Outplaying opponents—a differential perspective on passes using position data

  • Silvan SteinerEmail author
  • Stephan Rauh
  • Martin Rumo
  • Karin Sonderegger
  • Roland Seiler
Main Article


In recent years, the availability of new tracking technologies has enabled new perspectives on passes played in football. One such perspective includes measuring the number of opponents that are outplayed by a pass (NOO). Various studies substantiate that this measure qualifies as one aspect of the passes’ offensive quality. Given the latent consensus that high-NOO passes indicate clever passing decisions, one aim of this study was to analyze how athletes prioritize contextually embedded passing options when playing passes that differ with regard to their NOO. Another aim was to determine the contributions of pass receivers to completing passes with different NOOs. To this end, position- and speed-related features of 12,411 passing options from 1,379 passing situations tracked during championship matches were analyzed. Overall, the findings indicate that decisions to play high NOO passes differ from decisions to play low NOO passes with regard to how contextually embedded passing options are prioritized. The passes’ NOOs increased as the decision-makers’ tendency to pass to loosely defended team members with open passing lanes and positions near the ball carrier decreased. Furthermore, higher physical contributions on the part of the pass receivers were observed when pass receivers completed passes with higher NOOs. Based on the findings, passes with a high NOO could be considered risky passes. The presented approach could be adopted to further analyze the circumstances that allow athletes to play such passes compared with those that absolutely do not, which could represent an important step concerning educational programs in football.


Decision-making Packing Soccer Contextual information Environment 

Gegner aus dem Spiel nehmen – eine differenzielle Betrachtung von Pässen mittels Positionsdaten


Das Aufkommen neuer Tracking-Technologien hat in den letzten Jahren neue Perspektiven auf Passspiele im Fußball eröffnet. Eine dieser Perspektiven beinhaltet das Bestimmen der Anzahl von Gegnern, die mit einem Pass überspielt werden („number of outplayed opponents“ [NOO]). Gemäß verschiedenen Studien kann dieses Maß als eine Kennzahl der offensiven Qualität eines Passes betrachtet werden und es existiert latenter Konsens, dass Pässen mit hoher NOO clevere Passentscheidungen zugrunde liegen. Vor diesem Hintergrund war ein Ziel dieser Studie, zu analysieren, wie Athleten kontextuell eingebettete Passoptionen bei Zuspielen mit unterschiedlicher NOO priorisieren. Ein weiteres Ziel war, die Beiträge von Passempfängern zur gelingenden Komplettierung von Pässen mit unterschiedlicher NOO zu bestimmen. Zu diesem Zweck wurden positions- und geschwindigkeitsbezogene Merkmale von 12.411 Passoptionen aus 1379 während Meisterschaftsspielen aufgezeichneten Passsituationen analysiert. Die Ergebnisse deuten darauf hin, dass kontextuell eingebettete Passoptionen bei Pässen mit hoher bzw. tiefer NOO unterschiedlich priorisiert werden. Mit abnehmender Tendenz der Passspieler, Pässe zu nahe positionierten, lose verteidigten Mitspielern mit offenen Passwegen zu spielen, erhöhte sich die Anzahl überspielter Gegner. Zudem zeigte sich, dass Ballempfänger für die Komplettierung von Pässen mit hoher NOO größere physische Beiträge leisteten als bei der Komplettierung von Pässen mit tiefer NOO. Basierend auf diesen Ergebnissen können Pässe mit hoher NOO als riskante Pässe interpretiert werden. In weiterführenden Untersuchungen könnten mit dem dargestellten methodischen Zugang diejenigen situativen Umstände bestimmt werden, unter welchen das Spielen riskanter Pässe eine Option sein könnte bzw. eher unterlassen werden sollte. Entsprechende Befunde wären im Hinblick auf fußballspezifische Ausbildungsprogramme interessant.


Entscheidung Packing Fußball Kontextuelle Information Umwelt 



We thank Nicolas Emery for his help in programming MATLAB.

Compliance with ethical guidelines

Conflict of interest

S. Steiner, S. Rauh, M. Rumo, K. Sonderegger and R. Seiler declare that they have no competing interests.

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Deutschland, ein Teil von Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Sport ScienceUniversity of BernBernSwitzerland
  2. 2.Swiss Federal Institute of SportMagglingen (SFISM)MagglingenSwitzerland

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