Premier League long-ball table - where are Manchester United?

West Ham United boss Sam Allardyce ruffled Manchester United's feathers when he claimed Louis van Gaal's side are a long-ball team after their 1-1 at Upton Park on 8 February.

Van Gaal responded by producing a series of diagrams disputing Allardyce's assertion at his news conference ahead of Wednesday's 3-1 win over Burnley.

But who are the Premier League's number one long-ball team? With help from our friends at Opta, BBC Sport can reveal it's not Manchester United but West Bromwich Albion, who have played a total of 1,063 long balls in 25 league matches this season.

The Premier League's long-ball table
TeamLong balls playedPremier League position
West Brom1,06314th
Burnley 99419th
Hull City85216th
West Ham7938th
Crystal Palace 77513th
Leicester City77220th
Southampton 7554th
Newcastle 68011th
Aston Villa66118th
Sunderland 57715th
Man Utd5293rd
Everton 51512th
Stoke City50410th
Swansea City4579th
Chelsea 4321st
Manchester City3582nd

Long pass v long ball - the statistician's definition

According to football statisticians Opta, a 'long pass' is one that is 35 yards or more and is aimed at a particular team-mate. It does not have to be forward.

In contrast, they classify a 'long ball' as a forward pass that is 35 yards or more and is kicked into a space or area on the pitch rather than a precise pass aimed at a particular team-mate.

As such a 'long ball' is perhaps more indicative of a team that likes to regularly lump the ball forward, perhaps towards the opposition's penalty area.

A 'long pass' could be a cross-field switch of play to a team-mate.

Opta's head of UK media and content Duncan Alexander pointed out: "There is a vast difference between someone like Andrea Pirlo playing a precise long pass and an agricultural launch forward.

"We agree and separate those two things out. In the Opta world a long pass is one aimed to a specific player (think Pirlo), while a long ball is one played into a specific zone (think "hit the channels")."

Short passes table
TeamShort passes attempted% passes short
Manchester City13,53091.54
Chelsea 11,97689.15
Swansea City10,60388.07
Manchester United 11,70685.66
Stoke City8,49084.82
Newcastle United8,69284.45
Aston Villa9,02083.72
West Brom8,71182.80
Hull City8,19982.31
West Ham7,34781.20
Leicester City7,29580.35
Burnley 7,23778.77
Crystal Palace6,21878.17

It might not be a huge surprise that the teams boasting the higher percentage of short passes have a large number of top class midfielders such as David Silva of Manchester City, Arsenal's Mesut Ozil and Eden Hazard of Chelsea.

Long passes table
TeamLong passes attempted% passes long
Crystal Palace1,73621.83
Leicester City1,78419.65
West Ham 1,70118.80
Hull City1,76217.69
West Brom1,80917.20
Aston Villa1,75416.28
Manchester United1,96014.34
Manchester City1,2508.46

There has been a lot of talk about Manchester United being a long ball team since Allardyce raised the subject last weekend. While it is true that the Red Devils have attempted more long passes than any other team in the Premier League, this needs placing into context.

United have had more possession and this leaves them 13th in the long passes table table with 14.34%. The top four teams in this table are all battling for Premier League survival.

Van Gaal defends 'long ball' tactics with dossier


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