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Who are the biggest ball hoofers in the PL? Beware: this is not the story the media wants you to read!

By Gooner Mikey

I find fake news, post truth etc., fascinating in the sense that those who use it show a degree of inadequacy and demonstrate a whole new dynamic in terms of social engineering.  Don’t get me wrong though I don’t for one moment question its effectiveness, we only have to look at the US to see that.

But UA is about football and there has been a wealth of evidence demonstrating the level of post truth offerings on the subject and the blind willingness of people to believe it.   Arsenal have the largest number of injuries; AW doesn’t have a plan B; Giroud is useless; Ozil nicks a living; referees get 98% of decisions correct; we’re buying 100 players each summer whilst selling all our current first team squad – the examples are endless.

I don’t know about anybody else, but like Tony, Walter, Usama, Sir Hardly and many others who frequent UA, I love a statistic or two.  Not because they prove anything in isolation but because without them it is very difficult to get a real picture based on real evidence.  In that regard, there are several other sites I love to peruse particularly whilst scoffing a quick sarnie of a Monday lunchtime.  Whoscored is one such site as its analysis of both players and teams are by and large objective rather than based on the evidence “of my own eyes”………..

So I was having a browse this week and thought I’d explore different elements of play.  Now I don’t think there is much doubt that we are not a ‘long ball’ team but there are certainly one or two teams out there which most definitely are.  Whoscored doesn’t give a summary of the number of long balls played by each team but it does give a breakdown of the number of long balls played per game by each individual player.  I had a quick squint and became quickly bored because virtually every player in the top 20 was, unsurprisingly a goalkeeper.  But this got me thinking.  Who is the biggest hoofer after all the GK’s, I thought?

Brace yourselves people, and this is where the post-truth element comes in because we’re saturated with ideas by pundits and the media about which are the best footballers and the most attractive footballing sides.

(As a slight aside, whilst not being a fan of Shearer as a pundit I loved the way he tore the juvenile Phil Neville a new one by completely refuting the nonsense he was spouting on MotD2 on Sunday.  About time too!  And, by the way, my complaint to the BBC against Neville’s incitement of violence purely because he didn’t like a superb Rosicky dummy in a game was fobbed of with typical old boys club panache. )

So who is the biggest non-GK ball hoofer and what team does he represent?  And who are the other hoofers and teams?  Well………..

1 Alderweireld (of the team currently be lauded as a top footballing side by the media and pundits)

2 J Henderson (of another team being lauded etc etc)

3 Pogba (that most expensive player from a team that the media will never become tired of fawning over)

4 Jagielka (not too surprised by that one)

5 Matic (the media have seemingly reattached themselves to Chelski having gone decidedly cold in the not too distant past)

6 Drinkwater (…….but hold on, wasn’t everybody saying last season he was a brilliantly skilful English footballer playing for worthy Champions?)

7 Lovren (see 2 above)

8 Van Dijk (again perhaps not a surprise)

9 Vertonghen (see 1 above)

10 Delaney (Palace are again a team not renowned for slick possession football)

So in the top 10, we find the majority of hoofers are actually playing for teams the media tell us play slick, high quality football.  (Incidentally, in 11th place was yet another Tiny Tot (Dier), so the Spuds have 3 of the top 11 hoofers).  How can this be?  The pundits and “journalists” are the real experts…..or at least that’s what they tell us!

So what of AFC, well we must accept that we have the 14th most prevalent outfield hoofer in Granit Xhaka.  I was disappointed with that so I thought I’d give everyone another chance and look to see if perhaps they were all being misjudged.  Maybe they weren’t just hoofing it, maybe the pundits were correct and they were merely playing brilliant long balls straight to the feet of team mates.  So I looked at percentage pass completion.  

Now blow me down if only one of the players mentioned above appeared in the top twenty players for successful pass completion percentages.  Matic crept in at No. 14….that is unless you include one Mr Xhaka who has the 8th best pass completion of any player in the premiership.

Ironically, the Mr Pogba that the media still seem to want to defend for being a wonderful footballer (purely because of who he players for I would suggest) and is the third biggest hoofer also commits more fouls per game than any other player.

A particular favourite of mine from last weekend being this one for which he wasn’t even penalised……somebody ran into the back of my car a couple of months ago and I would imagine Pogba caused considerably more whiplash that the white van man I encountered!

But that’s enough of my fact finding.  As I said, statistical evidence proves little in isolation……….but it is nonetheless better than no evidence at all.  

Untold Arsenal and the Arsenal History Society…  recent stories

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The Index of major articles about Arsenal players throughout the club’s history:  A to K     L to Z

28 comments to Who are the biggest ball hoofers in the PL? Beware: this is not the story the media wants you to read!

  • Mandy Dodd

    Interesting stats, just goes to prove what some have suspected, Tottenham have become the Stoke of the South.
    Really don’t get the media adulation, but they are welcome to it.
    Imagine they are quite high up in the stats for diving, getting dodgy pens, and avoiding deserved cards as well.
    On another note, it is being claimed that our friend Mr Dean is being sent to the Championship after recent performances. Personally, think they should rest him properly ,,give him a winter break so he can take up a box at WHL.

  • Blinkered Opinions

    @ Mandy Dodd

    This is because your an Arsenal fan and hate Spurs. Like many opinions they can be blinkered by hate. I hate Arsenal but not stupid. I know Arsenal play a short quick passing game and when they get it right can be frightening and I would hate to play against them at their best.

