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Surprising Statistics Reveal Chelsea and Manchester City as Best 'Long Ball' Premier League Sides

90min logo 90min 11/23/2018 Dan Butler
a man standing in front of a crowd: Manchester City v Chelsea - FA Community Shield © Clive Mason/GettyImages Manchester City v Chelsea - FA Community Shield

​New research has suggested that Chelsea and Manchester City are the two most effective 'long ball' teams in the Premier League, and sides such as Burnley, Brighton and Cardiff aren't as effective as first believed.

Since Pep Guardiola joined City, the Mancunians have played some of the most attractive football the Premier League has ever seen. Their intricate passing patterns and interchanges on the wing have unlocked even the sternest of defences, and the arrival of Maurizio Sarri in west London has seen Chelsea adopt a philosophy that is similar, at least in the sense that passing and possession are key.

a group of people standing in front of a crowd: FBL-ENG-PR-CHELSEA-CRYSTAL PALACE © BEN STANSALL/GettyImages FBL-ENG-PR-CHELSEA-CRYSTAL PALACE

However, research conducted by off the back of Opta data has suggested that teams such as City and Chelsea are actually the most effective 'long ball' teams in the league. Opta define a long ball as any pass played in excess of 35 yards, and this puts traditional teams who play direct football at the bottom of the long ball completion table.

The average Premier League long ball completion rate is 47.3%, but the top five teams for long ball accuracy surprisingly places Chelsea top of the pile (61.2%), with City (59.5%) just behind in second. Liverpool (54%), Arsenal (52%) and Manchester United (51.8%) make up the rest of the top five.

Surprisingly, two sides with a reputation for a more direct brand of football - Cardiff and Brighton - are at the bottom of the accuracy table, with the Bluebirds completing a lowly 35.6% and Brighton not much better at 38.3%. 

a man with a football ball: Manchester City v Chelsea - FA Community Shield © GLYN KIRK/GettyImages Manchester City v Chelsea - FA Community Shield

When compared with the volume of long balls played however, the statistics seem to confirm what most fans believe with regards to which teams play the more stylish football in the top flight. 

The proportion of long balls City play as a percentage of total passes is just 6.5%, and Chelsea's is 6.6%. At the other end of the spectrum, a staggering 23.1% of Cardiff's passes are considered long balls, and Brighton aren't far behind with 21.8%.


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