Additional Time: Spain's Missing Minutes and Other Findings

The rules of football are very clear.  Law 7, “The Duration of the Match” states that “A match lasts for two equal halves of 45 minutes”.  The rules also make an “Allowance for Time Lost”, in which they list the following scenarios where allowance should be made for all time lost due to:

  • substitutions
  • assessment and/or removal of injured players
  • wasting time
  • disciplinary sanctions
  • stoppages for drinks or other medical reasons
  • any other cause, including any significant delay to a restart (e.g. goal celebrations)

It appears that, according to the rules, no allowance is to be made when the ball goes dead (ie. out for a goal kick, corner, throw-in or for the award of a free kick), unless the referee deems that there has been a significant delay to the restart.  It therefore follows that the rules makers never intended there to be 90 minutes of actual play, but due to the combination of a varying number of dead ball events, differing interpretations of what represents “a significant delay to a restart” as well as the leniency (or otherwise) of the referee with respect to time wasting we are now in a position that the amount of actual playing time from one game to the next can fluctuate wildly.  These fluctuations can be seen between one league and another, but they can also be seen from game to game within the same league.

The image below shows the median time, in minutes, that the ball was in play for in each of the traditional Big 5 European leagues since the 2010/11 season:


The first thing to note is that the median Ball In Play (BIP) value across all leagues never exceeds 57 minutes (the minutes values displayed on the chart are rounded to the closest minute).

Almost 90% of games have an effective BIP duration of less than 60 minutes.  That, typically, more than 1/3rd of the allotted playing time per the rules of the game witnesses no action on the pitch isn't very intuitive.  Is that what the rules makers intended when the laws of the game were laid down?

If we look at the last two or three seasons we see that the Spanish Primera Liga is an outlier in terms of the actual time played when compared to the other leagues.  While the other four leagues have a median observed BIP time of 56 – 57 minutes the Spanish league typically sees 2 – 3 minutes less actual playing time per game.

  How Much Time is Actually Added On?

Although, excluding Spain, there is a certain consistency in the actual minutes of football played between the leagues, the leagues follow a very different path in arriving at their typical 56 – 57 minutes of action.

The chart below shows the median amount of time that is played over and above the mandated 90 minutes.  Note that this is not the time that the fourth official displays on the board, but the actual time that is added on.


To give an example: A fictitious game sees the first half end with 46mins 20 secs gone on the clock and the second half end at 94mins exactly.  The amount of additional time actually played in this game was 5mins 20 secs (or 5.33 minutes).

We can see that each of the last 5 seasons follows a similar pattern in terms of additional time played across the leagues.

Games in the English Premier League consistently see much more additional time played than in the other leagues.  It’s interesting that despite, on average, playing one more minute additional time than the other leagues, the English Premier League doesn’t actually see a greater amount of playing time. This additional amount of time added on is merely needed to match the other leagues in achieving a BIP time of 56 minutes.

Following the EPL, we see that Italy consistently has a median value of additional time of approximately 5 minutes per game, with France following slightly behind with about 4.5 minutes.

The amount of additional time added on to Spanish La Liga matches is revealing.

We saw in the first chart that Spanish games consistently see the lowest amounts of time that the ball is actually in play.  So, unlike in England, the Spanish referees are not adding on sufficient amounts of injury time at the end of each half.  In comparison with the other leagues, it would appear that the Spanish arbiters should be playing another couple of minutes additional time per game.

Despite less additional time being played in Germany, fans of the Bundesliga haven’t witnessed (at least for the last 3 or 4 seasons) less minutes of actual playing time than their European peers.  By definition, this can only be due to a lower duration of stoppages during the regular 90 minutes.

  1st Half Additional Time

I wanted to take a look at how the additional time is apportioned over the two halves.

The chart below shows the distribution of time that each league has added on at the end of their first halves over the last 5 seasons.  For display purposes, the amount of additional time has been rounded to the nearest minute in the following charts.


47% of German Bundesliga games had less than 30 seconds added on to the end of the first half; this compares with just 1% of English Premier League games.  Here we can see the first part of Spain’s issue re the lack of additional time;  43% of Spanish games has less than 30 seconds added on at the end of the first half.  In fact, 85% of Spanish games had less than 1.5 minutes of first half additional time; this compares rather unfavourably with England’s equivalent figure of just 38% of games.

The Spanish whistlers also seem loathe to play more than 2.5 minutes of first half additional time.  Only 3.6% of Primera league games seen its clock tick round to 47mins 30secs.  Even the German Bundesliga has a greater percentage of first halves lasting longer than that; and almost 25% of EPL games seen additional time of at least that duration.

