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Sky Sports have analysed and explained Steve Bruce’s ‘Playing Style’ at Newcastle United

2 years ago

An interesting one from Sky Sports, as they have examined the playing styles of all 20 Premier League clubs.

The report using a number of key advanced stats from OPTA, collected from each club’s first four PL matches this season.

This data used to compare and contrast the playing styles of  Newcastle United and the other 19 Premier League clubs.

Steve Bruce promised that under him, Newcastle United would play attacking and entertaining football, with his side always trying to be ‘on the front foot’ in games.

What we appear to have seen with the naked eye and the basic possession stats (v Arsenal 38%, v Norwich 37%, v Spurs 20%, v Leicester in the cup 32% and v Watford 49%) suggest otherwise.

So what does the Sky Sports analysis find?

Well, predictably Man City and Liverpool are in a league of their own at the top in terms of positive attacking stats (see the stats basis below).

However, at the other end of the spectrum you have Steve Bruce’s Newcastle and a number of others, who are described as ‘bottom-half style’, with this explanation:

‘No fewer than seven teams fit into what could be described as a ‘bottom-half’ style, with below-average passing sequences, fewer build-up attacks, and a reliance on counter-attacks after winning possession in the middle third.

Surprisingly, last seasons ‘best of the rest’, Wolves, fit into this category, but Nuno Espirito Santo’s side have faced a tough opening schedule, including Leicester, Manchester United and Everton.

Other teams that fit into this category include Aston Villa, Brighton, Burnley, Newcastle and Norwich, while Sheffield United match these tropes but lack direct speed.’

The selected advanced stats from OPTA that Sky Sports used to help define each club’s playing  style:

10+ pass sequences: Any passing/possession sequence of 10+ passes in open play

Absolute width per sequence: How wide a team get per sequence from the centre of the pitch

Progress for (upfield): The amount of distance that the team moves upfield per sequence

Build-up attacks: An open-play sequence that contains 10+ passes and either ends in a shot or has at least one touch in the box

Direct attacks: An open-play sequence that starts just inside the team’s half and has at least 50% of movement towards the opposition’s goal, with that team ending with a shot or touch in opposition box

Direct Speed: Metres per second progressed upfield in open play sequences

Start distance: How far upfield a team starts open play sequences, on average

High turnovers: Sequences that start in open play and begin 40m or less from the opponent’s goal

PPDA: Opposition passes allowed per defensive action, which takes into consideration these actions in the opposition’s defensive and middle third of the pitch

Sky Sports also produced this graphic showing where those in that ‘bottom-half style’ had their strengths and weaknesses.

Interesting to see if as the season goes on, there is any change under Steve Bruce away from this ‘bottom-half style’ football and a more entertaining and attacking style as he claimed would be the case.


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