Earlier this week, Neil Ashton of the Daily Mail wrote an article that was errrr a little lacking in context, to say the least.
The article looked at statistics that Ashton believed would show that West Ham weren’t a long ball team, as they only used on average the same amount of long balls as Barcelona and Real Madrid use, which technically may be correct, but what it doesn’t tell us is how our beloved Hammers pass the ball much, much less than Real Madrid and Barcelona do but if Neil Ashton had of done that, he would most probably have my job as a performance analyst and i’d be signing on the dole.
So we thought we’d look at the ” Long Ball Myth ” and add a bit of context, and here’s what we’ve found.
We calculated every pass by every Premiership team, then used their long ball numbers to find out what % of their passes were actually ” Long Balls ” and the results, well the results where just what we knew overall anyway.
Please Note : We rounded up the % to the nearest whole number IE a team that had 17.5% of long ball’s we would classify as 18% and a team with 17.2% of passes we would classify as 17%.
Is there any real surprise there?
Maybe not. We all know that we now play to our strengths, and our strengths these days sometimes involve playing direct balls, and so be it.
Are there any other surprises where other teams are concerned ?
Newcastle, for all the talk of how great they were last season, and in all fairness they were, we now see that they re one of the top 3 teams after the first 6 games of the season, to use long balls as one of their in-game tactics or strategies, Reading likewise.
Any real surprises here ?
Not really. We all know that Wigan have a great passing game and 25k of us watched it in good effect last week at Upton Park. Everton we know can be direct at times, the same for QPR.
Lambert’s appointment at Villa we would assume ( we could find out, but we’re not going to any time soon ) lessens their long ball % from last season.
I doubt the final four teams will come as a surprise to any of us.
We all know what Swansea were all about last year, and again we’ve seen first hand that Laudrup has continued where Rodgers left off.
Chelsea may come as a shock to some, but with Hazard, Oscar, Mata etc, they were never going to be hoofing every other pass.
Liverpool, well it’s Brendan Rodgers, his style is his style.
Arsenal, interesting but again no real surprise as Mr Wenger and his teams have arguably played some of the finest passing football in the Premier League over the past 10 seasons.
There is so much more depth we could have gone into this. We could have taken into consideration LOTS of other aspects and variables of a certain teams passing game, the possession they have and their actual specific tactics and strategies and we could have been here for weeks doing it in the end.
What stood out to me the most was that even if we take into consideration of what we done regarding the rounding off to whole numbers for each teams % of long ball’s, the numbers themselves are still pretty even overall throughout the league.
With regards to West Ham, we all knew that we do play great football, we have done on a number of times this season during games.
But we do now also use passes over 25 yards ( the definition of a ” Long Ball ” ), we use them however to good effect.
I can not remember a West Ham United team in years gone by that has battered teams as we have done in the games against Fulham and Sunderland and if the difference between us being tagged a ” Long Ball ” team that has got 11 points from 6 Premier League games to us playing the Zola type football that gets relegated every 4 or so years, comes down to a tiny, tiny % like we see with the above, you won’t get any complaints from us.