No matter how we slice this, it’s clear that playing a fairly short amount of added time is just a thing that the Spanish top flight does.

  2nd Half Additional Time Below is a similar chart, this time looking at the 2nd halves of games:


I have previously read on my Twitter timeline of the default 3 minutes additional time shown the end of games in Spain.  The analysis undertaken for this article has shown this assertion to have considerable merit as just over 50% of Spanish top flight games had 3 minutes (rounded) of additional time played at the end of the second half.

The German Bundesliga displays similar 2nd half tendencies as we seen earlier when looking at the 1st halves.  I was somewhat surprised to see that 13% of Bundesliga games had less than 30 seconds additional time played at the end of the game.  In fact that we find that almost half of all German Bundesliga games play less than 2.5 minutes of additional time once the 90 minutes are up; compare this with only 1 in 30 EPL games having less than 2.5 minutes 2nd half additional time!

England and, to a lesser extent, Italy are the two leagues where its spectators are most likely to see more than 3.5 minutes of additional time played in the 2nd half.  This analysis would suggest that Spanish fans deserve to see longer periods of additional time played at the end of each half, but for whatever reason they just aren't getting it.

  English Premier League

Thus far, I have implied that English Premier League referees are doing a pretty good job (compared with the other leagues) with their timekeeping as they generally play the greatest amount of additional time.  This ensures that the typical EPL match sees as much actual ball in play time as the other main European leagues.  I have favourably compared it to Spain where the referees do not seem to be as fastidious in their as their English counterparts in adding on sufficient additional time at the end of each half.

However, even within the EPL there are significant differences in how much actual time is played from game to game.

The chart below shows the distribution of actual in play minutes in the Premier League over the last 5 seasons:


It’s no surprise, that we see that 55 and 56 minutes are the BIP minutes that have been most common in the Premier League, but that there have been games with BIP minutes ranging from as little as 43 to as much as 68 amy surprise some readers.  It would seem barely plausible that two games played under the same rules in the same league could differ in their actual playing times by such an order of magnitude.

Swansea in November

Earlier this season, during last November, Swansea played a couple of games at home that could hardly have been more different in terms of actual playing time; and I have taken a look at those two games in some detail.

On November 6th Swansea hosted Man United at the Liberty Stadium, lost 3-1 but the fans at that game gorged on 64 minutes of seeing the ball move around the pitch.  However, just three weeks later the Swansea fans experienced a totally different experience when they beat Crystal Palace in a barnstorming, never to be forgotten, 5-4 thriller.  However, (according to my methodology) that thrilling game experienced just 44 minutes of actual moving footballs!

For the two games mentioned above I went through each Opta action in chronological order and produced a summary showing the approximate number and duration of each stoppage that occurred in the games.

The following charts categorise the stoppages.  Note that there aren’t separate categories for the issuing of cards or making substitutions as those delays are built into the stoppage where the event happened.


Remarkably, even though more than 100 minutes of time was played in the match, we can see the stoppages that resulted in less than 45 minutes of actual ball in play time.

In total, I calculated that there were 112 stoppages.  We can see that, unsurprisingly, the length of break in play is largely dependent upon the type of stoppage.  Before we look in depth at the various stoppages, let’s compare Swansea’s game versus Crystal Palace with their game played three weeks earlier at the same venue against Man United:


The Man United game had only 95 minutes of playing time, but that still resulted in approximately 64 minutes when the ball was in play.

Across the two games we can see patterns emerging in terms of how much inactivity we can expect to see as a result of a given dead ball situation:

  • Each goal results in approximately 60 seconds of no action
  • On average, each time the ball goes over the end line (either for a corner or goal kick) we see a break in play of about 30 seconds
  • Throw-ins take about 15 seconds on average to restart play

The average duration of breaks in play arising from free kicks differed greatly in these two games.  The average free kick in the Crystal Palace game took 31 seconds out of the game, while the equivalent was 10 seconds less in the Man United game.  I ascertained that a large part of the reason for this is that in the Crystal Palace game Gylfi Sigurdsson had two direct free kick efforts at goal.  The first one was struck more than 2 minutes after the free kick was awarded (some screen caps are included below).  As well as the usual spray painting by the referee there was some messing about in the wall which resulted in Yohann Cabaye being called out from the defence and receiving a lecture.  The second one was struck 50 seconds after the foul.  In contrast, there were no direct shots at goal from free kicks in the Man United game.

In terms of providing a rough ready reckoner for how we can have 64 minutes of play in one game, and then only 44 minutes in another I would reduce the 20 minutes less football played in the Crystal Palace game to:

  • 5 additional goals = +5 minutes
  • 5 fewer throw-ins = -1 minute
  • Additional delays attributable to free kicks = +10 minutes
  • 14 additional corners = +6 minutes

What should be done in such instances? 

