Premier League GW8 – Starts Saturday 5th October 2019

Is Possession Nine Tenths Of Football’s Law?

There’s no secret that the teams at the top of the Premier League table, are ones that consider themselves more than comfortable in possession and it’s fair to say, that the passing game, is one that is certainly easy on the eye.

While although the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool seem to endlessly dominate ownership of the ball, just how does that relate to their positions in the Premier League table? More importantly does more possession correlate to a genuine title tilt?

If we look at the average possession rankings after seven games of the season, it looks as follows:

R Team Possession%
1 Manchester City 60.00
2 Liverpool 57.60
3 Tottenham 55.00
4 Leicester 54.70
5 Manchester United 54.60
6 Everton 54.50
7 Chelsea 53.80
8 Brighton 53.80
9 Arsenal 53.60
10 Norwich 50.40
11 Watford 50.10
12 Southampton 49.90
13 West Ham 47.80
14 Aston Villa 47.70
15 Crystal Palace 45.10
16 Wolves 45.00
17 Bournemouth 43.60
18 Sheffield United 43.20
19 Burnley 42.10
20 Newcastle 37.60

Although Manchester City are five points behind Liverpool at the top of the table, they do at least lay claim to be the team which has had the most possession thus far – although had they a better defence, they would not be so far behind Jurgen Klopp’s men at the time of writing.

That said, Liverpool find themselves second in this chart and although the possession game does not seem as important to the Merseyside outfit, they are still managing to brush past all that attempts to stand in their way.

One hypothesis that could be offered, is that the ‘Big Six’ clubs would be the outfits that fill up the top half dozen places in this list. A theory, that is debunked when you consider that both Leicester and Everton take up slots at the upper end.

Both teams aspire to finish in the top six at the end of the season and on current evidence the Foxes have a better chance than the Toffees. In addition to that, it also highlights that Marco Silva’s men are not effective in possession.

Yes, they are team that like to keep hold of the ball and are capable of playing a neat passing game. However, they are not converting this into wins at present and this goes to show, that sometimes a more pragmatic approach is required or at least, a more ruthless attack.

The same could be said for Brighton, who under Graham Potter are probably the best (or worst) example of possession not being turned into results. The Seagulls have not won since the opening weekend and perhaps a change of tact is required from the new manager.

The East Sussex outfit are eighth in the average possession list and they currently have had more possession than Arsenal. However, it is apparent that this current style of play is not producing the necessary results.

Therefore, if Brighton are a team that are having lots of the ball at the moment and not getting what they want, who is reaping the benefits of counter attacks instead? An answer that can be found further along the South Coast.

That’s because Bournemouth have had the fourth least average possession thus far and although they may not have as much as the ball as others, it does not seem to matter to Eddie Howe and his players.

That’s because they currently lie eighth in the Premier League and were it not for a late West Ham leveller last weekend, that standing would have been fourth place instead – drawing a clear inverse between possession and placing.

With this in mind, perhaps possession is not necessarily nine tenths of football’s law and although the very best teams in the land will fill the very highest spots, there is a case to be made that you don’t necessarily need so much of the ball to do the most damage.

The likes of Everton and Brighton best take note and if results don’t improve quickly for either outfit, there are certainly going to be some autumnal headaches for both Marco Silva and Graham Potter – a headache that could lead to their heads being placed on the chopping block instead.

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