A football (soccer) tackle is, in basic terms, when two players are on the field at once; one is in position to tackle (i.e., try to tackle or interrupt the progress of) an opposing player who is running with the ball. The person in possession of the ball is considered to be the ‘striker’, while the player seeking to tackle the striker is the ‘tackler’. In some sports, such as American football and rugby, the term ‘tackling’ can also refer to when a player seeks to injure or tackle an opposing player.)
When discussing football betting, most people think about picking winning teams and betting on those teams to score goals. But just as crucial is picking the right plays, settings, and matchups to help your favorite team to win!
For instance, take the 2017 Champions League final between Liverpool and Juventus. The match was closely contested, with goals on the board at the end of each half. However, it was ultimately Jürgen Klopp’s men who won, with a 2-1 away victory to lift the Champions League trophy for the second time in three seasons.
What made the difference? It was Liverpool’s tackling game that made the difference. When both teams were on the field, they were engaging in a cat-and-mouse game of trying to tackle the opposing striker, Alisson Becker. The Brazilian defender was arguably the best in the world, and he was giving it his all, fittingly, in his final match for Liverpool. Even when he was having a good day, Alisson couldn’t keep Jürgen Klopp’s men out of the game. His brilliance in stopping the ball in its tracks allowed the German to make crucial changes in his side, which ultimately won the match for Liverpool.
Similarly, you might bet on Leicester City to win any game in the Premier League this season, but how can you be sure that they will actually win? One way is by backing them to score goals, but you might also want to consider backing them to tackle high, which is fairly rare in the Premier League these days. In fact, according to Premier League data, Leicester have the third-highest rate of tackles per game (4.2 per match), which suggests that your chances of winning are considerably increased if you back them to tackle high!
This is not to suggest that all goals or all tackles are directly attributable to the quality of the players, however. Sometimes, it is the referee who is responsible for creating the winning chances, particularly in cases of poor finishing by the teams. In Italy, for example, there is a stat called the ‘penalty glut’, which refers to the fact that penalties are so common in Serie A that they practically become an afterthought. In 2018, there were 259 direct free kicks and 96 penalties in Serie A. That’s an awful lot of fouls and questionable decisions that could’ve been avoided had the players followed the rules more closely.
How Is Tackling Measured in Football?
In the 2015 Championship season, there were 12.6 million matches played in the English Premier League. In those matches, there were a total of 13.3 million tackles, according to Premier League data. That means that on average, there was one tackle for every 1.28 games played.
Over the course of the season, a team’s average tackle rate will vary. Some sides may only need to tackle a few times per game, while others may need to tackle more often. The key is to identify the trends so that you can back your favorite team more effectively when they are in form and when they are on a losing streak. So, with that in mind, here are the top three trends to keep an eye on in the upcoming year:
1. More Set Pieces
In the 2017/18 Premier League season, there were 4.9 set pieces per game (defined as ‘any action taking place directly outside the opponent’s half of the field, which is intentionally initiated by the attacking team and leads to a decision making a direct influence on the outcome of the game’ (Source: ‘The Science of Soccer’), this includes corners, free kicks, and throw-ins). That’s an increase of 1.7% from the previous season. However, it is still well short of the 5.8 set pieces per game recorded in the 1992/93 season. The reason is, primarily, the increase in the use of VAR (video assistant referees), which was first implemented in the Premier League in the 2013/14 season and has since spread to include the entire English Football League and Scottish Football League. In cases where the referee is not influenced by VAR, the number of set pieces per game has increased as a result of more effective pressing, which leads to more counterattacks and open play.
2. More Matches Won
From the 2015 season to the 2018 season, the average number of matches per team across England’s professional soccer leagues increased by 10.7%. During that time, the number of matches won per team increased by 4.4%. So, while the overall number of games increased, the chances of winning actually went up. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that some of that increase can be attributed to better finishing by the teams, rather than an increase in tactical acumen on the part of the managers.
3. More Matches That End In A Draw
In the 2017/18 Premier League season, there were 4.9 games that ended in a draw. That is an increase of 3.3% from the previous season. However, while the matches may not have ended in a victory, the frequency of the draws themselves is an indication of the effectiveness of the teams’ tactics, particularly as a lot of these matches were end-to-end games, with no clear-cut favorite. In cases where one side wins by a large margin and the other side scores a late equalizer, it is often a case of ‘heads I win, tails you lose,’ as in many cases, the team that scores the late equalizer ends up losing. So, even when it comes to the most intimate part of the game, the so-called ‘friendly contest’, the outcome can still be manipulated by both teams, albeit to different degrees, depending on the style of play.
When Is The Best Time To Bet On Tackling In Football?
As noted, not all goals and tackles are equal. Sometimes, teams will register a high tackle rate, but the opposition will score an equal number of goals. Or, conversely, a team might not be able to stop the opponent from scoring, even though they might have had the better of the chances. In order to effectively bet on football, you need to be able to identify the times when the number of tackles is going to be the highest and when it is going to be the lowest. Here are the best times to bet on tackling in the games ahead (based on Premier League data):
1. In The First Half
In the first half of games, both teams are generally in a defensive posture, seeking to protect a one-goal lead. As a result, only one or two players are usually in positions to actively participate in the game. Since the second half is often when the goals start to flow, the first 20 to 40 minutes of a game are often the most fruitful periods to search for the highest and lowest rates of tackle. What’s more, it is usually a safe bet to back a team in the first half of a game, as the chances are, generally speaking, in your favor.
2. In The First Five Minutes
When the game begins, both teams are generally on the defensive, especially in the opening minutes. However, as the opponents settle into the game, both sets of players begin to engage in a battle of wits, seeking to outsmart one another and score goals. So, in the minutes leading up to the first goal of the game, you can effectively bet on a team, as the chances are, in your favor, but once the game kicks off, the intensity generally decreases, and so does the number of tackles.
3. In Overtime
In extra time, the game is often decided by the player with the better tactics, rather than by the better player. In cases where the teams are level at the end of regulation time, the game proceeds to a penalty shootout, and in these situations, it’s often a case of ‘who can outplay the other.’ In the last couple of minutes of extra time, the game takes on a life of its own, as the players are willing to take risks and make daring tackles, with the potential to change the game. So, in overtime, it isn’t unusual for players to have at least one or two spectacular tackles per game, which draws a lot of eyes and gives the player an opportunity to shine.