That we can have two games in the same competition where one sees 44 minutes actual play, and the other 64 minutes doesn’t seem equitable.  Obviously the example I have used here includes two fairly extreme cases, one at either end of the scale, but they are real, not illustrative.

The first half of the Swansea v Crystal Palace game had less than 3 minutes additional time.  However, one series of events shows just how inadequate that additional time was.  From the screen cap below we can see that Jack Cork was fouled on the edge of the opposition’s penalty area at 33mins 50secs.


Gylfi Sigurdsson scored directly from the subsequent free kick, which was taken at 35mins 57secs, after a delay of 127 seconds.


Crystal Palace took the restart following the goal, after another full minute expired to allow the celebrations to pass.  So, over a period of about 3mins and 5secs the only action that took place was Sigurdsson striking the free kick.  That one series of events from the 33rd to the 36th minutes had longer stoppages than the additional time played at the end of the half!

Given the considerable differences in playing time it does seem like one possible solution would be to operate a 60 minute stopped clock, instead of the current “we’ll call it 90 minutes but there is no telling how long we’ll actually play for” durationSuch a change from the status quo would see more football being played in almost 90% of games; but the main advantage would be that all teams would be on a level playing field.  What is there not to like about that idea?

Timewasting would not continue to be rewarded, as the perpetrators would know that every second the ball wasn’t in play we would see an equivalent amount of time being added on at the end.  Right now, this definitely isn’t the case.

I appreciate that such a move to a stopped clock will not be easily made, however the Liga de Fútbol Profesional (LFP), the organisation that runs the Spanish Primera league, have a much easier change to make.  Armed with the information in this analysis they need to have a look at their lack of additional time in comparison to the other big European leagues and instruct their referees to add a little more additional time than they currently play.

By doing that, the Spanish football fans will begin to see as much football as their peers in the other European countries.


MUFC vs Liverpool Positional Tracker

Man United 3 vs 0 Liverpool Here is our visualization that shows the smoothed positions of players around the time as indicated. As we don't have access to detailed tracking data we have tried to be as smart as we can with the "on-the-ball" data collected by Opta; we think we've made a decent attempt at trying to understand the flow of the game and the general positional trends of the players within the game. We know it's not perfect, but we'd need full tracking data to ensure that we have the exact positions of every player correct at all times.  In the absence of full tracking data, hopefully people will find these visualizations helpful. Click to open viz in a larger window. A couple of my thoughts:

  • Game was exceptionally compressed in the middle third during opening half hour
  • Moreno totally neglected his defensive positioning during the first half.  He is shown as further forward than Coutinho during nearly all of the first half
  • In the second half Fellaini dropped right back to offer additional protection to United's defence


Southampton v MUFC Player Positional Tracker

Southampton 1 vs 2 Man United Here is our visualization that shows the smoothed positions of players around the time as indicated. As we don't have access to detailed tracking data we have tried to be as smart as we can with the "on-the-ball" data collected by Opta; we think we've made a decent attempt at trying to understand the flow of the game and the general positional trends of the players within the game. We know it's not perfect, but we'd need full tracking data to ensure that we have the exact positions of every player correct at all times.  In the absence of full tracking data, hopefully people will find these visualizations helpful. Click to open viz in a larger window. SOUvMUFC

Tottenham v Newcastle Player Positional Tracker

Tottenham 1 vs 2 Newcastle Newcastle upset the odds with a come from behind win at White Hart Lane on Sunday afternoon. Here is our visualisation that shows the smoothed positions of players around the time as indicated. The locations are identified with reference to actions as identified by Opta. Comments from Zubair Arshad appear below the PPT: TOTvNUFC  

  • This was a real "game of two halves".
  • Main comment for Spurs was their narrowness of Chadli/Lamela occupying the same space as Eriksen, therefore making it a bit easier for Newcastle to defend. This can be seen in the PPT. Lennon was introduced in the 75th minute to address this but Pardew reacted by bringing on Haidara to play in front of Dummett on the left.
  • Newcastle struggle to establish any dominance in the game (especially in first half) without Tiote. Anita is the furthest possible replacement for Tiote that we have. He received 4 passes and made 4 passes in the first half therefore no surprise to see his "dot" very erratic and small. It was difficult to pinpoint NUFC's structure (mainly because they barely had one), with Sissoko and Colback high up the pitch to try and support Perez but NUFC overall had very little possession in the first half. (21%).
  • The second half was a different story. Clearly the Ameobi goal changed the game, but there was a lot more structure to Newcastle's midfield. Cabella, Ameobi and Gouffran interchanged between the lines and flanks, with Sissoko and Colback sitting a little deeper frustrating Tottenham in the middle of the pitch.

