Following the recent Merseyside derby, Steven Gerrard described Everton as playing long ball football in a style similar to Stoke and claimed Liverpool were the only team that tried to play football.
There was only one team who came into the derby trying to play football… I thought we stood up to a team that are very similar to Stoke. Every single time they get the ball at the goalkeeper it comes in long.
Liverpool Captain: Steven Gerrard
Looking back at the statistics for the match, Everton did indeed play more long balls – 55 versus the 46 Liverpool played. However, this works outs out at only one additional long ball per 10 minutes of match time.
Everton are effective because they have some big physical lads in the team and are very direct. They are effective. But the only team who tried to play football was us. Everton are not better than us.
Liverpool Captain: Steven Gerrard
A long ball style of play is often associated with long aimless punts down the pitch so it could be presumed that Everton would have a greater percentage of passes being played forwards with a lower accuracy too, but again there is little difference between the teams. Overall, both teams passing accuracies were virtually identical with Everton actually making more passes overall during the game.
Long Ball Match Stats Everton Liverpool
Total Long Balls 55 46
Long Ball Accuracy % 58 52
Passes Forward % 39 48
Total Passes 399 314
Passing Accuracy % 78 77
It is difficult to draw too many conclusions from an individual match so it is also worth looking at the performances over the season to date. Again, both teams have performed similarly in terms of long balls with Everton averaging just 1.33 more long balls per match than Liverpool. In fact, if we compare statistically the number of long balls played this season using Analysis Of Variance (ANOVA) there is no difference between the two teams (p=0.065) at the 95% confidence interval. This means we can be 95% certain that Liverpool and Everton play the same number of long balls per match.
12/13 Long Ball Stats Everton Liverpool
Total Long Balls 498 486
Long Ball Accuracy % 55 66
Passes Forward % 36 36
Total Passes 3663 4663
Passing Accuracy % 81 85
One area where the teams differ though is launches. These are defined by OPTA as:
A long high ball into space or into an area for players to chase or challenge for the ball.
According to OPTA, Everton made 24 launches during the match compared with 19 from Liverpool. Overall this season Liverpool has performed just 118 launches, second fewest in the Premier League only to Swansea, while Everton has made 252 launches, currently the joint third highest in the EPL behind Reading and West Ham and more than Stoke! This suggests that Liverpool’s long balls are primarily passes to their own players while Everton’s long balls are hit forwards with the hope of the attacker getting to the ball and challenging the opposition for it.
Is one style of play superior to the other? Not necessarily, but it does lead to the question of when does a 50 yard pass into space become a long ball hoofed down the field?
All of the stats from this article have been taken from the Opta Stats Centre at EPLIndex.com – Subscribe Now (Includes author privileges!) Check out our new Top Stats feature on the Stats Centre which allows you to compare all players in the league & read about new additions to the stats centre.
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