Premier League myths: Chelsea's defence, Stoke's throws & more

Bojan Krkić, John Terry and Mesut Ozil
Are Stoke long-ball? Should we really be in awe of Chelsea's defence? Is Mesut Ozil lazy?

How often do you question the accepted "truths" about the Premier League?

Champions Chelsea may have been accused of "parking the bus", but how good is their defence really?

What about Mesut Ozil? Is the Arsenal midfielder really as lazy as so many people seem to claim?

And as for Stoke... we all know what to expect from them. Don't we?

Myth: Stoke are a long-ball team

As Stoke established themselves in the Premier League under previous manager Tony Pulis, they developed a reputation for playing a style of football that relied on long balls and set-pieces.

But looking at how the Potters performed last season, this reputation is no longer accurate. Under new boss Mark Hughes, they did not look to get the ball up the pitch as quickly as possible, and they score fewer goals from set-pieces.

Stats showing Stoke's changing style of play under manager Mark Hughes

While they have kept the aggression fostered under Pulis, they are now also much more comfortable in possession, pass the ball more accurately and run at opposition defences more often.

Most importantly for opposing teams, they now pose much more of a threat in open play than they did under Pulis. In 2012-13, they were ranked bottom of the Premier League for goals from open play, with just 15. They ranked joint-sixth under Hughes last season with 39 goals.

Under manager Mark Hughes Stoke have developed their passing accuracy while retaining their aggression

Myth: The title was won in the big games

Last season, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho was regularly - and rightly - praised for his masterminding of the games against the other top sides.

But actually it was their results against the sides in mid-table that separated them from their title rivals as they won the Premier League.

Graph showing Chelsea, Man City, Arsenal and Man Utd stats

While Manchester City lost at West Ham and Crystal Palace, and Arsenal and Manchester United both lost twice to Swansea, the only time Chelsea dropped points against a mid-table side was in defeat at West Brom - after the title was already won.

If Chelsea's rivals want to stop them retaining the Premier League crown, it is against the mid-table sides that they must improve.

Jose Mourinho and Tony Pulis
The only points Chelsea dropped against a mid-table side last season were at West Brom, with the title already won

Myth: Possession equals success

When a team that had the majority of possession loses, they are often called unlucky.

But while it is true that over a whole Premier League season the top sides enjoy more possession than those lower down the table, in individual games last season the side with more of the ball won only slightly more often than they lost.

In fact, if you looked at all 380 top-flight games last season, the team that had more possession won 155, drew 93 and lost 132. Divide that by 10 to get a 38-game season and Possession FC would have won 57 points - leaving them eighth in the table.

Stats showing possession

Crystal Palace have had the lowest possession level of any top-flight team in each of the last two seasons and yet finished comfortably in mid-table both times, while West Brom won 1-0 at Old Trafford last term with only 20% of the ball.

Possession is an indicator of a side's style and strategy rather than its success.

Scoreboard at Old Trafford shows Man Utd 0-1 West Brom
West Brom had just 20% possession but still beat Manchester United 1-0 at Old Trafford last season

Myth: Chelsea's defence was watertight

Having conceded the fewest goals in the league on their way to winning the title last season, Chelsea's defence was understandably praised.

But compared to the defensive records of other Premier League champions this century, the 32 goals they conceded could not be considered particularly mean.

Chelsea's stats on defence

Last season, Chelsea conceded as many goals as Carlo Ancelotti's free-scoring side of 2009-10 and more than twice as many as Jose Mourinho's first title-winning side of 2004-05.

Interestingly, the six best title-winning defences in Premier League history were all between 2004 and 2009, when English sides dominated the Champions League.

Gary Cahill and John Terry
Chelsea had three defenders in the 2015 PFA team of the year - including Cahill and Terry

Myth: Mesut Ozil is lazy

Accusations of laziness have dogged Arsenal midfielder Mesut Ozil ever since he arrived in the Premier League from Real Madrid two seasons ago. As recently as March, former Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes said he thought Ozil looked like he was "going through the motions".

But when compared to other top attacking midfielders playing for last season's top six finishers, the Germany international - while in no way the most energetic - was hardly the most inactive in terms of sprinting around the pitch and winning the ball back from the opposition.

Ozil may owe his reputation to people expecting him to work as tirelessly as his Arsenal team-mate Alexis Sanchez - but that comparison would be a little unfair.

Only Chelsea midfielder Willian sprinted more often than Chile international Sanchez last season - and no top attacking midfielder worked as hard to win the ball back.

Covering the ground
Attacking midfielders from last season's top sixAverage sprints per 90 minutes
Willian (Chelsea)70
Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal)62
Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool)60
Christian Eriksen (Spurs)57
Eden Hazard (Chelsea)56
Mesut Ozil (Arsenal)55
Samir Nasri (Man City)52
Oscar (Chelsea)50
Juan Mata (Man Utd)49
David Silva (Man City)48
Winning the ball back
Attacking midfielders from last season's top sixAverage tackles and interceptions per 90 minutes
Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal)3.4
Oscar (Chelsea)2.9
Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool)2.5
David Silva (Man City)2,3
Christian Eriksen (Spurs)2.2
Juan Mata (Man Utd)2
Mesut Ozil (Arsenal)1.9
Willian (Chelsea)1.8
Samir Nasri (Man City)1.7
Eden Hazard (Chelsea)1.4

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