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Premier League trends: Title race, goals, speed, sprints, pressing, high lines, formations and much more

Records smashed across the board as Premier League registers high numbers of goals and comebacks; longer games than ever before; transfer windows polarised for spending; teams keeping hold of the ball for longer; manager exits plummet; Aston Villa buck offside trend and many more stats

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We take a look at data trends which shook up the Premier League in the 2023/24 season.

More goals, game-time, substitutions, comebacks, speed, sprints and pressing than ever before! Here, we pick out the Premier League's emerging trends this season.

Here's a rundown of the 20 topics covered before we dive into it...

  • More goals than ever
  • Goal resurgence for English players
  • How five-sub rule has worked
  • Comeback kings
  • Time-wasting crackdown
  • How use of stoppage-time has worked
  • Fastest league on the planet?
  • High lines and pressing hit new heights
  • Aston Villa's unique offside trap
  • Youngest PL teams
  • Injuries hit all-time high
  • Summer transfer splurge
  • Winter PSR constraints
  • Keep the ball!
  • Stick with managers!
  • Is home advantage back?
  • Is 4-3-3 on the way out?
  • Tight titles!
  • Growing disparity between tiers?
  • What about attendance?

More goals than ever

We have more goals than ever before, that's official. That record has now been smashed for the fourth successive campaign but the graphic below shows a bumper rise this term, soaring from 2.85 to 3.28 goals per game - equating to a 15 per cent jump.

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A look back at the most interesting numbers from the Premier League in 2023/24.

The per-game ratio factors in the early Premier League era before 1995/96, when there were 22 teams in the division and 420 games in a season, which has since reduced to 20 teams and 380 games.

In total, there were 1,246 goals.

Goal resurgence for English players

Six English players feature in the top 10 goalscorers' chart this term. Cole Palmer pushed Erling Haaland for the Golden Boot until the final stages of the season, while Ollie Watkins became Villa's joint-top scorer in a Premier League campaign, matching Christian Benteke's 2012/13 tally.

Dominic Solanke helped propel Bournemouth to their second-best top-flight finish, while FWA Footballer of the Year Phil Foden, Jarrod Bowen and Bukayo Saka also featured among the elite scoring list.

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Indeed, there were 369 goals scored by English players - the highest tally since 2002.

That peak comes despite English players clocking almost an all-time low for game-time with 224,730 minutes.

How five-sub rule has worked

The five-sub rule has been a game-changer for rotation. In an era where player welfare and fatigue is constantly called into question, managers have relied upon freshness from the bench more than ever before.

Brighton made six more in-game substitutions (176) than any other side, with Brentford, Bournemouth, Spurs and Fulham following closely behind (170).

And the increased substitutions have helped change which periods of games are the most influential in terms of goalscoring action. Premier League teams scored 307 goals after the 75th minute this season - coinciding with the period where most substitutions are made.

Only four teams - Burnley, Crystal Palace, Nottingham Forest and Sheffield Utd - scored a higher percentage of their goals in a different period of games.

Comeback kings

There were 63 comeback wins this season, a new Premier League record.

A true sign of champions, City certainly showed their resilience and capacity to bounce back this term with a table-topping seven wins from losing positions, level with Liverpool and Tottenham.

In contrast, runners-up Arsenal recorded only three comebacks, including their 2-1 win against Everton on the final day, which reflects how the Gunners rarely went behind during the campaign.

Time-wasting crackdown

Officials announced they would be clamping down on time-wasting at the start of this season and referees proceeded to brandish 172 cards for this offence, which equates to a twofold jump.

The crackdown helped to increase active playing time, which had dipped incrementally in the previous three seasons.

How use of stoppage-time has worked

Late drama. Who is a fan?

Increased stoppage time has led to an influx of late goals, and simultaneously increased the need and capacity of managers to turn to their bench in search of an impact player.

