Finding a way through a well drilled Premier League defence is often no simple matter; but even the best organized defence will sometimes find it difficult to defend against a high quality cross from open play.
SportsMatrix looked at every open play cross delivered in this season’s Premier League to see which teams were the most and least effective when it came to delivering and defending crosses.
Each cross was examined and graded according to whether it posed a threat, resulted in a shot on goal or ended in a goal. Where there was a second ball incident, such as the initial cross being cleared or deflected away and a shot or goal followed, so these actions were also included.
Whilst Crystal Palace and Southampton averaged most open play crosses per game they posed slightly less threat than average. But despite averaging fewer crosses per game, it was Arsenal and West Ham who posed the greatest threat, with close to a third of crosses leading to a threat on goal and a slightly higher percentage
ending with a shot on goal. Whilst 4.72% of West Ham’s crosses ended in a goal, Arsenal were
even more successful, with 5.11% of open play crosses ending in a goal.
At the other end of the spectrum were Sunderland, who averaged fewest open play crosses per game (10) and the lowest percentage of goals (2%) following open play crosses.
Whilst Sunderland attempted relatively few crosses, Manchester United’s crossing was mostly ineffective, with the lowest percentage of threatening crosses (18%), the lowest percentage of shots on goal following a cross (20%) and a similarly low percentage of crosses (2.05%) which ended in a goal.
Whilst West Ham posed a real attacking threat from their open play crosses, they were equally impressive defending crosses, conceding the lowest percentage of goals (1.38%), despite facing a slightly above average percentage of dangerous crosses.
No less impressive in coping with open play crosses were Tony Pulis’s West Bromwich Albion team. Despite having to defend amongst the highest number of open play crosses per game, a low percentage (22%) posed a goal threat, with the equal lowest percentage (25%) ending in a shot on goal. West Brom however conceded a slightly higher percentage of goals from open play crosses (1.76%) than West Ham.
The Manchester clubs had to defend fewest crosses per game (City 10.4, United 9.5), with City averaging fewest dangerous crosses per game, fewest shots on goal, conceding a below average percentage (2.88%) of goals. But despite having to defend fewest open play crosses per game, Manchester United were actually worst in the league, with 38% of all open play crosses resulting in a goal threat, with 43% ending in a shot on goal and with 5.26% of all open play crosses ending in a goal. Newcastle United also had serious issues defending open play crosses, although with a slightly lower percentage of goals conceded (4.26%) than Manchester United.
Runaway leaders Leicester City, along with Watford, were subjected to most open play crosses per game, but thanks to their impressive defending, conceded a below average percentage (2.25%) of goals from these crosses.