all outfield players into these five positions to analyse core skill frequency.

  • Centre backs
  • Full/wing back
  • Centre midfielder
  • Wingers
  • Centre forward

 Do certain players get more opportunities to perform these in possession and out of possession core skills based on where on the pitch they play?

In Possession Core Skills

We have used StatsPerform data to provide us with insight into the opportunity’s players (with more than 135 minutes at the tournament) had to perform the four in possession core skills across their positions at the World Cup.

Centre backs had the most opportunities to receive the ball (51 per 90) and the most opportunities to make passes (60 per 90). This contrasts to centre forwards and wingers, who had the least opportunities to perform these core skills at the tournament. What may be surprising to learn, is that centre backs also moved with the ball more than any other position (45 per 90).  We have become accustomed to seeing centre backs carry the ball up the pitch now and staying on the ball for longer periods of time to entice the opposition striker. StatsPerform define carry as any movement of the ball by a player which is greater than five metres from where they received the ball. Is this now a core skill that central defenders have to be really good at in order to play the modern game? What experiences can we give our players to ensure they continue to develop at moving with the ball? This is where giving your players opportunities to play different positions may be really vital within their development.

As expected, centre forwards had the most opportunities to shoot at the World Cup (2.3 per 90). They are nearly 5 times more likely to have a shot compared to a full back/wing back or a centre back. How do we still give these positions opportunities to finish in training, in case they are faced with this task within the game?

Coaching Considerations

The opportunity that you are giving your players to experience different positions on the field of play can help widen their view of the game. The areas in which a centre back receives the ball and looks to make passes is very different to that of a wide player. Ensuring we do not pigeonhole our players is important within their development, to help them master the core skills and to become more skilful.

Do you think the players in your environment get similar opportunities to perform these core skills? And if not, what are some of the methods you might consider to provide these opportunities?

Curious how this looks for the out of possession core skills?  Check out the blog below