Where has Liverpool's Press gone to?

Liverpool's defensive problems this season have been well documented.  This very brief post isn't going to address Liverpool's defensive issues, but will concentrate on one very specific team issue; their lack of a high press this season. Last Season's Press These are the PPDA values for each team last season in the EPL (the lower the PPDA value the more aggressive the press employed by the team). For anyone unfamiliar with the PPDA metric an introduction can be found in this article. 1314EPL Apart from the fact that Liverpool were ranked in 3rd place on my Pressing metric last season, what is probably more stark is the fact that Liverpool pressed as aggressively when they were leading games as when they were behind or drawing.  Naturally, we would expect a team that is leading to sit back a little and to reduce the intensity of their press.  But Liverpool didn't do this. All the other top teams exhibited the expected pattern of posting lower PPDA numbers, and thus a more aggressive press, during losing Game States.  Liverpool were the sole exception to this (of the top teams). As to the reason for this we'd only be speculating, but there are a couple of ideas that spring to mind. The first is that Rodgers didn't trust his team to defend a lead by sitting back.  Perhaps he knew that they were suspect defensively, and to keep them continually on the attacking front foot really was The Reds' best form of defense. Alternatively, these pressing numbers encapsulate the Spirit of Luis Suarez.  We can all envisage Suarez running around the attacking half of the pitch like one of those Ever Ready Bunnies from the old television adverts.  His work rate was phenomenal and perhaps this PPDA metric quantifies that.   8 Games into the 2014/15 EPL Season 1415EPL Liverpool's press, their desire to win the ball back in attacking positions, has markedly decreased this season.  They fall from last season's 3rd position to a mid table ranking.  But what is also really noticeable is that their PPDA values when split across Game States are now beginning to follow the familiar pattern that all the other teams exhibited; they press less when they are in winning positions in games. Has the work ethic in the attacking half dropped off a little?  Is this a planned decision or has it just "happened"? We can obviously only offer guesses and conjecture at this stage, but has the team been forced to drop a little deeper to provide some defensive cover for Gerrard this term?  Never mind the goals that are missing due to the absences of Suarez and Sturridge, but are we also seeing the impact of these absences on the way Liverpool defends when not in possession of the ball. It will be interesting to see what changes Rodgers makes to try to get his team press a little more throughout the remainder of the season.  For I'm sure he will be disappointed in their relative lack of pressing through 8 league games so far this campaign.

Arsenal v Hull Player Positional Tracker

In a game that Arsenal dominated, they had to settle with a point thanks to their late equalizer from Danny Welbeck.  Arsenal's territorial and possession dominance can be clearly seen on the Player Positional Tracker. ThatsWengerBall gave me his thoughts on the game via the lens of the PPT, and his comments appear below the gif. (Click on the image to open in a larger window) ARSvHUL That'sWengerBall's comments:

  • Arsenal started the match in a 4-3-3 formation however spent much of the game in a 3-4-3 shape, with Flamini dropping between the centre backs whilst Gibbs and Bellerin pushed up the pitch.


  • Hull City, meanwhile, chose defensive solidarity by starting in a 3-5-1-1 formation and packing the central areas. Both Hernandez and Ben Arfa were continually dropping deep, helping to squeeze out any space.


  • There was very little play in Arsenal's half of the pitch as the Gunners proved adept at keeping the ball in the final third. However the centre of the pitch became over-congested from around the 25th minute onwards when Arsenal's wingers, Chamberlain and Alexis, both started to play very narrow.


  • Arsene Wenger made some changes after the 60th minute. Ramsey and a few minutes later, Campbell came on as Arsenal pushed even higher up the pitch searching for an equaliser. Hull stayed very deep with Ben Arfa effectively acting as a left back for much of the game.


  • This game was a classic example of one side playing a low block against another team that dominates possession. When looking at this PPT and the stats after the match many Arsenal fans will be scratching their head as to how they didn't get the three points. Hull were a little lucky but their defensive resolve matched with their efficiency up front meant they earned a valuable point.

Does van Persie still merit a starting place for MUFC?

