Most Creative Premier League Teams | Opta Stats Review

Most Creative Premier League Teams | Opta Stats Review

We hear a lot about how creative teams are nowadays, and with the advancement of statistics within the wider football community (especially the Premier League) it’s becoming ever more widely popular to have an interest in such subjects. As a result, I thought it might interesting to take a look at how creative teams have been over the past three seasons.

I will break the article down into sections and sub-sections. Firstly I will omit this Premier League season as obviously with only 3 games played it is a very small sample to look at and it won’t have any bearing on the outcome by leaving it out. Secondly, from the first section of the article, (i.e. stats based on 3 seasons) I’m going to omit teams who have attempted less than 25k passes. As the average Premiership team attempts about 15k passes per season this will weed out any teams who have only had one season in the top flight. Just for the record, 19 teams have attempted >25k passes over the past 3 seasons.

The first part of the article will be based on creativity of teams over the past 3 Premier League seasons, 2009/2010, 2010/2011 and 2011/2012. This will be broken down into 2 sections, total amounts, i.e. total goal assists, total open play chances created etc. and the second section will deal with those creativity statistics divided by the total amount of passes a team attempts. Why total passes and not games or minutes played is the obvious question to that? Well all teams will have played a similar amount of games/minutes, but minutes/games played doesn’t tell us how long a team spent in possession of the football, which doesn’t really tell us how efficient a team is. It’s what you do with the ball when you have it that gives us a better understanding of how efficient a player or team is.

Opta calculates their possession stats on total number of passes attempted: (Total Number of Passes Attempted By Both Teams In A Match / Total Number Of Passes Attempted By Either Team % – gives a possession figure)  For example: Team A – Total Passes Attempted 300 | Team B – Total Passes Attempted 300. Total For Entire Game 600. So the formula is 300/600 % | obviously giving us 50% possession.

The second section of the article will focus on clear-cut chances, and as this metric is only available to us from the 2010/2011 season then we will only cover 2 seasons.

Without further ado let’s take a look at some creativity statistics from the last 3 seasons, keeping in mind the criteria outlined above.

Premier League Open Play Chance Creation

Chances Created From Open Play – 09/10 – 10/11 – 11/12

Slightly surprising that Chelsea lead the way, they have created 1300 chances from open play in the last 3 seasons.  And again slightly surprising that Spurs come out second having created 1228 chances from open play over the past 3 seasons. An honourable mention must go to Wigan who, with a relatively small budget, have managed to create 967 chances from open play, only 94 less than Manchester City who have spent wildly over a number of seasons.

Premier League Set Play Chance Creation

But what about set plays, who has been king of the set play creation over the past 3 seasons. You would guess Stoke right? Let’s take a look at that chart.

Total Set Play Chances Created – 09/10 – 10/11 – 11/12

And we’re correct. Stoke have created an incredible 240 chances from set plays over the last 3 seasons. Nearly twice as much as teams like the two Manchester’s. Again Spurs feature heavily, creating 235 chances from set plays, surprising in that they are a team more synonymous with playing the ball on the ground. Maybe a reflection of the number of very good dead ball specialists they have had over the last few years.

Premier League Goal Assists

Next up let’s take a look at total goal assists, and also break that figure down into goal assists from set plays and goal assists from open play. This chart is a little more cluttered, but if you take your time to read through it all will become clear.

Goal Assists – 09/10 – 10//11 – 11/12

Firstly take a moment to look at total goal assists, which is sorted into numerical order, in the green column. Man United lead the way over the past 3 seasons, conjuring up a mind-boggling 181 goal assists from that time. With Arsenal (170), Chelsea (165), and Man City (161) following closely behind. Liverpool’s relatively poor return of 99 is noticeable considering Everton have produced more (110) assists over the same time period.

The second red column highlights goal assists created from open play and that more or less follows the same numerical order the total goal assists column.

Things start to differentiate much more when you observe the blue column of goals assists created from set play. Again, long ball experts Stoke outdo every other team in this area, creating a total of 25 goal assists over the past 3 seasons. Blackburn also do well in this area, coming out joint second with Manchester City, both having 23 goals assists from set play.

Next let’s view some of the data above, but divide the metrics by the number of passes a team has attempted over the past 3 seasons. (See reasons above) This will tell us how efficient a team is at creating chances when in possession of the football. First are the open and set play chances chart divided by the number of passes.

Passes Per Chance Creation – 09/10 – 10/11 – 11/12

The big surprise here is in the blue columns. Over the past 3 seasons West Brom have been the most efficient with their open play chance creation per passes attempted, having created an open play chance every 43 passes attempted. Quite impressive. Followed by West Ham (43.1), Spurs (43.2), and Chelsea (43.7) very closely. Was is noticeable is that there is only a 17.6 pass difference separating the top and bottom teams.

