How often does Barcelona actually POTB? (a sample)

Discussion in 'Coach' started by NewDadaCoach, Mar 20, 2021.

  1. NewDadaCoach

    NewDadaCoach Member

    Tottenham Hotspur
    United States
    Sep 28, 2019
    #1 NewDadaCoach, Mar 20, 2021
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2021
    I was curious about this, so I picked a random match to analyze. Barcelona VS Real Madrid (link below).

    I counted all the transitions in the first half (45 mins) where a team obtained possession in their penalty box (or very near) and what they did next.

    Here are the results:

    There were 30 transitions on their defensive end.
    Following that transition...
    • They played out of the back 18 times, or 60% of the time.
    • The 12 times that they didn't POTB are broken down as follows:
    • They went long 7 times (ie 23%)
    • They cleared it out of bounds 3 times (10%)
    • They "aimlessly blasted" it 2 times (7%) - ie they hurriedly kicked it real high seemingly just to clear the danger and/or give them a couple extra seconds to reset.
    I was surprised by this. I thought he POTB number would be higher based on how much emphasis there is on POTB in America today (even amongst my pickup friends, some of whom will potb no matter how crowded and risky right in front of their own goal; and of course we see this at the default mindset at most clubs today.).

    I also tracked the same for Real Madrid in the first half (45 mins):

    RM only had 10 defensive transitions (compared to Barca's 30):
    • They POTB 3 times (30% compared to Barca's 60%)
    • They went long 6 times (60%)
    • They aimlessly blasted it once (10%)
    Of course this is just a small sample, but I think it's telling.

    These are arguably the 2 biggest clubs in the world, in the most POTB league in the world (La Liga).

    I think the lesson here is, rather than believing you must POTB every single time regardless of risk (time, space, opponent, etc), you should instead look at a decision matrix.

    You should determine what the best option is in a given situation:
    * POTB
    * Go long (try to hit the mid, forward, or past opponent's high line)
    * Clear the ball out of bounds (usually as a last resort in high risk situations)
    * Blast it sky high (similar to going out of bounds - temporary clear the danger in risky situation)

    The problem I have with the current POTB cult-like adherence is that it does not teach decision making. I think this is the reason why so many defenders/goalies get picked off and scored on today.

    Some coaches will POTB even if it means giving up goals. At youth levels perhaps that's not a big deal, though I still think it takes away learning decision making. But I think at the varsity and above levels it matters and the clubs that play within their limitations have a better shot at success (Stanford is a good example, winning 3 national championships without POTB). I do though believe that accurate, deliberate passing, and not giving up possession is a good thing to strive for; ie, aim for the Barca level of passing, but just match up the POTB adherence with the actual abilities (ie don't force POTB if you know you can't pull it off!). Just my 2 cents; I know many disagree :p

  2. Kim Melnik

    Kim Melnik New Member

    Mar 3, 2021
    The problem with different systems is that people swear by them and take sides as if their system is the best and only way of playing. Yet, whatever system a team uses, if they use it all the time, they become predictable and so easy to play against.

    So if Barcelona play out from the back every time, the opposition will press them higher and higher each time, putting them under more pressure as they know they won't play it long. By sometimes playing the long ball, the opposition must be wary and will likely back off a little, making it easier for Barcelona to play out from the back.

    There are advantages and disadvantages to all systems, so I don't think any system is a bad system, though I would prefer a more possession based style from an earlier age for developmental reasons, with a caviat that against stronger teams they may be picked off so may have to adapt this approach in matches.

    Playing from the back is much more fashionable nowadays, but so is high intensity and high pressure defending. So playing a longer ball is a good option. A long ball doesn't have to be a clearance or a 50/50 pass to a striker's head. Instead it can be a 30 meter pass at a controllable height, which is essentially a longer pass out from the back.

    Whilst the system of POTB doesn't teach decision making, nor does playing it long. It's up to the coach to provide effective practice sessions where the players are learning from their mistakes and can think dynamically, so when they play in a match, they are less likely to be picked off. It's also very difficult to play out from the back against a good pressing team, so it takes time to learn the timing of movement and passes, whilst also being flexible to the decisions of the opposition. However, there's fun in the challenge to POTB.
    NewDadaCoach repped this.
  3. NewDadaCoach

    NewDadaCoach Member

    Tottenham Hotspur
    United States
    Sep 28, 2019
    For the record, I think every team needs to learn to POTB. Because it's something every team needs to be doing, but just not 100% of every possession, but they should be doing it every game, I would say 20% at a minimum (ie if they get a defensive possession 40 times in a game then you would potb 8 times min) and about 80% maximum. They need to "mix it up"... if you POTB every time it becomes too predictable and a good team will press high and pick off the keeper/FB and score.
    Jonjo Heinze and Kim Melnik repped this.
  4. Jonjo Heinze

    Jonjo Heinze New Member

    Manchester City
    Mar 6, 2024
    I'd be interested to see the stats for Premier League games and La Liga games, and a bigger sample. Whilst Barça are historically famous as playing out from the back, I wouldn't be so sure that La Liga does it more than the Premier League nowadays.

    Regardless of who does it most, this doesn't tell you what is 'best' for another team. Firstly, ask yourself, who is playing in goal and what are their strengths?

    If you have a keeper who is strong on the ball, strong at short passing play (to a similar degree to an outfield player), and has the mental vision tailored for that style of play, then they will lend themselves more to that style.

    If you have a keeper who has a powerful, accurate long kick, and who's vision is tailored for long distribution, then you might want to rely on that more in game and train with that in mind.

    At a young age, you might reach the opposite conclusion, in order to try and create a well-rounded player.

    Both long and short passing are useful for a keeper and a well rounded keeper should train on all kinds of distribution. If they find they are suited to one or the other, they can specialise, but that usually comes later on.

    Don't automatically assume that a high-line will have short distribution, or that a low-line will have long distribution.

    Secondly, ask yourself about the strengths of your opposition. Are you trying to bypass their forward line at all costs? Or do you have the confidence that you will hold them off in possession?
    NewDadaCoach repped this.

Share This Page