In 2021/22, 102 goals were scored by substitutes, that rose to 132 in 2022/23 and it's up again to 159 this year.

The Premier League is the only division, of Europe's top five leagues and beyond, to average over 100 minutes per game played this season.

Fastest league on the planet?

The Premier League is the fastest league on the planet, according to a report published by the Football Observatory in April.

Based on index scoring, England's top-flight is the benchmark with a maximum score of 100 across the board for sprints, speed and accelerations.

Data reveals Premier League teams are now averaging a record-breaking 140 sprints per game, a rise from 127 per game in 2020/21. The figures have risen incrementally season on season since records began.

The spike in goals scored also suggests teams are raising the bar for 'risk and reward', pushing higher upfield and relying on pacy defenders to race back in the event of counter-attacks.

Indeed, Spurs centre-back Micky van de Ven clocked a record-breaking top speed of 37.38 km/h against Brentford in January.

High lines and pressing hit new heights

In terms of high lines, the best way to measure this is using the advanced metric 'starting distance', which measures how far upfield a team regains possession and starts passing sequences.

The graphic below shows an incremental rise almost every season since 2010/11 hitting a joint all-time high of 41.7m this term.

As mentioned, teams are vulnerable to counters if they do not press or counter-press effectively and the data also shows pressing metrics have risen incrementally since our records began.

These rises occur across the board, including player pressures, pressures in the final third and player pressures in coordinated team presses - with the latter rising 28 per cent since 2020/21.

Aston Villa's unique offside trap

There have been fewer offsides since VAR was introduced. For context, there were 1,799 offsides in 2010/11 and 1,449 this season, but that still represents a notable jump from the 1,293 last term.

Despite the VAR-induced dip in offsides, Aston Villa caught opponents offside 167 times, which is the highest total since our records began in 2010/11. The previous record was 151 set by Bolton and Arsenal in 2011/12.

Youngest teams

The average starting XI weighed in at just 26 years and 269 days - the youngest since our records began and the first time the age has dropped below 27 during that time.

Chelsea fielded the youngest average starting XI during the campaign at just 24 years and 233 days - the fourth youngest team in Premier League history. Relegated Burnley were just 10 days older, while Arsenal and Spurs also averaged under 26 years.

The rise in physical exertions and the growing trend for longevity from signings have certainly contributed to the figures.

Injuries hit all-time high

It felt like there were more injuries than ever this term and the data reveals that's more than likely true. Teams lost 25,886 days due to injuries - the highest figure since records began in 2020/21, according to Premier Injuries.

Why? More speed and increasing sprints play a part, as does the packed fixture schedule. In terms of the teams this season, Newcastle, Sheffield United and Chelsea had lost the most days due to injuries going into the final week.

Summer transfer splurge

Premier League clubs spent a record-breaking £2.44bn on transfers in the summer, marking the third successive rise during the window.

Chelsea helped smash that record, spending twice as much as any other club with an outlay of £435m - taking the club's total spend of transfers to over £1bn since Todd Boehly bought club in 2022.

Interestingly, clubs seem to be spending more on midfielders than ever before, with the Blues splashing a record-breaking £115m to prise Moises Caicedo away from Brighton - just six months after splashing £106.8m on fellow midfielder Enzo Fernandez.

Winter PSR constraints

From a red-hot summer to an ice-cold winter: spending almost froze in January.

Amid widespread concerns surrounding Profit and Sustainability Rules (PSR) after Everton were deducted points for breaching the regulations, Premier League clubs slammed on the spending brakes with merely £96.2m spent - down eightfold from £780.1m in the previous year.

Is this the beginning of a new trend? It depends on how teams balance their books and whether the current PSR rules remain unchanged.

Currently, when every Premier League team tots up their annual accounts, they can have made a loss no greater than £105m across the previous three seasons.

Keep the ball!

Short passes, retaining possession and working opportunities closer to goal, instead of firing hopeful shots from range - this one's obvious to the eye, but the numbers highlight the scale of this growing trend.

