Players average positions in the lineups tab of a football match might be the one thing in SofaScore with the biggest potential for tactical analysis. They are probably the feature with which you can be the most insightful and perceptive. So if you dig football tactics, this is your gold mine.
Average positions appear 25 minutes after the match starts, and are based on all the actions of a certain player; we simply take all the positions that a player was in during his actions and calculate the average one. They are then live for the rest of the game and are all visible at once. Also, when the substitutes are long enough in the game, you can click on them and see how the formations and tactics change.
A thing that is probably the easiest to spot from players’ average positions is if one team dominates. Domination can be just as quickly spotted in our other features like Attack Momentum, SofaScore Ratings and other stats like shots, passes or ball possession. However, while these other statistics allow you to see the best performing players and intensity of pressure, in players’ average positions you can read out team’s cohesion; how each player relates to his teammates and his opponents on the pitch. In other words, they provide you with the tactical side of the domination.
So let’s take one of the most dominant teams today, Manchester City. The screenshots are taken from their match against Watford. With a click on players’ average positions in the app, you can see that almost all City players are on Watford’s half, while in Watford all players are positioned in their own half, except for the striker Andre Gray. If you click on substitutes, you’ll see what the manager tried, and in Watford’s case, obviously failed to do with them. Two strikers’ were brought in and, although they started to pressure more from that point, the rest of the team is still behind. They cannot break City’s defense, made even more bulletproof with the substitutes and the neat, dense wall in the middle.
A case of clean tactical domination where Watford stood little chance.
Another thing that you can also read is discipline – the extent to which a team sticks to their envisioned formation. Since real football fans never forget a World Cup match, let’s go back to Russia for a couple of interesting examples.
Egypt’s squad vs Uruguay is a clear example of players sticking to their supposed positions. It is a case of a less dynamic style of play without much crossing and changing positions – every player knows his place and sticks with it.
The second screenshot represents Argentina’s players’ positions versus France, half an hour into the match. Players are completely scattered, with all of their efforts relying on the right side (Messi side). This then forms a giant hole where a central forward should be (the screenshot was taken before Agüero was brought in).
Another, a bit more subtle example.
These are two supposedly equal 4-3-3 formations by France vs. Argentina and Spain vs. Portugal from the World Cup. It was France’s first match at the World Cup, after whose 45 minutes no one would predict their triumphant run. Griezmann, Dembélé and Mbappé are here completely cut off in front, on the left. Pavard is disconnected and stays too much behind.
A day later, with the same formation and against a scarier opponent, Spain looks much neater – lines between players are closer and the whole squad is much more coherent. The result of this is one of the most memorable matches at the World Cup.
Naturally, these cannot be taken as an ultimate indicator of a team’s success, but in general all major tactical flaws can be caught right in this feature.
Players’ average positions are equally useful and interesting for the dynamics of teams as they are for individual players and man-to-man combats.
For example, it is very easy to catch a cut-off, stray player like Nordin Amrabat was in Morocco’s World Cup match vs Iran.
In Juventus vs Atlético Madrid, there is another interesting situation on the individual players level. Spinazzola (37) is the only player who sticks out in Juventus’ formation. He played the furthest on the left, and is even more forward than Mandžukić, showing that Juventus had initiative on that side. On Atlético side, Santiago Arias is sticking out too, obviously marking Spinazzola. Spinazzola was replaced in 67’, and Arias 10 minutes later. Similarly, Jose Gimenez (24) is shackled to Cristiano Ronaldo (7), which is another example of individual battles happening as a part of bigger tactics.
This breakdown is just a tiny fraction of what can be read from players average positions. As you can analyze the positions on a single or team level, you can also see how they change through time, how they change when managers change or how they adapt to different opponents. So if you love tactics and want to become better at it, this feature can really help you get there. In case you have any more questions, ask them at [email protected]