How To: Use ProZone to Assess Passing

The Football Manager series for many years has allowed players to learn and develop ways of assessing the effectiveness of the approach used for the teams they choose to manage. In the latest version of the game Football Manager 2016, Prozone, the most efficient performance analysis tool has been incorporated into the game for even deeper analysis of both whole team and individual player performance. In this post, I will aim to show you how to use ProZone to assess your team’s passing as well as individual player passes.

Before you start reading this post, I would recommend that you read our Prozone – Key Points post. This post covers all the aspects of ProZone that are essential in assessing your tactic. If you need to understand any of the ProZone options in further detail then checking out that post will be essential. I would also recommend that you read my previous post where I showed how I assess your team’s average position using ProZone – CLICK HERE

It is important to note that the analysis and assessment used in this post will be taken from my current Football Manager 2016 save in the year 2036 with a set tactic that I have been working on throughout a whole season and more intensely during the pre-season leading to the current 2036/2037 season.

This post over time will get updated with more assessment from various games. It would be biased to show assessment from only one game as football is a game of opportunities, different standards, different teams and different players. The first assessment consists of my Valencia team taking on Athletico Madrid.

The Team & Tactic
The tactic that I am using with Valencia is set up primarily like a 4-4-1-1 but, with the player roles as well as team and player instructions it plays like a 4-2-3-1 when my team are in the possession and like a 4-4-1-1 when my team are trying to gain possession of the ball.

The starting point for me when assessing my team’s passing starts before a game with the team instructions. It is my view that you have to know what you are assessing and what you are looking for when looking at the assessment data. As such, my team instruction are quite clear; I want my team to keep possession of the ball as much as possible. Now, some people would read that previous sentence and would think of the Tiki-Taka approach. In some way, those people would be right to think about that, my approach is very similar Tiki-Taka. There are however some differences. Starting with the passing directness which I have circled in the above image. Rather than having my players pass the ball short throughout a whole games, I have chosen a more a mixed approach to passing. The reason I have done this links to the speed I like my team to play. It is okay holding on to the ball, but if you aren’t going forward with the ball them what is the point in having a high possession percentage? Getting for ball forward quickly, spreading the ball to create space is the main aim of my tactic. In order do that, my mixed passing approach allows for my team to break other team’s defence down by playing numerous short passes them throwing a long cross-field pass into the mix to open the the space. I should also point out that the mix passing approach does not mean playing direct with balls going from the defence to attack. My teams use what I like to call, effective build up play with the ball be played out the back into the midfield and then forward to the attack.
The Assessment

In order to assess my team’s passing, after the game I go to the prozone assessment screen. For those that don’t know how to do this, it is in the analysis tab. If you are wanting to look at your whole team select team or if you want to look at individual players.

Team Assessment

I start my assessment by looking at the total completed passes by my team. Looking at the image on the left you can see the mixed passing directness in action. The thing that immediately stands out to me is a number of long passes out of the back. Now there are two things that come to mind when I see long passes out of the back. Is space being created with the long pass? If so, then playing the ball long is not a problem as I would expect my players to create space by passing the ball then attack the open space that is available. The second thing I consider is players’ decision making and my players’ position when not in possession of the ball. The latter point relates to my one of players being in possession of the ball and looking for a player to pass to. It could be that the defenders have no one to supporting player to pass to, so they have decided to send the ball long to get the ball forward quickly or my defenders have decided to get the ball forward to the midfielders to start the short but effective build-up play that I expect to see in the tactic that I am using.

