Driblab and MARCA: ‘Tactical Fouls’ and how to find them with data

In our latest collaboration with MARCA, we tried to discover which teams have a greater tendency to commit tactical fouls in a premeditated way.

Published:29/02/2024

It is completely understandable that any analyst, scout, journalist, or fan might think, “data cannot prove this,” because there are indeed things that data cannot yet prove. However, the capacity to surprise is much greater than expected. In such a vast game like football, there are situations that are difficult to visualize. This is the case with tactical fouls. Can data detect a tactical foul? Perhaps they cannot know with exactitude if 100% of them were, but they can approximate very closely.

In our latest collaboration with MARCA, we attempted to discover which teams have a greater tendency to commit them in a premeditated manner. By tactical foul, we can understand a foul that is committed deliberately after a ball loss, after which the team is disorganized, and one or several opponents have a great possibility of generating a very dangerous counterattack due to how the play progresses live.

Through events, we can segment fouls and choose those that meet the two requirements we consider crucial to fulfill the concept. In this case, we selected those fouls that occur within the first five seconds after ball loss and within the last 60 meters of the field, meeting the concept of stopping a promising attack in time.

As we can see in this graph, there is a team that has been talked about for months in this regard. Real Sociedad is the team from the top five leagues that commits the most tactical fouls. It is a team that does not have imposing physical quality in its lines, nor in defense, to cover many meters by speed or to be capable of aborting counterattacks. However, a great particularity of this type of fouls is that it gives us more generic information about how different football is between countries.

Seven of the eleven teams that commit the most tactical fouls are Spanish. An indicator that relates to the way of interrupting the game and being the league with the least effective playing time among the top five, conveying a slower pace than in other leagues on the continent. The four teams that commit the most tactical fouls are from LaLiga: Real Sociedad, Rayo Vallecano, Osasuna, and Cádiz. Of the 98 tactical fouls committed by Real Sociedad, only 6 received yellow cards. Making tactical fouls and knowing how to make them.

If we separate by leagues, we can observe which teams are the ones that commit the most tactical fouls. Surprisingly, the 1st is Liverpool (79) and the 20th, Manchester City (45). This does not necessarily imply committing more or fewer tactical fouls and, therefore, preventing fewer counterattacks. In the case of Manchester City, their recoveries in the opponent’s field and their precision in finding danger zones manage to avoid many dangerous situations or solve them with recoveries or anticipations from their defenders or midfielders, with Rodri as a great defensive leader.

Autor: Driblab
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