They say that possession is nine tenths of the law, but just how important is it when it comes to the Premier League. That is something I asked myself the other day, so after seven weeks of the season I’ve taken a look at the data and been able to draw a couple of conclusions.
The hypothesis will be that the teams at the top of the table, will end up having the most possession with the reverse of that statement being true for teams at the bottom. After looking at the data that was available from whoscored.com here is what I have found.
With Brighton getting the better of West Ham last night then we will have to ignore that from a statistical point of view, therefore this data is after everyone has played seven matches.
What I’ve done is first listed the 20 Premier League teams in order of average possession, a table that looks as follows:
As you can see Manchester City top the list with 67.3% average possession while at the other end of the spectrum Newcastle languish at the bottom with 39.1%.
That list is all very well and will tell us some of the story, but we could do with some additional context. Context that comes when we compare a team’s current ranking in the Premier League table (after 7 weeks) and where they are ranked in terms of possession.
That is something I have pieced together in this second chart:
Here is where things start getting a bit more interesting as now we can plot the two metrics together and see what correlations there are between them. For example Manchester City being top of both charts probably tells us something we don’t already know.
However, a look at Liverpool is interesting as they are second in the table after seven weeks but only find themselves sixth when it comes to possession. Showing that they don’t need as much of the ball to do the damage that they have done in the early stage of the season.
Sarri ball is well in truly in place at Chelsea, the Blues have had the second most possession in the division so far and were it not for a late Daniel Sturridge equaliser could have found themselves joint top of the table after seven matches.
Tottenham find themselves back in the top four and they have had the third highest amount of possession, for a team that is supposed to be in crisis, it turns out things are not as bad as the first seemed – although their injury list is arguably a bit too long at the moment.
The most striking disparity can be found with Watford, their bright start to proceedings has seen them lie 6th in the table. However, they have had the fourth least average possession in the Premier League, showing that it is not necessarily how much you have of the ball but what you do with it.
Javi Gracia’s men have been set up to be a counter attacking side and in the first few weeks it is something that is working, the test as ever for Watford is to see how long they can keep their early form going for and try to fend off the usual post Christmas slump.
Manchester United have had a start to the season to forget as they currently find themselves 10th in the table, they have however had the fifth highest possession so far. Showing that whatever they are doing with the ball is nowhere near effective enough.
It should be noted that all of the ‘Big 6’ find themselves in the top 6 in terms of possession, a statistic that arguably comes as no real surprise. What is a surprise though is the fact that Fulham find themselves 8th in the chart, but at the same time 17th in the table.
This can be explained due to the problems that they are having in defence. If you look at their goal threat then that will possibly keep them up, however when you look at that the fact that they have conceded 16 goals already this season then that could be the factor that sends them down.
Newcastle and Cardiff find themselves in the bottom three for both the league and possession rankings as neither team can buy a win at the moment, while the hunt for a first success continues for David Wagner’s Huddersfield although they find themselves 16th in the possession charts.
Brighton fans will be able to breathe easier after that aforementioned win over West Ham last night, at the same time though before that game they had the second lowest average possession in the Premier League this season, an issue they may have to rectify if they don’t want to be drawn into a relegation battle.
So there is a brief overview of the correlation between position in the Premier League and ranking in terms of possession, what I’ll do in the next article on this topic is expend the metrics further to see the link between possession and goals, so keep an eye out for that in due course.
However, by and large the hypothesis that teams at the top of the table have the most possession is one that has been proven to be true…..for now. Until next time.
I am always available for any football data projects you may have and/or content creation.
If you have any requirements then please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Football Data”
I am also available via twitter at @dantracey1983 – again feel free to get in touch to discuss any work. Thanks, Dan