  A chart created by Christoffer Johansen made its way into my Twitter timeline last week. This chart was fairly stark in that showed a steady and perceptible decline in the output of Man United’s Robin van Persie over the last 4 or 5 seasons. Christoffer’s chart was as follows: BojoShots That chart doesn’t need much commentary, so I’ll give it none. Johansen then went on to show that van Persie’s decline extended to more than just the rate that he shot over the last five seasons. He showed that the year on year provision of assists is another category that has seen a decline from the Dutch captain: BojoAssists   Wider Attacking Contribution On a team with as much attacking talent as this current Man United side possess, it is obvious that both the shots and the headlines will be shared around. Not everyone can take the final shot, or even play the assist for the shot; this is especially true when the attacking talent includes all of Falcao, Rooney, Di Maria, Mata and van Persie. This desire to award attacking players the recognition that their involvement deserves is what motivated me to create the Attacking Contribution metric . Previously, unless they played the final pass or had the shot, their part in attacking moves would have gone unnoticed by the statistics that are currently reported on. An introduction to this metric can be found in an article published last week on Statsbomb.  In summary, it records the number of times that a player was involved in the final four events of an attacking move that culminated in a shot. Due to the various ways that forwards play it can be difficult to compare their outputs. Some forwards excel in holding up play and linking with others, while some are simply there to score the goals. I decided to include the final four events in the calculation of the Attacking Contribution metric as this will, generally, capture all the players that were integral to the attacking move. If attacking players are regularly failing to be involved in the final four events of their teams’ attacking moves I think that questions should be asked of them. What exactly is their role in the team? What does the coaching staff want them to achieve? And, most importantly, are they taking the position of a player that has more to give to the team than they themselves are?   Robin van Persie’s Attacking Contribution From Johansson’s charts we can see that RVP’s shot numbers have declined and that he’s also providing a minimal level of assists. This in itself might not be a problem.  With all the attacking talent at Louis van Gaal’s disposal it is possible that van Persie is being involved earlier in the moves. Such an earlier involvement would not see him gaining recognition under the two categories of stats that Christoffer Johansen covered in his charts. If he was central to United’s attacking moves, moves which were being finished by the likes of Di Maria, Rooney or Falcao then supporters of RVP could rightly say that the 2014 version of the Dutch forward is about more than just scoring goals. But is this actually the case? The Attacking Contribution Metric can help us answer this question: RVP I only have data for games played from the start of the 2010/11 season. Robin van Persie was remarkably consistent during the spell from 2010/11 to 2012/13, during these three seasons he was involved in almost 50% of the shots his teams took while he was on the pitch. RVP’s productivity numbers noticeably tail off last season (2013/14) as he is involved in only 39% of United’s shots. Although the table above doesn’t include his playing minutes, I can tell you that he played less than 1700 minutes last season compared to the 3500 and 3350 minutes that he clocked up respectively in each of the two preceding seasons. The Dutchman obviously struggled with his fitness last season; he missed plenty of game time, and when he did play he wasn’t as productive as in previous terms. If last season was disappointing for van Persie, then this current one has started off very badly. His involvement in just 28% of United’s shots is an extremely poor individual return for a front line attacker and represents a serious decline from the exceptionally high numbers we have grown used to seeing van Persie deliver, first at Arsenal and then in Ferguson’s final season at Old Trafford.   Man United’s Individual Attacking Contributors The table below shows the attacking involvement of United’s attacking players this season: MUFCReliance I know that the season is young, but we can see that six other United players have had a greater attacking input that van Persie has so far. How can Anders Herrera have had a greater influence (in terms of the percentage of attacking moves he has been involved in) than RVP has had? United’s attacks are passing van Persie by, this is a trend that I picked up few times this season in the commentaries that I made on some of Man United’s Player Positional Trackers, an example of which is United’s defeat against Leicester. Given the attacking firepower that currently resides inside Old Trafford I don’t think, in his current form, that van Persie is deserving of a start in United’s line up. With Mata, Falcao, Rooney, Di Maria, and Herrera real possibilities for the five available attacking spots (and that’s even before we consider Januzaj or Valencia), Robin van Persie should no longer expect to be one of first names on the Man United team sheet. Maybe the injuries have finally taken their toll. The fact that he has recently turned 31 will not help him either, but there is no doubt that his ability to influence games is clearly waning, and United will need more from all of their attacking players if they are to successfully secure a Top 4 league position this season.   Tale of Two Dutch Strikers 404630_gallery In a brief Twitter conversation with Simon Gleave on Saturday, Simon mentioned that there was quite a bit of chatter in the Dutch media around van Persie and Huntelaar. Comparisons were being made between the two, presumably around which of the players should receive the nod to start up front as the Oranje played Kazakhstan on Friday night. Van Persie led the line whilst the Schalke striker had to be content with a place on the bench, although Huntelaar did come on in the 56th minute and he grabbed the Dutch equalising goal just six minutes later. This article is mainly concerned with van Persie, but given the circumstances I decided to widen it out to briefly include some of Klaas-Jan Huntelaar’s numbers.   Van Persie or Huntelaar When van Persie was in his prime there was no contest around which of the two were the more productive player. However, is this still the case now in late 2014? It’s impossible to answer this question with the use of just one metric but let’s take a look at Huntelaar’s Attacking Contribution metric over the last four and a bit seasons: Huntelaar A few seasons back (2010 – 2012) we can see that at with an attacking involvement of approximately 35% in Schalke’s shots he was considerably less involved than van Persie was at Arsenal and Man United. However, as Father Time has quickly caught up with RVP it looks as though Huntelaar’s attacking performances haven’t yet taken the very noticeable decline that van Persie’s has; this despite the fact that just six days separated their birth. I’d expect the 42% contribution rate that Huntelaar has posted so far this season to reduce a little, but at this stage he still looks to be a player that will contribute to about one third of Schalke’s attacks. I’m conscious that this Attacking Contribution metric isn’t all encompassing. It doesn’t assess the quality of chances, nor the rate at which they convert their chances and we also need to be aware that we are looking at players that play in two different leagues. But, even being mindful of all of those caveats, it could be argued that van Persie has regressed to the point that he and Huntelaar could be expected to have a similar attacking contribution for the Netherlands.

