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Is there a link between Southampton´s existing success – and Danger zone?


The formula:

What is the formula for Southampton’s outstanding success? We dive into the data and apply it to a style of play specific context.

Dangerzone (DZ)

Below we emphasize where Southampton stand out compared with the rest of the Premier League teams.

A crystal clear tendency from Southampton is the combination between how Southampton is capable of set up good shot positions from DZ and how they defend DZ – some of the key factors for their style of play.


DZ SoT Ratio can be used as forecast

Apparently it might be a well considered strategy from Koemann to set up rewarding shot positions offensively and opposite not to allow the opponents the same. When only looking at a particular part of the box, DZ, statistics shows The Saints’ strengths. The graph to the right shows the Shot on Target (SoT) Ratio.

Furthermore the graph shows that there is a clear correlation between the DZ SoT Ratio and how well the different teams are positioned in the table. In other words the DZ SoT Ratio is a very good indicator of a team’s quality and can be used to forecast the final Premier League table. This is proven by the high R-squared value of 0.79 which in simple words tells us how well data fit our statistical model.


The Saints have the strongest defense in Premier League which is quickly emphasized with only 19 goals against through 26 matches, and Fraser Forster with 12 clean sheets – best in Premier League. Forster also has the third best save percentage in DZ. See graph below.

Southampton’s defense is incredibly composed and difficult to break down. The defense and the defensive midfielders, really defend the central area in front of the box, Zone 14. It is tremendously tricky for Southampton’s opponents to create great chances from rewarding shot positions. The defensive midfielders win most of their 1 vs 1 duels, they keep up with the offensive deep runs, and most importantly they deny their opponents to face goal in Zone 14.


Thus they keep their opponents from finishing in DZ after combination play and through balls. It is possible that Koemann and Southampton speculate in protecting DZ when practicing on the training ground. Only Chelsea have allowed fewer shots against from DZ and actually Southampton have allowed the least goals against from DZ in Premier League.


The few goals allowed by The Saints are clearly linked with the fact that Southampton is the team that opponents need the most finishes to score against in Premier League. As above bar chart shows the opponents have used in average 8.1 shots from DZ to score a goal against Southampton.


Southampton is also the team in Premier League that finishes the most from DZ. An astonishing 50 percent of Southampton’s finishes are from DZ. This indicates a clear game plan from Koemann: Rewarding shot positions, i.e. in DZ, need to be set up before finishing attacks.

Let’s put Southampton’s numbers into perspective. In the World Cup 2014 an outstanding 51 percent of Germany’s finishes came from DZ. They only played seven matches. So when Southampton have done so well after 26 matches it is simply a brilliant achievement.

Shots in DZconversion-for

If we take a look at the efficiency in the opposite end of the pitch, Southampton needs to improve their conversion rate from DZ to stay in the race for Top 4. Graziano Pellè hasn´t scored since match day 17.

Above bar chart also shows a few other things about i.e. Chelsea’s efficiency in DZ. They have only used 3.5 finishes from DZ to score a goal, which is absolutely terrifying, and if they keep going this way then “The Blues” will be hard to stop in their way towards the Premier League title.

A crystal clear football philosophy

If we look at how Southampton score their goals it gets clear how Koemann wants to play. Southampton are doing exceptionally well on their transitions where they have scored 37 percent out of their goals so far. This is 13 percentage points more than the league average. Also, out of the goals, scored after transitions, +65 percent have happened after Gegenpressing of the ball on the opponent’s half. This is a fundamental key to Southampton’s success – a very tight Gegenpressing within three seconds on the opponent’s half after the loss of possession. In their Build up Play Southampton is also very strong – 50 percent of their goals after Build up Play. Only 13 percent of Southampton´s goals after Set-Pieces.

Southampton Style-of-Play


As mentioned above, the Dangerzone data of Southampton, indicates that this is a considered strategy from Koemann: Rewarding shot positions offensively, in Dangerzone, needs to be set up before finishing attacks and simply not allow the opponents the same.