Possession Stats

Following from some of the comments in the Doncaster thread, I have trawled back through the possession figures for all this season’s League matches (I obviously have too much time on my hands). The figures are quite surprising, to me at least:

In the 15 games we have won, we average 38% possession, with lows of 29% against Salford (A) and Doncaster (H) and a high of 53% against Tranmere (H), the only game we have won with more than 50% possession. In 9 of those 15 wins we have had less than 40%.

In our 11 defeats we average 47% with lows of 34% at Swindon and at home v Wimbledon and a high of 61% at home to Newport. In 5 of those 11 losses we “enjoyed” more than 50% possession.

No doubt some of the extra possession in games we lost resulted from us chasing a game that had got away from us, as against Newport - we also has 56% in the debacle at Sutton.

I would be interested in any comments/observations from any of you still awake after reading this!


It isn’t what you have got it is what you do with it that counts! Joking apart I think the figures show that you can get too obsessed with statistics in the modern game. The only statistics worth looking at by fans are those under the headings of P, W,D, L :grinning:


Have you ever read “The Numbers Game: Why Everything You Know About Football is Wrong*” by Chris Anderson and David Sally? It’s a bit dated now (came out in 2014) but i think that the underlying arguments still hold. I guess it’s an extension of Moneyball and basically contends that you should take the emotion of “I know what I see with my own eyes” out of it and concentrate more on the stats - but only those that are actually meaningful e.g. it’s not the overall possession of a team that counts most but the relative possession the teams have in the attacking 3rd (Saturday was 70/30 in favour of Doncaster, but how much of that was them passing it around their back line rather than causing us problems? How much more effective were we with less of the ball but having more attacks/shots?)

*To save you having to read the whole book, there is an analysis here -



I think the most important stat is passes in your own //opposition half. In the early part of the season we passed the ball more on our own half, during this streak we have reversed that trend, and we are now passing the ball significantly more in the opposition half than our own. As others have said possession is important but there needs to be end product. Doncaster had nearly 400 accurate passes in there own half on Saturday and about 130 in our half we had 41/120


I do not have the time to do it but it would also be interesting to look at the number of shots, which I think would have a very different bias.

Some teams base their games on possession, even if their basic approach is the press. Man City rarely have less than 50% possession and they do not do so badly. But our approach is more direct and very effective.

A little snippet from the stats website I linked to on the FGR match thread https://theanalyst.com/eu/2023/08/league-two-stats-2023-24-opta showing zones of control, spot the outlier in terms of zones of control just outside the opponents penalty area


That’s an interesting stat!