Modern football analysis is all about data science. Therefore, different models have been developed to describe and analyse the game properly. Last time, you got a little introduction into the pitch control model to understand how you can manage to get in possession of the ball. In order to achieve your target, scoring a goal, you have to make progress with your possessions. One metric to measure the efficiency of your ball possession is the packing.
Packing was invented by the former German football players Stefan Reinartz and Jens Hegeler, who developed the metric with their start up IMPECT. The statistics was first recognised by a bigger crowd, when different, mainly German, TV stations used it in their daily match analysis in the European Football Championship 2016. The idea to it had its origin in Germany’s 7-1 defeat versus Brazil in the 2014 World Cup semi final, when Brazil dominated the game due to the “classic” football statistics, such as ball possession, but did not stand a chance.
A short definition of the need of packing is brought by the co-founder Reinartz: “It’s ultimately about retaining possession whilst getting past the opponents. The opponent is our problem and to solve it, I want to get past the opponent with the ball.”
Packing measures the number of opponents that are passed through with a specific action, either with a pass or a dribbling. This means that in packing, ball possession and success are not necessarily related. With one good action, be it a well-formed pass or a powerful dribbling, you can surpass many opponents. On the other side, you can play hundreds of horizontal passes or dribblings, which means a high ball possession without any outstanding success. On the side, you can see an example of successful packing in a specific situation. With one well-timed pass to his teammate Harry Kane, John Stones bypasses eight opponents, gaining a packing ratio of +8.
The 2018 World Cup is a good example for the power of packing, when eight of the nine most successful teams in packing during the group stage made the cut to the quarterfinals.
Some experts like Mehmet Scholl even considered packing to be the “holy grail” of tactics and the key to unlock a successful game plan. Surely, this is too much eminence for this analysis tool, but it is another puzzle piece which can help making you successful. But no pass or dribbling in this world has any value, if there isn’t somebody at the end of the pass or the dribbling who is able to finish the job and score the goal. How efficient somebody is can for example be measured with the xG model, on which you also can find some explanations on our blog. Only if you know how to connect all the statistics in a senseful and proper manner, you can be successful. But this is a whole art and science on its own. And all this to bring the round one into the squared more often than your opponent…