There were a record-breaking number of passing sequences this season, defined as 10 or more consecutive open-play passes without losing possession, equating to nearly a 43 per cent rise over the past 13 years.

So, teams are typically keeping hold of possession for longer periods, rather than pumping long balls.

This trend can certainly be linked to the arrival of Pep Guardiola at Manchester City in 2016, whose possession-based style of play, along with Jurgen Klopp, has helped shape the tactical zenith most teams now aspire to play.

Stick with managers!

Have managers been granted more time this season? There have only been three permanent managerial changes, with Gary O'Neil taking charge at Wolves before the campaign kicked off, and Paul Heckingbottom (Sheffield United), Steve Cooper (Nottingham Forest) and Roy Hodgson (Crystal Palace) departing during the campaign.

Of course, Klopp, Roberto De Zerbi and David Moyes will leave Liverpool, Brighton and West Ham, respectively, once the curtain closes on 2023/24, but four changes before or during the campaign are the joint-lowest since 2005/06 and it's nearly a fourfold decrease from the 14 departures last season.

Is home advantage back?

Home advantage hit an all-time low during the Covid-ravaged 2020/21 season, with away teams recording more wins than home sides for the first time in history.

The '12th man' impact has been generally on the wane since the league was founded in 1888 but the correlation between fans and wins is clear, with home teams winning 43 per cent when fans fully returned to stadiums in 2021/22, rising to 48 per cent in 2022/23 before dipping only slightly to 46 per cent this term.

Is 4-3-3 on the way out?

The 4-3-3 system was deployed as the starting formation in 222 games last season, more than any other campaign since our records began in 2006/07 - but that number slipped to just 172 this term, which equates to a 23 per cent dip.

In contrast, the 4-2-3-1 system was used 296 times - strengthening its position as the league's most popular formation.

We have also seen the rise of 'inverted full-backs' and the data suggests full-backs or wing-backs made 3,207 passes from the middle third of the pitch, inside the opposition half, this season - that's up 22 per cent from last season - with Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal leading the way.

Image: An example of how Liverpool's full-backs, particularly Trent Alexander-Arnold, move into and pass from central areas

So, is the 4-3-3 on its way out? Well, runners-up Arsenal and third-placed Liverpool used it in each of their 38 league games, but Manchester City used it only once, having used it 14 times last term.

In terms of emerging formations, the 4-4-1-1 and 3-5-2 systems were both used around 40 times and ranked within the top six formations this season, recording 471 per cent and 78 per cent jumps in usage, repectively.

Tight titles!

This season delivered the tightest Premier League title race in history with the average gap between first and second place averaging at just 1.51 points across the campaign going into the final day.

It's the third time in six years the title race has gone all the way to the final day and the 10th time during the Premier League era. So, tight title races have become far more common in recent years.

In terms of days spent at the summit, Liverpool spent 87 days, followed by Manchester City on 78 and Arsenal on 76. You can hit play on the graphic below to see how the table evolved during the campaign.

Growing disparity between tiers?

All three promoted clubs - Sheffield United, Burnley and Luton - suffered the drop this term for the first time since 1997/98.

The trio collected only 66 points between them, which is the fewest collected by relegated clubs during a 38-game season in Premier League history.

It's only the fourth time promoted teams have collected fewer than 100 points over the past 29 years - and two of those have come in the previous three campaigns - suggesting the gap between tiers could be widening.

What about attendance?

Average top-flight attendance hit an all-time high last season, smashing the 40,000 threshold for the first time - and that record goes back to when the professional league was founded in 1888.

That trend has been rising since 1983 but experienced its greatest rise during the first decade of the Premier League era.

This term, average attendance dipped back to 38,390 - Luton's limited stadium capacity contributed to the drop - but stadiums were 98.7 per cent full going into the final day, which equals the utilisation record set last season.

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