In Simon Rolfes, the Bundesliga and its partner AWS have an expert who knows the Bundesliga from A to Z. Bayer 04 Leverkusen's Sporting Director, Rolfes wore Die Werkself's colours 288 times between 2005 and 2015, and represented Germany on 26 occasions. Rolfes is the ideal man to write a weekly column for the 'Bundesliga Match Facts Zone' on bundesliga.com, analysing current trends and giving unique insight on the Bundesliga Match Facts.
Here, Simon Rolfes explains the new Bundesliga Match Fact 'Most Pressed Player'
By Simon Rolfes
One of the most common phrases in modern football is "attack is the first line of defence". Indeed, every player on a football field is expected to play some part in pressing their opponents. After all, a striker can be as clinical as he wants, but if he is unable to put an opposition defender under pressure when they are trying to build up from the back, he's hardly going to make it in the professional game.
With the new Bundesliga Match Fact 'Most Pressed Player', a new dimension of the game will now be illustrated in the Bundesliga. It is no longer purely about the player in possession, but more about those who really put the pressure on. The main question is: which players in possession are put under significant pressure by their opponents, and how often?
Decisive factors in this calculation will be the number of opponents who attack the player in possession, as well as their distance and the direction of approach. Each time a certain threshold value is reached for these three components, the algorithm machine calculates a pressure situation for the player on the ball. This threshold is obviously reached much quicker when there is a short distance between the player attacking the player in possession than when there is a larger distance. The probability of a player being put under significant pressure is also greater when they are being met by a player approaching from in front of them than when a player is approaching from behind. And of course it also makes a difference when a player is being attacked by several opponents, or is just in a one-against-one situation. Yet no matter how much pressure was being put on the player, at the end of each particular phase of possession, the algorithm will either allocate a spell of significant pressure to the player, or not.
Watch: an explanation of Most Pressed Player
The number of these individual player pressure situations is then compared to his teammates’ averages during a game. This produces the Most Pressed Player statistic, which will now become a common feature of reporting on the Bundesliga. TV stations now have the option of showing Most Pressed Player percentages relative to their teammates in their live coverage. Fans can also use the Bundesliga App to obtain real-time rankings pertaining to the most pressed players
So what does all this tell us? For me, there are several advantages to the Most Pressed Player statistic, which can provide fans with detailed insight into the tactics of any team. Is a playmaker being given particular attention or being man marked by his opponents? Should a key player always be challenged by two players when in possession? Or is a team even being instructed not to attack an inexperienced debutant in a conscious attempt to force him into making mistakes? I know such tactics very well from my playing career. Often, our forwards were instructed to attack the central defender with the best ability aggressively, leaving his teammate whose ability in playing out was deemed not to be so strong. Such tactical instructions will soon be deciphered thanks to the Most Pressed Player Bundesliga Match Fact, giving us plenty more exciting subjects for discussion!
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