This moves me nicely on the passing in the centre of the park and the final third of the pitch. There are a lot of short passes in all directions. This, to me, is what you really have to consider in your tactical approach. How are your team passing the ball when you are on the attack, is the approach effective and are your players getting into effective positions to attack and create goal scoring chances. Now the latter part of the previous sentence relates to a player movement which you can’t really assess using Prozone after a game. Player movement is best assessed during and after a game using the Prozone camera angle which is zoomed out so you can see all of your players. What you can do after the game using the Prozone team passing stats is look at where passing is coming from, their length, be it: long, medium or short. I have already mentioned that my team have been passing long out of the back, playing various passes in the centre and final third. The one place I have not mentioned is the penalty area that my team are attacking. Now, there is very few pass between players in this area, but there are numerous passing into the penalty area. This comes down to one thing, the tactical team instruction “Work Ball into Box”. This instruction tells your team to build up their play using effective forward passing. I can see that my team has done what I have told them. The questions remain, was it effective? If you look at the result a 1-0 win then one would think that the passing approach is effective. But, if I just settled for 1-0 wins all the time then the game would be rather boring to watch. I need to look at the key passes to find out where effective passes are coming from.

The picture on the left is the second part of the assessment that I shall undertake. This picture shows my team’s key passes. Now, there aren’t going to many negatives here as I very impressed with what I see here. The passing links to what the players have bee asked to do in terms of tactical team instructions. For a start, it is good to see that all of the key passes are in the final third of for my team being on the attack. There is also a mixture of long and short passes. Something which also stands out to me is the players that are playing the key passes. A lot of them are the midfielders, with the odd few being the full backs. Now you might at why would I be happy with the full back playing key passes, they are too far forward. But later in this post when I assess individual player passes you shall see why I am impressed with the key passes from the full backs. The only negative thing from the key passes picture is a number of key passes in the box. Again, there are numerous passes into the box, but when the ball goes into the box it seems that players just want to shoot and forget to shoot. This is something that I will need to look at in future games, it may take a change in tactical team instruction, or individual player instruction to get more passes between my players when the ball goes into the box.

Now to look at the passes that my players have attempted but have been intercepted by the opposition players. The things that jumps out immediately out to me is the amount of intercepted passes that are attempted long passes. This where one has to look at the players attempting to make the passes that have been intercepted. There are numerous attributes that you have to look at when looking for a player that can pass the ball effectively. Obviously, you start with the passing attribute. To use a tactic that uses a mixed style of passing then the next attribute to look at is decisions. Players in possession of the ball have to make a decision on where to pass, whether to pass short or pass long. Players not in possession of the ball have to make a decision on where to position themselves to receive a pass as such, positioning is also a key attribute for the mixed passing approach. The image on the left shows a lot of what could be players making the wrong decision either on the ball in that they have attempted a long pass when they could have passed it short, or players could be making the wrong decision off the ball and be in the wrong position thus isolating the player on the ball to one pass, a long hopeful pass that has no direct target. A positive that I can take from this intercepted passes picture is the number of attempted passes that are crosses that have been intercepted by the oppositions RB, LB or CB. This is a good sign because I have asked my players to cross the ball more often. It could be this that is affecting the amount passes that happen as soon as the ball enters the box.
Individual Player Assessment

As mentioned before this post will get updated. In the next update, I shall assess individual player passes in relation to whole team pass completion. I have mentioned a lot about player attributes above, I shall go into further detail in the next update by assessing individual players roles in relation to their role within the team.I have already mentioned above about how to enter the individual player analysis screen for Prozone. But for those that need reminding, at the top click Analysis then instead of clicking Team which I did for my Team Assessment above, this time you click on Players.

When you get to the player analysis page, you are greeted with list of your players. You have the options to click on the opposition to assess their players individually, but this is not the purpose of this update.

In this update where I am assessing individual players, I am not going to assess each player, I shall only assess the players in my starting XI. It would take a long time to assess every player and some players are not worth assessing. Take for example the GK, 6 passes in total all of which are to the centre back which is what I want my GK to do in order for my team to pass out of the back.

To start the assessment, I shall focus on Enes Kaçar and Carles who in this gameplay as the two centre midfielders. Added together both players completed 145 passes, received 154 passes with only 11 intercepted passes and very good 13 key passes. I should also note the both Enes Kaçar and Carles played at Box-To-Box Midfielders (BBM) in this games in order to cover ground and offer passing options in both the defensive and attacking areas of the pitch.

