Ahead of Matchweek 22 in the Barclays Premier League, premierleague.com looks at tracking data from Opta Sport, which analyses how far and how fast players have run this season, with Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling covering more ground at high speed than any other player.
Brendan Rodgers gave Sterling a break recently, and tracking data goes some way to explaining why the Liverpool manager might have harboured concerns over burnout for the England forward. In the absence of Daniel Sturridge, Sterling has had to carry much of the burden for the Reds’ attack, often being deployed as a lone striker more recently, and the 20-year-old has not held back. He leads the league in high-speed sprinting (25.2km/h and faster), having covered 7.7km at the highest threshold this season, which is 1.5km further than any other player managed – in spite of the fact that he did not play last wekend.
Distances covered by players at 25.2 km/h and faster this season
Player Distance (km)
Raheem Sterling 7.73
Stewart Downing 6.24
Seamus Coleman 6.05
Jesus Navas 5.81
Wayne Routledge 5.78
Moussa Sissoko 5.63
Jamie Vardy 5.41
Danny Welbeck 5.35
Connor Wickham 5.09
Ahmed Elmohamady 5.06
Fabregas to fade?
Cesc Fabregas is also leaving nothing in the tank at the heart of Chelsea midfield. With 14 assists to his name, the Spaniard has already produced more assists than any other player in the top flight managed last season, but the Blues No 4 is showing his peers the way in graft as well as craft.
Fabregas has covered more distance than any other player in the top flight this season after clocking 237.4km over the course of his 20 BPL appearances. Whether the 27-year-old can keep producing at his current rate remains to be seen, however, as his contribution has been known to fade in the second half of the season in recent times. Over the last five seasons in England and Spain Fabregas has scored 32 goals and provided 39 assists before 1 January, but has returned 14 goals and 17 assists after that date.
The team to have put in the most yards so far this season remain Burnley, who have regularly run their opponents into submission with a team who are one of the most settled in the competition’s history (Burnley have named the same starting XI in each of their last seven league matches). The Clarets have covered more distance than their opponents in all 21 of their fixtures so far.
Also noticeable is that Mauricio Pochettino’s present team (Tottenham Hotspur) and his former team (Southampton) have outrun their opponents 17 times each, a snapshot of the Argentinian’s philosophy and one that Ronald Koeman has continued at St Mary’s.
But running one’s socks off is not necessarily the secret to success. Manchester City, the reigning champions, have outrun their opponents less than anyone, a policy that has done their title aspirations little harm. Indeed, the only time City clocked up more than 110km this season (112.7km at home to Everton last month) they took an early lead and then held on to narrowly win 1-0.
It is generally true that unless a team play a distinct high-pressing style, the top teams who invariably lead in matches more often have less work to do as they control the play. Nonetheless, many observers will be curious to find Manuel Pellegrini’s charges level in this category with Aston Villa, a team whose game is very much based on counter-attacking football.