What do players do?

What do players do with the ball in the opponent’s half? If you assume they can either shoot, cross, pass or dribble you’d probably cover more than 95% of possible actions. 

Regular (non-cross) pass is the most popular option all across the pitch, except in zones inside the penbox (when players tend to shoot) or wide areas (cross).

But with these four possible options in mind what is your best move depending on the pitch zone?

I calculated which of the events above will most likely lead to a goal within the next 5 actions. Keep in mind that passes, shots, dribbles and crosses are ‘attempts’, i.e. unsuccessful actions are also included.

You read it right, there is no single yellow rectangle on the heatmap above. It means dribble attempts are less valuable than passes, shots or crosses all across the pitch. Which of course doesn’t mean that some top-tier players cannot add much more value via dribbles. 

Things getting even worse for dribblers if you look at the actions which most likely will lead to a turnover (possession lost). Dribble attempts are the most unsafe action at almost every zone where they pass a threshold of minimum required actions.

Usually I like splitting sequences into 2 categories: ‘before’ and ‘after’ the 20th second from possession start. Which (hopefully) helps me to separate fast breaks from slow positional attacks.

Next graph shows most valuable actions within first 20 seconds of sequences. There is no difference from the original graph where I take into account all actions.

When you calculate the same for late phases of possession, you’ll notice that crosses are a bit less and shots a bit more valuable than in the first 20 seconds.