The image on the left shows the completed passes, received passes and key passes for Enes Kaçar. Looking at both the completed and received passes I can see that Kaçar is receiving and playing passes in both the defensive areas and the attacking areas of the pitch. There is a difference in the completed and the received passes beyond that of the completed being actual passes and received being the times the Enes Kaçar has had the ball passed to him. The biggest difference I see is the hole in the middle of the passes received. This, however, is not a bad thing as this hole is cover by my attacking midfielder Ambrosio Sánchez Gómez. Another thing that stands out to me is the way that Kaçar plays in this role for effective passing. Playing as a BBM, I have told him to dribble less and pass it shorter. Which as a BBM, some might think that I am using the role wrong. However, I use Kaçar as a BBM midfielder to create space by getting the ball from the defenders and quickly getting the ball forward by getting him to either pass to the wings who are told to cross the ball into the box, or by passing the ball to the attacking midfielders who can continue the build up play through the centre of the pitch. In order to cover all pictures, Kaçar’s key passes are interesting to see as the majority of them are all long passes to the right winger. This to me is an example of how decision making is important for players. I mentioned before that I use a mixed passing style in the tactic that I am using.But Kaçar is told to dribble less and pass short. Clearly, these clear passes have come as a result of good decision making, Kaçar spotting players in the wide positions with better opportunities to create goal scoring chances.

Moving on to Carles the other BBM in my team. I can see a very similar passing map for both the completed and received passes. A clear difference for me is a number of passes that Carles playes across the pitch.  By using two BBMs, I am hoping that they can play passes between each other, not by passing sideways as that, over time, does not help with build up play, but keeps your team in one position. BBMs are in my view suppose to get in the right positions to create space and receive the ball in areas where they can pass in all directions to assist with the build up play. With Carles playing a lot of passes across the park he appears to be the more creative of the to BBMs. Like Kaçar, Carles has a lot of completed passes in the attacking half of the pitch but also drops deep to receive the ball thus showing he is an effective BBM. Also similar to Kaçar, Carles’ key passes are long passes. Though there is a difference Kaçar’s key passes are out wide. Carles’ key passes are mixed with some long passes back into the centre to the attacking midfielders and some out wide to the wingers. The difference in the two is fine as key passes depend on what is happening when a player receives the ball and the passing decision they make. With them being marked as key passes, one can only assume that the correct decision has been made.

I have mentioned a lot about the attacking midfielder in this update. So to finish off I shall assess the passes of the attacking midfielder. Looking at the image on the left, you can see that the attacking midfielder completed 29 passes and received the ball 40 times during the game, a difference of 11. Some might be asking, why so much of a difference between passes completed and passes received? This is where my tactical approach different from the normal tiki-taka approach. My attacking midfielders is told to dribble more and move into channels. By telling him the dribble more, effectively I am telling him to pass the ball less. When my team has the ball in the attacking third, I do not want my players messing about with the ball passing the ball sideways and backwards. I want my attacking midfielder to receive the ball and dribble forward to enhance the attacking play. What I mainly concentrate on when assess my attacking midfielders passing is the areas where he is receiving the ball. In the image on the right, we see a mixture of areas where he is receiving the ball. A good point to make is that he receives the ball the majority of the time in the attacking third of the pitch, and on numerous occasions, he drops deep and sometimes very deep to receive the ball. I can only assume that when he is receiving the ball very deep that the opposition are pressing my defenders or midfielders and my attacking midfielder has dropped deep to receive the ball and will carry out the dribble more instruction in an attempt start a counter attack.

In this update, I have hopefully shown you how I assess my player’s individual passing. I chose tp assess the BBMs and the attacking midfielders as in my tactic those three players should build and effective passing relationship. In the game that I have assessed, found that all three players have a good passing relationship by getting into good positions to receive a pass and playing effective passes to commence effective attacking build up for goal scoring chances.


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