Premier League after 7 games. How have teams pressed?

  Only seven games have been played so far in the 2014/15 Premier League season, but I thought I would take the opportunity that the current International break provides me to publish my pressing figures for the league. Those readers familiar with my work will know that I use the PPDA metric to evaluate the aggression that teams have shown in attempting to win the ball back in a certain attacking area of the pitch. In summary, I take the number of passes that a team allows and divide that by the defensive actions that they carry out in this attacking area; thus we arrive at the Passes per Defensive Action (PPDA) metric. If anyone wants to find out a little more of the background of this metric or the details of the attacking zone that the calculations are based on please read my introductory post into the PPDA concept.   Game State There is no doubt that the type of game a team plays is influenced (to some degree) by the scoreboard. If a team is chasing the game then we would expect to see them record a lower PPDA value (a lower value shows that a lot of pressure was exerted by the team when they weren’t in possession), whereas a team that is in the lead may be content with retreating into a solid defensive shape. If they do shell and retreat then their PPDA value will be high as they will allow the opposition almost unchallenged possession in areas far away from their goal; areas they are confident they can’t be hurt from. To take account of this, the table below also includes the percentage of minutes that each team has spent in winning positions so far this season. The PPDA values haven’t been adjusted for Game State, but we can visually see the impact that Game State might have had on the PPDA values that have been posted.   Current Season PPDA Values after 7 Games GW7_2014   Arsenal We can see that Arsenal currently lead the Premier League in terms of the aggression that they use to win the ball back in their attacking areas. They permit less than 9 passes before they register a defensive action of their own, and this value places them just ahead of Man City. However, if we then look at the time spent winning we can see that Arsenal has spent just 11% of the time winning compared to 31% by Man City. So what does that mean? Although the raw numbers tell us that Arsenal are pressing more than any other team, I would suggest that they are achieving this figure because they have spent a huge amount of time chasing games. A team of Arsenal’s quality wouldn’t expect to be leading just 11% of the time and I would expect to see Arsenal’s PPDA value increase as they take greater control of games. On the other hand, due to the amount of time that Man City have spent in winning positions this season, their PPDA value looks sustainable –winning the ball back high up the pitch is simply part of their tactics.   Stoke – where did they come from? The appearance of Stoke in 3rd place in this table is a little surprising; especially when we consider that they haven’t been chasing games to any great extent. All the other teams in the top half of this Pressing Table would either be considered strong teams or else they have been leading games for less than 20% of the time. Yet, rather curiously Stoke don’t fall into either of those categories. The numbers tell us that Mark Hughes has turned Stoke into a pressing team. The Pochettino effect can be seen as Southampton fall from previously topping this league last season to now only appearing in 6th position this season, while Spurs are going the other way with a very small decrease from their value achieved last season. I haven’t seen that many Tottenham games, but that ties in with what a lot of Spurs fans are saying; Pochettino hasn’t quite got the team playing as he would like. It’ll be interesting to see if, with more time with his players, he is able to reduce their PPDA from its current value of 10.21. My guess is that he will be able to succeed with this and Tottenham fans should see a more aggressive level of pressing than they have witnessed so far this term.   Liverpool; Life without Suarez Liverpool fans will not need to read this article to know that their team aren’t quite firing on all cylinders so far this season. But this article highlights another area of the game where they just aren’t quite the same team as last season. At the bottom of this piece I produce the PPDA table for last season, a table in which Liverpool finished third with a PPDA of 10.79. With a leading time of 30% the Reds haven’t been winning for an enormous amount of minutes this season yet they appear in only 13th position. It’s hard not to think about the Luis Suarez shaped hole in the Liverpool PPDA number this season, and although I do not assign PPDA to individual players it’s clear that he was a huge part of Liverpool’s urgency last season. He is a unique talent and it’s unreasonable to think that Liverpool could have replaced him with a player of the same quality but it looks like the club still have quite a way to go to replace the lost work rate of the Uruguayan, never mind his skill and talent.   Chelsea Speaking of “enormous amounts of winning minutes”, we come to Chelsea. What happens when a team leads for 60% of all the minutes they have played, especially if they are coached by Mourinho? They sit back, soak up pressure and invite the trailing team to break them down. Inevitably they score a goal on the break and post a high PPDA value, but hey, that doesn’t really matter. There’s no doubt that as Chelsea’s schedule toughens up and they aren’t posting as many winning minutes that we’ll see their PPDA value sharpen. If you look at the table at the bottom of this piece you will see that this is the team that was only behind Southampton last season in terms of their aggression in winning the ball back. Like their near neighbours across Stanley Park, Everton will probably be disappointed with their lowly position. Generally, the stronger teams appear towards the top of these tables. They haven’t been posting Chelsea style leading minutes yet they seem to have been happy to concede possession in high areas, a tactic normally employed by the minnows of the league.  Everton employed a fairly aggressive level of pressing last season, but that same level of intensity hasn't been displayed so far this term.   Aston Villa West Ham’s position in the PPDA table can be excused by their large amount of leading minutes, and Aston Villa would probably attempt to make the same excuse. However, their PPDA over 7 games is unbelievably high at more than 31; their PPDA is much higher than the 19th placed team. In six of Villa’s seven games they posted a PPDA of greater than 20; to give an idea of scale 19.96 is the 10th percentile PPDA value in the Premier League over the previous four seasons. It’s almost as if Villa’s whole game plan is based around sitting extremely deep and then hitting teams on the counter attack with some pacey forwards running into acres of space………….   QPR Holding penultimate place in this measure of aggressive pressing is QPR. Considering they have led for just 7% of their game minutes their PPDA of just over 18 is blurgh. Even when they aren’t leading games (which is the vast majority of the time) they seem to be concerned with keeping the score down. They’ll surely have to show more ambition than this if they are to have any chance of avoiding relegation from the Premier League by the time May 2015 comes round.   Last Season: 2013/14 PPDA Table 2013PPDA Feature Photo taken by Ian Walton

