Are Premier League clubs moving towards a tiki-taka approach? | Stats

Are Premier League clubs moving towards a tiki-taka approach? | Stats

Ravi Ramineni is a Football analytics freelancer. His passion is to analyze and visualize Football data to help coaches and clubs with opposition analysis and scouting. and are his analytics blogs. He is also a big fan of the “Yellow Submarine” Villarreal and also manages and You can follow him on twitter at @AnalyseFooty, this is his debut post on

In the past few years, English Premier League clubs have signed many very talented players from around the world. I wanted to estimate their impact on the style of play in the EPL.

I analyzed the set of summary stats provided by Opta and decided to use total # passes in the final third, # passes in the final 3rd/(shots On + Off + Blocked) and the total # of Open field crosses attempted as my metrics.

I chose the final third passes as my base metric because teams that are patient in attacking would pass the ball a lot more close to the 18-yard box and take a high percentage shot.

To measure the patience of teams while attacking, I made up a proxy metric called “Patience in attack” – total # of pass attempts made by a team in the final 3rd per attempted shot:

Patience in Attack = # of pass attempts in the final 3rd/(total shots taken)

Caveat: This metric is unproven. One could argue that if a team is attempting too many passes in the final 3rd before shooting, it could be a signal of their lack of creativity to get the ball in good positions to shoot. The line between patience & lack of creativity is a fine one. To separate the two we will need more granular data and deeper analysis.

To validate my hypothesis, I used shooting accuracy (shots on target/(total shots)).

The data used for this analysis and comparison is from the seasons of 2010-11 and 2011-12. I could not go any further back because Opta did not record stats of final 3rd passing prior to the 2010-11 season.

Premier League Final 3rd Passing Summary

(includes data of all 20 clubs in both seasons)


  • A big increase across the board in final third passing numbers

Final 3rd Pass completions % change from Premier League 2010-11 to 2011-12 by Club
(Only the 17 clubs that played in both the seasons are included in the comparison analysis)


Click on Chart to Enlarge


  • Manchester City’s has completed nearly double the # of passes in final 3rd in 2011-12 than in 2010-11
  • Even the lower level teams known to favor a direct brand of football like Stoke, Bolton and WBA have seen a huge jump in their final third pass completions.

How did this increase in final 3rd passing impact goal scoring?

Goals scored change from Premier League 2010-11 to 2011-12


Click on Chart to Enlarge


  • Liverpool had the 2nd highest increase in the # of final 3rd completions. However, their goals have decreased by 28% – It could be due to a combination of luck, poor finishing and poor usage of possession in the final third. You will find out later that poor finishing played a big part. For other factors, Read more here.
  • City is tops with 57% increase in goals scored – correlates positively with their huge increase in final third pass completions.

Based on Figure – 1 and Figure – 2, there is a definite shift in the attacking strategy of the Premier league teams towards to a more pass oriented attack.

Manchester City’s big signings over the past two years – David Silva, Kun Aguero, Carlos Tevez and Samir Nasri are all very good at passing the ball in the final third. Their completions in the final 3rd doubled and goals are up by 57% are a proof of the quality of their signings.

However, the shift to passing in the final third has not turned into more goals for all the teams. This could be due to the lack of quality finishers, especially for the lower level teams.

Next Page: Shooting, patience in attack and crossing


A rough indicator of whether teams are being more patient in attack is the “Patience in Attack”  – # of pass attempts in the final third per shot taken (Shots on target + off target + blocked shots)

Shots Overall #s comparison Premier League 2011-12 vs. 2010-11


  • These numbers suggests that teams are definitely moving in the direction of attempting more  passes (2.68 more passes on an average in the final 3rd) and are taking better shots (increased shooting accuracy and less blocked shots)

Shooting accuracy % change from Premier League 2010-11 to 2011-12 by club


Click on Chart to Enlarge


  • Stoke and Liverpool’s shooting accuracy are down big in 2011-12. This explains to a large extent their struggles to score goals last season despite a huge increase in possession in the final third.

Patience in attack” % change from Premier League 2010-11 to 2011-12 by club


Click on Chart to Enlarge


  • Stoke has the highest % increase in the “patience in attack” metric from 6.48 pass attempts in the final 3rd/shot taken to 11.72! – Yet they scored the least # of goals among all the 20 teams. Here are a few possible reasons.
    • Stoke took the lowest # of shots among all teams last season – low denominator
    • Their shooting accuracy is down 18% from 2010-11 to 2011-12.
    • It could also be because Stoke’s forwards and attackers are not good finishers with their feet and they have yet to adapt to the new style of play. 40% (14/35) of their goals last season came from headers.
    • The huge increase could also be indicator of “lack of creativity” to penetrate through the defensive pressure in the final third. Stoke might be passing a lot in the final third as they are unable to find their players in good positions to shoot.
  • Average % increase in “patience in attack” is 40.57% indicates a more patient approach across the board.
  • Huge increase even for lower level teams like Bolton, West Brom, Aston Villa and of course, Stoke.
  • For teams like Man City, Man Utd, Chelsea and Arsenal the increase is not as high as that of others because they have been playing this type of football for a few years now.

Open field crosses % change from Premier League 2010-11 to 2011-12 by club

More passing in the final third and more patience in attack could also mean a decrease in the # of open play crosses. Crossing from open play is usually associated with a direct approach to attack. A lot has been written about the inefficiency of crossing as an attack strategy. A few people even lost their jobs. As teams get more patient in attack, the # of open play crosses is likely to go down.


Click on Chart to Enlarge


  • Total # of open field crosses are down by about 9% from 2010-11 to 2011-12.
  • It is no surprise that Liverpool has seen the highest increase.
  • Smaller and lower level teams known for a direct approach trying much fewer crosses in 2011-12 than in 2010-11.

Final word

  • Premier League clubs are moving towards a strategy of attacking more patiently by passing the ball more in the final third.

The shift in strategy is across the board and not just at the top clubs. The trend of small and lower level clubs moving towards a more patient approach to attacking repeated throughout this analysis.

  • However, this has not translated into more goals for all the teams due to a variety of reasons like poor finishing and poor usage of possession in the final third and strong defence of the opponents.

All of the stats from this article have been taken from the Opta Stats Centre at EPLIndex.comSubscribe 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.