In season 1, episode 17 of Recess, grouchy grey playground warden Miss Finster tries out a new way to punish misbehaving kids. Her four white lines on the floor, ‘The Box’, prove so effective that they psychologically traumatise our backwards baseball cap wearing hero TJ into a suck-up goodiee-goodie.The Box has a power far beyond it’s physical manifestation.
The same is true in football. After the ball and the goal, the eighteen-yard box might be the most important part of the football pitch. Not only does it serve a legal purpose as boundary for goalkeepers and penalties, but it’s a vital marker of territory. No-one consistently defends against opponents entering their half, everyone defends their own eighteen-yard box. This could be a back four holding an offside line, or a midfield line having dropped into a deep block, but everyone does it.
Of course, we naturally recognise that a square is not a good area to defend effectively.
Defending the outside corners staying on the line of the box leaves space behind. The corners, of course, are further than eighteen yards away from goal anyway. If a defence is going to collapse (intentionally, like a crumple zone on a car) under pressure, then it’s better to pinch inwards at those corners. Something like (but a little more sophisticated and not done in Paint) like this.
Anyway. I think this is an unconscious thing that we do. We defend this area because, for one reason or another, we recognise that it’s important. There’s a discussion to be had about what defences would do if the 18-yard area was altered (or removed), and much of that discussion is down to the psychological impact of those four lines.
That’s not the point here though, the point is about teams recognising an important area to defend. And while crosses and corners may not statistically be efficient ways of trying to create goals, they invade this territory. When we’re defending and the opposition enters this zone, we get jumpy; when we’re attacking and we get into this area our hopes go up. It makes perfect sense.
In fact, I don’t even know why I wrote this. Maybe I just wanted an excuse to think about Recess.