Man United vs Everton Player Positional Tracker

Man United 2 vs 1 Everton Some brief comments and analysis from Sam Gregory appear below the PPT (click on the image to open in a larger window). MUFCvEVE

First Half

  • The Rafael-Baines battle down the wing was an interesting one, with both fullbacks essentially playing as wingers or at the very least attacking wingbacks.

  • Di Maria was taking up some very advanced positions in the first half, being the furthest United player forward on several occasions. Especially during the ten minute period starting in the 25th minute, which included Di Maria’s goal.

  • Besic, Naismith and Barry were fairly ineffective as a midfield trio during the first half seeing very little of the ball and playing with a lot of distance between them.

Second Half

  • Oviedo’s introduction on the left hand side for Everton helped to pin Rafael back in his own half while allowing Baines more space to make forward runs.

  • Leon Osman had quite a big attacking presence for Everton in his short time on the pitch. He picked up quite a few attacking positions and his influence was noticeably quite large for his entire time on the pitch.

  • The front three for United of Mata, Van Persie, Falcao and later Wilson were quite innocuous in the second half. Dropping deeper and deeper to try and get involved without really seeing a lot of the ball.


  • Everton were much better in the second half after Oviedo and Osman came on in the second half. Until that point they had been unable to really create a lot against United, but after the substitutions were unlucky not to get a point from the game.

  • United clearly missed Herrera in midfield as they weren’t able to create as many attacks from midfield as they have in previous weeks. That being said Di Maria stepped up and created just enough to get United over the line with the three points.

