Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Rise of the "Technical Era"

This article originally appeared in Bloomberg Sports

If you watched Manchester City’s 3-1 victory over Liverpool earlier this week you would have been treated to a high level of football.  Both teams pinged the ball around in a desperate search for space, looking to score whilst simultaneously being wary of the opposing team’s counter-attack.  Possession was not conceded lightly.  Each team had approximately 100 turnovers and the average pass sequence per possession was approximately 5.7.  In short, the match was a far cry from the stereotypical long ball style traditionally associated with English football (note: only 8 of the 27 players featured in the match were English).  While just one match, this supremely technical style of play is indicative of a larger trend in the EPL.  Passes per game are up 20% since the 2009-2010 season, and a full 97% of that trend is attributable to the rise in the number of short passes.  Correspondingly, there has also been a drop in the number of turnovers committed.

These are very significant stylistic changes we are seeing in a relatively short period of time.  Out of curiosity, we looked at the other major leagues of Europe to see if this trend is particular to the EPL.  What we found is that the same exact trend is taking place all across Europe (and perhaps elsewhere).  In addition to the EPL, we looked at the Bundesliga, La Liga, Ligue 1, and Serie A (“The Big 5”).  Based on evidence of the first couple match days of this season in Europe, the rise of the “Technical Era” still seems to be in the ascent.  It will be worth watching where it leads us.

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