Europe’s Most Direct Teams

I will continue flogging this attacking shape data until I find a good use for it, but here’s a bit of fun: given the average height of team’s attacks, i.e. the amount of ground covered towards their opponent’s goal, and the duration of those attacks, we can calculate the pace at which teams hurtle towards the opposition goal. It’s a pretty nice measure of how ‘direct’ teams are, and here’s who comes out top:

Team Attacking Pace (m/s)
Caen 3.63
SV Darmstadt 98 3.33
Leicester City 3.26
Villarreal 3.24
Crystal Palace 3.17
FC Ingolstadt 04 3.16
Eibar 3.16
TSG 1899 Hoffenheim 3.13
Sevilla 3.13
Sporting de Gijón 3.11
VfB Stuttgart 3.04
Eintracht Frankfurt 2.98
Lille 2.95
Guingamp 2.94
Carpi 2.94
1. FSV Mainz 05 2.94
Troyes 2.93
St Etienne 2.92
Angers 2.91
Toulouse 2.88

You can read more about Caen’s quick transitions and counter-attacking play in this article by Mohamed Mohamed on StatsBomb. It’s worth noting that for the numbers I have available (2012+ outside the EPL), this year’s Caen are currently the fastest attacking side I can find, so they’re probably worth a watch this season. They’re currently sitting 5th in Ligue 1. 2010 Blackburn Rovers are second, with half a season of Big Sam (auditioning for the Inter and Real jobs, if you remember) and half Steve Kean. I’ll leave it to you to dig those tapes out…

Guess who’s propping up the table at the bottom?

Team Attacking Pace (m/s)
Manchester City 2.26
Swansea City 2.24
FC Augsburg 2.20
FC Bayern München 2.17
VfL Wolfsburg 2.07
Fiorentina 2.07
Nice 2.05
Paris Saint-Germain 2.05
Juventus 2.00
Manchester United 1.92

You’ll be happy to hear that Man Utd’s buildup play this year is only the second slowest on record. They were beaten out by none other than… last year’s Man Utd.

One last bonus, the Pep effect:

Season Team Attacking Pace (m/s)
2015 Barcelona 2.78
2013 FC Bayern München 2.33
2012 FC Bayern München 2.33
2013 Barcelona 2.27
2014 Barcelona 2.27
2012 Barcelona 2.24
2015 FC Bayern München 2.17
2014 FC Bayern München 2.16
Europe’s Most Direct Teams

10 thoughts on “Europe’s Most Direct Teams

  1. Gazza's Bucket of Chicken says:

    Any indication of the variation in a team’s numbers? I noticed that Man City are towards the bottom of the table and considered the possibility that this is because they have such a high number of successful (well, culminating in a shooting opportunity) passages of play.

    Also (1) can you divide the data into either an arbitrary short vs. long component (we do this in biology for certain molecular-level events) similar to your recent Tottenham hotspur analysis and (2) separate the data into passages of play on the ground and in the air? These might help to complement the data above nicely in terms how a team is playing the ball and how successful they are.

    By the way, really nice and easy site to convey stats to those of us less savvy to the ways of sports analytics.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thom Lawrence says:

      Your first point’s actually a really important one – part of the reason that good teams have ‘slower’ numbers is that on average they lose the ball less, so long periods of possession turn into shots. Worse teams keep the ball less, so the only moves that turn into shots are ones that have a fairly direct path to goal. It’d be interesting to try and factor in each team’s general ability to string a series of passes together, shot or not.

      I will attempt to chop the data up as you suggest next week, thanks for the suggestions (and nice words!)


  2. Interesting stats. Does the above data take into account an average pace of attacks? A team may still be fast in transition when they decide to attack. They may choose to alternate between holding on the ball at the back for long periods of time and then look to attack at pace when they get it


  3. […] Le dispositif tactique de l’époque était un 4-1-4-1 où seul un milieu défensif était positionné devant la défense là où la majorité des équipes en présentent deux. D’ailleurs aujourd’hui, Caen joue avec deux milieux défensifs devant la défense. Cette formation permettait d’évoluer en contre-attaque avec un jeu ultra direct vers l’avant. Malherbe a même était considéré comme l’équipe présentant le jeu le plus direct avec 3,63 mètres par seconde parcourus par ces attaques (cf. le travail de Thom Lawrence […]


  4. […] differently than you might expect from standard, meat and potatoes 4-4-2. On top of this, their speed and directness denies opponents the advantage of Mourinho’s extra man – their buildup bypasses the 3 […]


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