Player Positional Tracker: Arsenal v Tottenham

Arsenal 1 vs 1 Tottenham Continuing the theme of guest commentators analysing our Player Positional Tracker vizs we have ThatsWengerBall giving us his thoughts on Saturday's North London Derby. His comments and brief analysis can be found below the gif. (Click on the image to open in a larger window) ARSvTOT

  • Arsenal started the game with a very fluid 4-1-4-1 system; with Özil starting on the left, Chamberlain on the right and two box-to-box midfielders in Wilshere and Ramsey playing centrally in front of Arteta, acting as the pivot.
  • Whereas Chamberlain provided width on the right, Özil often drifted inside from the left to overload the centre of the pitch and could regularly be found rotating positions with Wilshere and Ramsey. This central overload allowed Arsenal to dominate possession throughout the whole match.
  • To ensure Arsenal didn’t become too narrow, Gibbs (the left-back) acted as an outlet on the left when in possession and played especially high up the pitch in the second half – almost as a left winger. To counterbalance this, Chambers (playing right-back) stayed slightly deeper ensuring the centre-backs weren’t too exposed, recreating the offensive/defensive full-back dynamic seen often last year between Gibbs and Sagna.
  • Chamberlain acted as more of a wide midfielder than an inside forward like Walcott meaning that when Welbeck dropped deep to link the play Chamberlain rarely made a run into the space vacated by the centre forward. This meant Arsenal offered little penetration and had to rely on crisp passing combinations and individual skill to bypass Tottenham’s defence.
  • Tottenham played a lot deeper and spent a lot of the game defending in a 4-4-2 shape with Chadli playing off Adebayor. They attempted to utilise the space on the counter by hitting Arsenal on the break, however poor decision making when it came to making the final pass ultimately limited the effectiveness of this strategy.
  • Eriksen and Lamela looked dangerous, moving in from the flanks to join Adebayor and Chadli when on the counter, however Spurs had so little of the ball (only 30% possession) that they struggled to have a significant impact on the game. That said, it was Lamela who took advantage of Flamini’s mistake and slid in a well-timed pass for Chadli’s goal.
  • Arsenal’s substitutions changed the shape of their side quite significantly. From around the 65th minute onwards it was clear (as shown in the above PPT) that the Gunners were targeting the left hand side of the pitch. Alexis, Cazorla, Özil and Gibbs could all be found in this area creating a passing quartet that gave Tottenham quite a few problems and eventually led to an equaliser.

Player Positional Tracker: Hull v Man City

Hull 2 vs 4 Man City Comments / analysis provided by Danny Pugsley from Bitter And Blue.  Danny's comments appear below the animated gif. (Click on image to open in larger window) HULvMCFC

  • Despite City's early lead it was noticeable how committed they were to attacking play, even at 2-0 up and after Hull pegged them back. There appeared little change in approach.


  • Both Milner and Silva were very supportive of Dzeko and Aguero, with Milner spending a fair amount of time out on the right hand side in tandem with Zabaleta.


  • Zabaleta commented post game (as he has done before) about City's commitment to the attack and that it is a trade off that leaves them vulnerable defensively. Whilst Clichy gets into forward positions it is Zabaleta who is the full back with most licence.


  • A lot of City's play comes down the right hand side (perhaps with the absence of Nasri?) but both Milner and Silva were stationed more on the right hand side than the left.


  • Of most interest was the effect the substitutions had on City's make up. Navas for Fernandinho was first and this move essentially gave City an extra attacking option, leaving Toure as the only central midfielder to do the 'dirty work'.
  • Following the substitution through to the final whistle he was stationed virtually in the centre circle (similar to his disciplined role against Chelsea the previous week).


  • Navas was of course patrolling the right hand side but not exclusively as it is shown that he and Zabaleta would interchange on occasion with Navas tucking inside.


  • The second substitution was Lampard for Aguero. Lampard operated very centrally but not as a Fernandinho replacement, holding alongside Toure - which you may expect having gone 3-2 up - but noticeably ahead of Toure, influencing the attacking play with Milner all around him.


  • As seen in the previous week his sense of timing gets him in position to score goals and it is interesting that Pellegrini may look to use Lampard in this role moving forward; an impact sub brought to control play further forward rather than the usual tactic of an added body in midfield.

Player Positional Tracker: West Brom v Burnley

West Brom 4 vs 0 Burnley Burnley have only scored 1 goal so far this season, all the 19 other teams in the Premier League have scored at least 4 goals.  And when you see the formation the Premier League new boys play it's easy to see how they have struggled offensively. In the Player Positional Tracker below, which shows the smoothed positions (as recorded by Opta) that the players took up as the game progressed, we can see the formations employed by the two teams.  Click on the image to open in a larger window.

  • Burnley kept an exceptionally tight formation during the opening 30 minutes.  For large periods of time all 4 defenders are very narrow, all within the confines of the penalty area; this is certainly unusual for modern full backs.


  • In this opening 30 minute period, Burnley seemed content to concede possession.  This can be observed by the very small size of the Burnley dots (the size represents on the ball involvement).


  • However, having fallen behind Burnley were not able to change their formation to offer much attacking threat of their own.

Kevin Kilbane provided some more analysis on this line in this informative article on the BBC website WBAvBUR