How does speed of attack impact the chance of scoring?

Middlesbrough have a very potent weapon on their hands in Adama Traore, unfortunately although it is an unbelievably fast paced weapon it is currently lacking final quality. The last piece of the Adama jigsaw has been a thorn in a few managers sides, but Tony Pulis seems to be set to put it in place.

The speed of attack has a massive impact on how likely a shot is going to be scored. Fast breaks usually occur during counter attacks, when the opposing team’s defence is not set properly. A shot in such circumstances will have a better chance of being converted than if a side has two banks of four players lined up to minimise the routes to goal.

Using Premier League team stats from the last three full seasons the effectiveness of a fast paced attack leading to a goal can be seen clearly. The Premier League teams since 2015/16 have the largest dataset available and are the most accurate. 

The speed with which a team attacks has implications on the quality of a subsequent chance and is solidified by the data.

Fast 2551 383 15.0%
Normal 36759 3672 9.9%
Slow 1893 325 6.6%

As we can see, shots produced from fast attacks are rare, but they are comfortably the most potent attack speed. This is relevant both in terms of how potent the fast attacks are and how often they occur. (In Traore’s case, more often than not)

Putting speed of attack data to use

The main issue faced when it comes to utilising data of this nature is that there is no way of knowing what tactics a manager will employ in advance. Fortunately some websites carry data on expected goals depending on what formations a team uses.

How can this data be used? It’s key to remember that if we can access this data then so can the clubs. As an example, Tony Pulis will know Traore is strong and fast on attacking counter attacks and teams such as Forest, Hull and Sunderland are weak at defending them, so it makes sense to defend deep and try to catch them on the break.

As with any form of statistical insight in football the information here is not without its issues and limitations. Whilst it makes sense to amass as much data about a team as possible to help informed thinking, so much can change from one season to the next as to render any historic statistics far less relevant.

Teams change managers, stadiums and there is always a churn of players when the transfer window is open. Take Liverpool for instance; fast attacks have historically been below average in shot quality terms, yet their figure has more than doubled in 2017/18 since they bought Mohamed Salah. They aren’t having more fast attacks, but they are of better quality and more likely to result in goals when they do.

If Adama Traore can start producing the quality ball to go with his unbelievable electric pace then Boro could become a very potent team in the Championship on the counter attack and the goals could surely start to flow.


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