The missing piece - Throw-ins

In football, set-piece scenarios are often considered as threatening and given considerable time towards mastering in the hope of positive outcomes. However, one piece teams often under value are throw-ins, particularly when they occur in the final third of the pitch. For example, from a total of 2351 only 54 were score, making it only a 2.3% conversion rate throughout the FA WSL.

When we convert that to a team based summary (Table 1), we find that only Arsenal converted more than 5% of their throws in the final third in to goals. This seems like a massive opportunity for teams to improve and possibly find an edge over their opposition.

Team Name Throws Goals Goal %
Arsenal WFC 241 14 5.81%
Reading WFC 232 7 3.02%
Manchester City WFC 240 6 2.5%
Bristol City WFC 195 5 2.56%
Chelsea LFC 284 5 1.76%
West Ham United LFC 217 5 2.3%
Birmingham City WFC 215 4 1.86%
Brighton & Hove Albion WFC 204 2 0.98%
Everton LFC 230 2 0.87%
Liverpool WFC 162 2 1.23%
Yeovil Town LFC 131 2 1.53%
a Table 1: Team summary for goals from throws in the final third of the pitch.

So lets take a look at where all of Arsenal’s throws were in the final third of the pitch and try to pin point the ones that ended in a goal. First, let’s plot the throw in and which ones went forward or backwards.

Direction Throws
Backward 101
Forward 140

In summary, there are no patterns to forward or backward throws in terms of where they are performed on the pitch and without optical tracking or a freeze frame, we are unable to see where the opposition players were at the time of the throw, but let’s look at a couple of throws and plot the passes leading up to the shots and see what we can find.

This figure shows a couple of goals, where the start of the possession came from a throw in. These are two examples of how maintaining possession of the ball from a throw in can lead to a shot. In the left hand example, a possession of 8 passes occurred after the throw ending in two shots and a goal. Whilst the right hand example, had only two passes leading to the goal.

Here is an example of a team spending time on set play throw ins when close to the box and then trying them within the match:

This is an area where teams around the world might be able to find an added edge. But the time required may be too much for teams to afford during their regular training schedule that they often will focus on free kicks or corners.

Thanks must go to StatsBomb as always for the data.

Please leave a comment below if you enjoyed this, or any other of my posts. I would love to start a discussion on any of my posts going forward.


Josh Trewin
Josh Trewin
Data Scientist

I’m a data scientist, learning my way through R / Python and applying to football data from StatsBomb, provided for free through GitHub. Follow my journey on here or Twitter to find out when I add new content.

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