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  • Daniel Kamenetzky


I’m writing a series of articles to show how at Spandrel Analytics we use the available public (and privately generated by us) data to create content and concepts that later we apply in our work with soccer academies. We use the data to understand the current characteristics of top-level soccer players and design strategies for our consulting practice. We must understand the current environment and “imagine” how the sport will look like when the academy players of today graduate and how to make them be ready to move to the “competitive level”. The process of “player creation” takes between 8 and 10 years. And as we can see, the sport is changing rapidly, and consequently their demands and the type of player required as well.

We have a unique opportunity during the current soccer world cup to access a fantastic and never presented source of data from all played games. Millions of data points from the top players in the world are ready to be used in any way that we, creatively, find useful!

Today I will talk about “possession”

After an unexpected game like the one that we witnessed between Spain and Morocco, we can all agree that there is a particularly well-regarded variable that should be reviewed in a deep manner and reinterpreted for teaching purposes: “possession”.

If you analyze many soccer academy websites, you will see that “possession” is presented as a “game strategy”. Academies say that they coach a “possession game”! Meaning that they teach how to play looking to “possess” the ball all the time. There are also coaches that pressure their players to “possess” the ball and play with the goal of keeping the ball as much as possible because, in their words, “if we have the ball, the other team can’t win.”

We can assert now with the data from the world cup that possessing the ball is not the only way to win a game, nor it is the most important variable to consider to be successful.

As we can see 60% of the teams that won or tied their games had a lower possession percentage than the rival (many time significantly lower!).

What are the implications of this new information that today’s world cup is clearly manifesting?

  1. Possession is one possibility. The other is not possession. It seems obvious but not clear when academies and coaches teach the game.

  2. A team can win a game by having less time the ball than the rival.

  3. A team can produce damage to the rival without having the ball.

  4. A team can attack without the ball.

  5. A team can decide not to have the ball with a clear strategy in mind.

  6. A team has the option to have or not have the ball.

  7. A team can gain an advantage by not having the ball.

  8. Having the ball is eventually necessary to score, but the amount of time necessary for that depends on the team’s strategy.

  9. Possessing the ball is “expensive”. Sometimes more than “not possessing the ball”.

It is now the coach’s decision when and how to use these concepts to stimulate strategic action in the field. Also, how to teach players of different ages those 9 points critical for the understanding of the modern soccer competition.

If you want to discuss these ideas further please contact me privately at



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