Unpacking 'shot packing'

Unpacking 'shot packing'

When a player is shaping to shoot there are many factors to consider.  One of these is ‘shot packing’.  In this blog, we outline what this is, and consider some of the implications for coaching.

Before locking in their decision to shoot, a player must quickly assess and answer many questions.  How far out am I from goal?  Have I got a team-mate in a better position?  What technique should I use?  Another key factor, and the focus for this blog, is the number of outfield opponents between the ball and the goal at the time of the shot.  This is known as ‘shot packing’. 

The likelihood of a goal being scored following a shot is heavily dependent on shot packing, and it will come as no surprise that the more players in the way of the shot, the less likely it is a goal will be scored.  Shot packing is fairly consistent in both the male and female game and using Statsperform data we found an average of 1 outfield opponent in the way for all shots in both the Premier League and Women’s Super League.   This then becomes 0.6 for goals in the Premier League and only slightly higher at 0.7 in the WSL. 

In order to maximise goalscoring potential, it is important players have the ability to take their shots with as little obstruction as possible.  This could be through different types of movements to receive the ball in behind the opposition back line, or the ability to move with and manipulate the ball to reduce the number of defenders in the way before taking a shot.

Erling Haaland is a great example of this as more than half (53%) of his goals in last season’s Premier League were scored with no outfield opponents in the way of his shot.  This is higher than the league average of 46% and provides him with a clearer sight of goal and opportunity to be more selective with his finishing technique and the area of goal to hit.  2022-23 WSL top goal-scorer Rachel Daly has shown this same ability with 54% of her goals featuring no outfield opponents in the way, significantly higher than the WSL league average of 33%.

Breaking down Haaland’s attempts on goal even further, his shots have an average of 0.7 opposition players between ball and goal, significantly lower than the Premier League average of 1 for other forwards.  Combined with his ball striking ability, this helps Haaland achieve a shot conversion of 23% or one goal in every 4.4 shots. 

We have shown that reducing the number of opponents in the way of the shot leads to greater goalscoring opportunities.  The graphic below further demonstrates this by highlighting that when there are no outfield players in the way of the shot, expected goals (xg) is 0.3, or one goal scored for every 3.8 shots.  This then dramatically reduces xg to 0.08 (1 in 12.7 shots) when there is one player in the way, and 0.06 xg (1 in 17 shots) with 2 or more players. 

Considerations for coaching

Consider the different types of finishing practice you expose your players to.  Do they provide your players with lots of repetition of ball striking, whilst also challenging them to disguise their intentions and move the ball away from their direct opponent to get a clearer strike on goal? 

How do you work with your defenders to apply effective pressure to block or disrupt an attacker’s potential path to goal?