Goals Scored by Playing Style in the Premier League

With 915 goals scored from 346 English Premier League games, SportsMatrix decided to investigate the playing styles favoured by particular teams for their goals during this current season.

Playing Style Definitions

Passing move – a team move involving short passes to bypass the opposition defence.

Long ball – a team move which starts from a long high ball used to bypass the opposition backline.

Individual – a move where a player dribbles the ball beating opposition defenders.

Counter Attack – A rapid move where a team gains possession with the opposition out of position.

Set Piece – a goal originating from either a corner kick, free kick or a throw-in, but excluding penalty kicks.

Other – a goal which follows a short attacking event, such as a second ball or a goal following a single touch.

By a significant margin the main style of play for teams to score in the Premier League followed a short passing move (40%), with Arsenal unsurprisingly the team to score the highest percentage of their goals playing this style (55.2%) and with the highest number of goals scored (32). Other teams relying heavily on passing moves for their goals were Everton (49.1%), Southampton (49%), Chelsea (47.2%) and Swansea City (47.1%). At the other end of the passing table, as if to prove that short passing is not all that it’s cracked up to be, are Leicester City, whose 12 goals from passing moves accounted for only 19% of their goals, by far the lowest percentage of goals of any Premier League team.

Leicester City’s low levels of live ball possession combined with their use of pace and skill clearly reflects in their goal distribution, with the highest percentage of goals following counter attacks (17.5%) and the highest percentage of goals followed the delivery of long balls (12.7%) as well as most goals scored from penalty kicks (9).

Manchester City scored the equal highest number of counter attack goals (11) along with Leicester, but this from a slightly lower percentage of all goals scored (16.7%), with Everton relying on counter attacks for 17% of their goals. Meanwhile Crystal Palace (1) and Bournemouth (0) were the least effective at scoring counter attack goals.

Another of this season’s surprise teams has been West Ham United, who by a considerable margin scored most goals following a piece of individual skill (15), this figure accounting for over a quarter of all of their league goals. Perhaps somewhat surprising and the second highest percentage of individual goals scored (24%) came from Aston Villa, with six of their goals following a dribble. No less surprising when looking at the skilful ball players in their squad are Chelsea, who relied on dribbling for only 5.7% of all of their goals.

Whilst Leicester City showed how to play the long ball effectively, six teams failed to score a goal from any of their long ball passes (Aston Villa, Manchester City, Norwich City, Swansea City and Watford).

Watford’s five goals from penalty kicks accounted for the highest percentage of goals (15.2%) from this method, a marginally higher percentage than Swansea City (14.7%), who also scored five times from the spot. At the other end of the table for penalty kicks were Arsenal, Norwich and West Bromwich Albion all of whom scored a single spot kick.

Almost one goal in five scored in the Premier League followed a set piece, with Tottenham Hotspur’s 16 set piece goals a significantly higher number than any other Premier League club and accounting for a quarter of all of their goals; however West Bromwich Albion were more reliant on set pieces, with 12 goals accounting for 37.5% of all of their league goals. Also with 12 set piece goals were Bournemouth, although this figure accounted for 28.6% of their goals.  Aston Villa, Stoke City and Watford each scored fewest league goals following set pieces (5); however the lowest percentage of set piece goals scored came from Everton (11.3%), with six goals scored following a set play.

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