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Premier League club styles revealed in advanced Opta stats

Which category does your team fall into?


What is your team's playing style this season? Adam Smith checks under the hood using a new range of advanced stats...

Opta has produced a range of advanced stats that go beyond expected goals, including passing sequences, progress in possession, speed in attack and pressing opposition.

Here, we select some of the key stats and compare all 20 clubs to reveal early signs of strengths and weaknesses, in addition to striking similarities between teams.

Pep Guardiola Man City v West Ham
Image: Manchester City excel in the advanced metrics

Firstly, let's rattle through the definitions, before we see the results...

Selected advanced stats

10+ pass sequences: Any passing/possession sequence of 10+ passes in open play

Absolute width per sequence: How wide a team get per sequence from the centre of the pitch

Progress for (upfield): The amount of distance that the team moves upfield per sequence

Build-up attacks: An open-play sequence that contains 10+ passes and either ends in a shot or has at least one touch in the box

Direct attacks: An open-play sequence that starts just inside the team’s half and has at least 50% of movement towards the opposition’s goal, with that team ending with a shot or touch in opposition box

Direct Speed: Metres per second progressed upfield in open play sequences

Start distance: How far upfield a team starts open play sequences, on average

High turnovers: Sequences that start in open play and begin 40m or less from the opponent's goal

PPDA: Opposition passes allowed per defensive action, which takes into consideration these actions in the opposition’s defensive and middle third of the pitch

Man City domination

As the graphic below shows, Manchester City are excelling across almost all advanced metrics.

The reigning champions only lag behind for 'direct speed' and 'direct attacks', but this is due to their domination in possession.

Pep Guardiola's side simply do not need to bomb forwards with the ball, due to their league-topping numbers for 'pass sequences' and 'build-up attacks'. Off the ball, their runners clearly burst from the blocks to create space, though.

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Aymeric Laporte
Image: Aymeric Laporte has made more passes than any other player in the Premier League with 302 to date, but suffered an injury during the 3-1 win over Brighton

Liverpool only trail City by the smallest of margins across a raft of these metrics - but notably attack at fast speeds more frequently, with fewer passes. Chelsea are very similar to Liverpool but less prolific with the final product.

*In the above graphic, PPDA at the outer rim represents the best possible result: a team that presses and breaks up the opposition's passing exchanges

Arsenal, Spurs & Man Utd similarities

Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester United have styles comparable with Liverpool, but with less emphasis on pressing in the attacking third.

Arsenal and United focus on successfully breaking at speed, while Spurs achieve more patient pass sequences at a rate only bettered by Manchester City, and rivalled by Leicester.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in action during the north London derby at the Emirates Stadium
Image: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has started the season impressively and attempted two fast breaks for the Gunners, scoring one of those against Newcastle

In fact, Crystal Palace and West Ham have started the season in similar fashion, but with fewer passing combinations, and therefore fewer attacks after patient exchanges - which verges towards the 'Attack when you can!' style below.

Spurs struggles

The graphic above shows how Spurs have struggled to find the killer ball this season, having lots of pass sequences but few build-up attacks - potentially caused by Christian Eriksen missing the opening games amid transfer speculation

Pushing high & breaking quickly

Everton and Leicester kicked off the season in very similar styles, pressing opposition more frequently than any other top-flight club.

The Toffees are slightly more effective at winning the ball back and retaining it upfield, but Leicester achieve far more uninterrupted possession across the entire pitch.

Richarlison struck Everton's opener
Image: Richarlison has won 37 duels this season - only five players in the Premier League have recorded more

Both teams look for fast-breaking transitions and start passing sequences higher up the pitch, suggesting opposing sides sit slightly deeper.

Other teams pushing towards this style: Watford, Southampton and Bournemouth

Bournemouth start high but back off

The graphic above shows how Bournemouth are starting passages of play in attacking areas (high turnovers) with little pressing (PPDA). Watford do the opposite!

Attack when you can!

No fewer than seven teams fit into what could be described as a 'bottom-half' style, with below-average passing sequences, fewer build-up attacks, and a reliance on counter-attacks after winning possession in the middle third.

Surprisingly, last seasons 'best of the rest', Wolves, fit into this category, but Nuno Espirito Santo's side have faced a tough opening schedule, including Leicester, Manchester United and Everton.

Nuno Espirito Santo
Image: Wolves have had a tough opening schedule

Other teams that fit into this category include Aston Villa, Brighton, Burnley, Newcastle and Norwich, while Sheffield United match these tropes but lack direct speed.

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