Again, and not surprisingly, Stoke are king of the set play chance creation, creating a set play chance every 131 passes attempted over the past 3 full seasons. That’s over 70 more passes less than their nearest rival on the chart, Bolton, who created a set play chance every 205 passes they attempted. Villa (219.5), Blackburn (224) and Spurs (225.9) all follow closely. Man United (389.6) and Man City (392.5) are the teams who create a set play chance least frequently per pass attempt.  Having said that, they are the top two in our next chart, when it comes to frequency of goal assists created.

Next Page: Passes per goal assist, Clear-cut chances analysis & Summary…

Premier League Passes Per Goal Assist

Passes Per Goal Assist

With a goal assist every 322.5 passes, Man United lead the way here. Man United are averaging 512 passes per game over those 3 seasons, which means they are also averaging about 1.6 goal assists per game, which is a phenomenal rate if you think about it. Man City (341.3), Chelsea (344.6) and Arsenal (353.2) follow closely behind, and again Stoke feature heavily, showing their efficiency with a goal assist every 388.1 pass attempts. However, it’s worth remembering Stoke have only averaged 275 passes per game over the same period. Again Liverpool have a poor showing, a goal assist every  546.4 pass attempts, but staggeringly Wigan only produce an assist every 691.9 pass attempts.

Premier League Clear-Cut Chances

In this section we are going to look at clear cut chances. As this metric is only available from Opta since the 2010/2011 season we will obviously cut our sample for this down to 2 full seasons. The 2010/2011 and 2011/2012 seasons.

Firstly let’s look at the total clear-cut chances created and clear-cut chances created per pass attempt.

Clear Cut Chances Created – 10/11 – 11/12

In the blue column Arsenal come out first having created 182 clear-cut chances over the past 2 full seasons. Playing 76 games in that time, that would give them a total of 2.4 clear-cut chances created per game. That is a big number. And they are fair distance (43 in total) in front of Man United in second place with 139 clear cut chances created during the same period. City, Chelsea and Spurs are all in the top 5, so not much surprises there.

As far as per pass, Arsenal also top the list, creating a clear-cut chance every 223.9 pass attempts. Next in line is Aston Villa, who in the past 2 seasons have created a clear-cut chance every 262 pass attempts. Blackburn (268.2), Blackpool (269.9) and Man United (281) complete the top 5 efficient clear-cut chance creators. Swansea, who’s passing game, and resting with the ball, is well-known, bring up the rear, only creating a clear-cut chance every 547.1 passes they attempted.

Clear-Cut Chances

Secondly let’s look at clear-cut chances scored, and clear-cut chances scored per pass attempt over the last 2 seasons. What team has benefited the most from scoring from clear-cut chances and what team scores most often as per time on the ball, or per pass attempt if you will?

Clear Cut Chances Scored – 10/11 – 11/12

We’ll anaylse the blue columns first. The usual suspects are top of the pile here, Man United topping the chart having scored from 90 clear-cut chances over the past 2 full seasons. Arsenal (78), Man City (74), and Chelsea (73) make up the top 4. But Newcastle follow closely by scoring from 64, so maybe the high conversion rate of Demba Ba and Cisse, who both had fantastic years last year in front of goal, has added to their numbers.

In the red column Man United come out first, scoring from a clear-cut chance every 433.9 passes they attempted over the last 2 seasons. Blackburn, who done well in the set play chance creation category above, also do well here, scoring more frequently per pass attempt (472) than the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool. Wigan once again, come bottom of the pile, only scoring from a clear-cut chance every 1030.5 pass attempts over the last 2 seasons. If you take into account that Wigan have averaged 406.8 passes per game over the same period then we can deduce that it takes them almost 2.5 games to score from a clear-cut chance.

Finally let’s look at those teams clear-cut chance accuracy over those last 2 full seasons. What teams score the most from the total number of clear-cut chances they get?

Clear Cut Chance Percentage – 10/11 – 11/12

Incredibly Birmingham City scored from 45.45% of their clear-cut chances, however, its worth noting that sample only came from one year in the Premiership rather than two years. The same can be said of QPR with a 45.24% ratio. There is hardly a half a percent separating the top 3 teams on the chart. A special mention must go to Wolves who feature in fourth place, scoring from 44.76% of their clear-cut chances over the past 2 full seasons. Statto’s will know that Steven Fletcher will have a lot to do with that high number, being one of the deadliest strikers with clear-cut chances over the past 2 years. Wigan, again come bottom of a metric with 27.52%, and surprisingly Arsenal (32.64%) and Spurs (33.14%) feature quite low down on the chart, considering they featured regularly in the top 5 of most of the above metrics analysed.


So in summary what have we found out?

  1. Chelsea have created the most open play chances over the last 3 years (1300).
  2. Stoke City are the king of the set play creators (240).
  3. Man United have the most goal assists (181) over 3 seasons.
  4. West Brom create an open play chance most often per pass (43).
  5. Arsenal have created the most clear-cut chances over the past 2 seasons (182) and per pass attempt (223.9).
  6. Man United have scored the most clear-cut chances over the past 2 seasons (90) and per pass attempt (433.9).
  7. Birmingham City have scored from the highest percentage of their clear-cut chances (45.45%).

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