Possession isn’t what it used to be, as these 10 matches from the Premier League will show us.
Prior to last season, Premier League champions always met certain statistical criteria year after year. They would dominate the total shot counts, have around 66 percent of the shots on target in their matches and have a high level of ball possession.
Leicester tore that script up in 2015-16 by having the third lowest possession average in the division. They relied on getting the ball forward quickly to the likes of Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy, which worked superbly.
Be it by accident or design, aversion to possession of the ball has worked out spectacularly well for home teams at times this season. The away team has had at least 71.5 percent possession on 10 occasions in 2016-17, but collectively they have won just once. Is possession in the Premier League a bad thing?
This level of ball dominance on the road has happened twice in the past week which inspired me to take a look through the 10 matches to see what we learned. There’s a common thread to the majority of these matches; big teams struggling to break down clubs who are fighting against relegation. All data is by Opta, and via Stats Zone.
10. West Brom 1-1 Tottenham
Away Possession: 71.5 percent
Our journey through the despairs of dominating possession away from home begins at The Hawthorns on a Saturday afternoon in October, as domestic soccer resumed following a two week break for internationals. Spurs had won five and drawn two of their opening seven matches, and had beaten leaders Manchester City last time out. The visitors were in fine form but they nearly came unstuck, as many teams have down the years, when facing a team managed by Tony Pulis.
The West Brom manager is renowned for getting his teams to waste time and he likes the match to have as few shots in total as possible, in the hope that the chips fall in his side’s favor. He didn’t entirely succeed on that front as Spurs had 20 attempts at goal in this match, three short of the most by an away side at West Brom this season.
When Spurs’ old boy Nacer Chadli scored from a corner with just eight minutes to play it appeared the visitors’ unbeaten start to the campaign was over.
Tottenham surprisingly had less possession between going behind and the end of the match than they did overall, but they made the most of their 57 passes to create four chances, with six shots in total, and an equalizing goal from Dele Alli. Both West Brom and Spurs will appear again before this list is out.