The Prem stat leaders revealed: Who are the creative kings? Best passers? Dirtiest foulers?
Most possession – Man United (56.3%)
Taking the possession-obsession philosophy to its extreme, Louis van Gaal's Manchester United have given their fans plenty of reason to groan/snore this season. Their style of play sits at odds with the modern shift towards high pressing and quick counters. United average 56.3% possession: a statistic that will surprise nobody.
Best passers – Arsenal (428.8 per game)
Now that a high-tempo, short-passing system is the norm in English football, complaints about Arsenal attempting to “walk the ball in” have vanished completely. But they still make the most short passes in the division, and have the highest pass accuracy at 84.2%. Arsene Wenger introduced this tactical philosophy to England two decades ago and it is to his enormous credit that Arsenal are still the best at playing this way.
Most long balls – Watford (79.6 p/g)
Watford attempt 79.6 long balls per match, with 32.7 of these finding their target (41%) – but that doesn’t mean that they should be characterised as a team of low quality, or one that hoofs randomly in the hope that something sticks. Quique Sanchez Flores has installed an approach of minimalist counter-attacks and frantic pressing; Watford rush forward as a unit, playing long balls forward to catch their opponent off-guard. Noting the effectiveness of Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo this season, it’s worked.
Best in the air – Aston Villa (23.1 duels won p/g)
No team has won more aerial duels than Aston Villa, although Leicester do take part in slightly more challenges (4.5 per match) than Remi Garde’s club. The main reason for this is Rudy Gestede’s phenomenal heading ability; he wins 6.2 headers per game – more than any other Premier League player – mostly from Brad Guzan goal kicks (9 long balls per match, the third most in the division).
Worst discipline – West Brom
West Brom are bottom of the FA’s Fair Play charts, having amassed 206 disciplinary points from 43 yellow cards and three reds despite being 15th in the table for fouls committed (9.9 per match). Their high card-to-foul ratio is partly because their defenders are slower and older than most, leading to a higher number of compromising positions (Gareth McAuley was sent off for bringing down Anthony Martial as the last man), and partly because their central midfielders are very aggressive in the tackle (Claudio Yacob has seven yellow cards, and Chris Brunt six).
Best tacklers – Liverpool (23.1 p/g)
Jurgen Klopp’s methods aren’t yet being performed by his players with a great deal of consistency or fluency, but at least they’re running frantically for the cause. Liverpool make more tackles (23.1 per game) than any other club, suggesting that Klopp’s aggressive pressing has begun to take effect. Given a full summer to absorb his methods, Liverpool should be a far more accomplished side in 2016/17.
Most defensive actions – Leicester
Leicester have made 1,308 defensive actions so far this season (interceptions, blocks, and clearances) and also top the charts for most tackles and interceptions combined – 44.2 per game. Claudio Ranieri’s bold and courageous approach is perhaps the biggest difference between him and his predecessor, with Leicester’s battle cry enough to scare most opponents into submission. The chief orchestrator of this system is the remarkable N’Golo Kante, who makes 11.1 defensive actions per game – more than any other Premier League player.
Most creative team – Man City (13.7 key passes p/g)
It should come as no surprise that Manchester City’s £162 million front four is the most creative in the Premier League, but to their credit it is the variation in their attackers’ style that has led to such a prolific forward line. City play more key passes (13.7 per match) and have more shots (17.5 per match) than any other team, meaning they’ve scored the most goals (45). Raheem Sterling’s pace draws defenders to the left flank, Kevin De Bruyne’s power when cutting inside overloads the centre, and David Silva ghosts into spaces unseen. With Sergio Aguero in the box to capitalise on the mayhem these three cause, the league title should already be sewn up.
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