Football is made up of a number of individuals events, yet very rarely are they treated as such. On-ball actions are often bundled together to create heat maps. You’re then able to go a little more granular with touch maps, but it’s near impossible to differentiate a pass from a general touch or a ground duel from an aerial.
They’re regularly used to show how active a player has been and if you’re looking purely at volume, it does the job. However, there’s a scramble these days for finer details. Fans, media and analysts alike all want to know what action is taking place as it helps inform opinions and adds the context required to make fairer assessments.
Twenty3’s new Key Actions visualisation presents a single snapshot of a player in a way like never before. Up to six actions can be presented in one graphic and these can be personalised to show any on-ball event.
Previously, for an overview of Brighton’s Yves Bissouma, you would have needed a defensive action map, a pass map and, maybe, an event by zone action map. Now though, a Key Actions map does the job.
Looking at the above, you can see that the 24-year-old attempts the majority of his passes in the middle third of the pitch and a number of his ground duels are in the channels which suggests he’s doing a job covering for Brighton’s wing-backs. He gives away very few fouls in dangerous areas and he tends to shoot from just outside the penalty area.
This new visualisation can be used to assess targets, review a performance, preview a match or even as part of the opposition analysis.
No player has more goal involvements in the Premier League than Mohamed Salah since he returned to England ahead of the 2017/18 campaign. In and around the penalty area, he’s going to be looking to get a shot off, but what does he do outside of that?
Well, this season at least, he attempts more passes in deeper areas and more dribbles when he’s closer to the penalty box. You can almost see his game transition as soon as he gets into the final third.
When he’s within 20-yards of goal, Salah starts to take more risks. He looks to commit the opposition by attempting a dribble whereas when in the middle third, he’s looking to recycle possession. As expected, there’s a clear difference between build-up and final phase actions. It makes complete sense. After all, Liverpool want to pin opponents so only risk losing it deep in their half.
Key Action maps can also go some way to explaining an upturn in form. Take Newcastle United’s Miguel Almirón. Over recent weeks, his output has rocketed and he’s playing his best football since moving to England. What has changed?
Almirón has been deployed at the tip of a diamond for the Magpies and this has given him a lot more freedom. He’s attempting more dribbles from central areas and being able to cut in onto his favoured left foot adds an unpredictability to his game. As a result, he’s getting into much better areas and is now a greater threat for Steve Bruce’s side.
Key Actions can be whatever you want them to be. The ability to filter them means they can be as bespoke as you want; exactly what you need when looking at fairly unique players.
All the graphics and visualisations in this article use Wyscout data and were produced in the Twenty3 Toolbox.
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