    As for the list, maybe if you watched Spurs you can see how stats can be manipulated. The defenders of Spurs play out from the back the majority of the time as well as the rest of the team. The long balls are usually played to the wings to open up the opposition and Alderweireld usually finds his target.

    For a site that hates speculation about Arsenal, seems it’s ok to do it about other teams. some of the comments seem to go against what the site prides itself on. No better than the majority of sites on the net sometimes.

  • Andy Mack

    Some players just ‘lump’ the ball long, whilst some thump it in roughly the direction of a team mate, and others make long passes to their team mate. Knowing the difference is the real difference between a long-ball team and a technical passing team.
    I think they’d need to review the way they classify the figures to take anything worthwhile away from their stats…

  • finsbury

    Mandy
    To be fair to Stoke they don’t dive as much as the diving cloggers from Middlesex

  • finsbury

    GoonerMikey

    Recent performacnes by the pgMOB Rules (OK?) Variable Code Variant Select XI against the likes of Iceland, Costa Rica and Ecuador* is consistent and strong evidence to support the data that you have gathered.

    Thank you.

    *The Life of Riley.
    What a wonderful stand up record for all to see and admire that he has left for English Football.

  • Goonermikey

    @ Andy Mack

    I agree. It’s difficult to conclude anything too concrete from these stats but there still remains one valid question. Why aren’t the top long ball players Stoke defenders, for example, (or anyone who plays under Pulis).

    I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised by Henderson or Lovren though……..as the song goes at the Ems, “Liverpool hoof the ball” 🙂

  • finsbury

    I have to agree with Andy Mack too, but still the numbers are relevant and interesting, refining them will produce interesting revisions but i’m going to guess that the overall pattern (& teams) would remain. So, still a useful metric!

  • Andy Mack

    I don’t know if the figures would support this comment but it’s the general impression I get.

    Last season when Leicester were running on confidence, their LB knew that when a ball came bouncing loose in his area he could thump the ball towards the RW halfway line and Mahrez would be there (or running onto it). He didn’t need to look and often that ball would turn defence into attack. Was that clogging it or ???
    I haven’t watched enough of the spuddies to know if this applies to them at the moment (although they are riding a confidence train right now).

    I’m not sure any of the top 6 teams now are quite as predictable from that point of view, but personally I don’t consider Henderson as anything more than an occasional clogger. Most of his longer balls are supposed to be long passes, even if they don’t reach their intended recipient.

  • Scuba

    I’m with Andy here, the idea that playing long passes is a net negative is far from accurate. Without more data, this statistic tells us next to nothing. Just look at Tottenham, who this article seems to suggest are playing poor football. They’ve maintained more possession than Arsenal despite ‘hoofing’ it, have been taking more than 3 shots more per game than the Gunners (and more on target as well), and are still conceding less shots.

    Long balls aren’t bad. Recklessly hoofing the ball up field just to get it out of your zone is, but playing designed long passes to maximize your team’s chances of gaining a numerical advantage often leads to goals. Alone, raw counting statistics don’t tell us much more than the dreaded ‘eye test’.

  • Leon

    The thirty, forty yard diagonal pass beyond either full back is one of the most dangerous balls in the game. I’m not a big fan of knocking it long just for the sake of it, but a measured long pass out of defense can be productive. Just ask Giroud.

  • Usama Zaka

    Talking about ball-hoofers, stone lumpers, punt kickers…. in the last 15 mins of Man U-Liverpool game when Fellaini came on as a sub… United played at least 25 long balls, with only 1 player in midfield (Herrera) and 6 players in-and-around the penalty box (Ibra, Fellaini, Rayne Wooney, Pogba, Mkhitaryan, Mata)

    and people are awe of this team and manager’s tactics.

  • finsbury

    I don’t think the author ever implied that long passes were hoofs, hence the use of the word “hoofers” in the article title.

    Please read the articles before commenting.

    HTH

  • Goonermikey

    @ Scuba

    And despite the extra possession and those extra shots they have scored less goals, perhaps that’s because their strike force isn’t as good as ours or they take hopeful pot shots from 35 yards which are ineffective. AS non-Arsenal fans have been very keen to remind me over the years (when we constantly topped the possession stats), it’s what you do with it that counts.

    Anyway, as I said in the article (and in response to Andy) this was never supposed to be definitive but it has provoked some discussion e.g. if Pogba hoofs the ball a lot, commits more fouls per gae than any other play and has the 55th best pass completion in the Prem, is the 39th highest goal scorer and is 26th in terms of assists, what exactly makes him the most expensive player in the world?????

  • Samuel Akinsola Adebosin

    The short, medium & long range passing are all the necessary ingredients of passing to have into the passing pot of soup to cook before the passing soup can become very sweet. But if one of the three passing ingredients is missing in the passing pot of soup, the passing soup will become less sweet.

    Arsenal should at all times in their game have the Gunners who can accurately short, medium and long-range pass the ball accurately. And apply any of the three passing options in their game when to apply is the most correct passing option to chose to do

    Not to have the Gunners in the Arsenal 1st team who can do any the three attributes of game passing could be a handicap to Arsenal which can lead to them dropping points is a game when a correct passing of the ball would have safe the day.

    It has been said in this article posting that Granit Xhaka is the only long-range passer of the ball currently at Arsenal. But of Aaron Ramsey who I think is one. I saw him in of the Arsenal’s PL game at the ems find his colleague far out with a long-range pass and he got him accurately. I was impressed. Or was it out of luck he succeeded in doing that?

    Who in or are in the Arsenal’s 1st team now that I can see him or them doing a Cesc Fabregas kind of long-range passing picking out Diego Costa far into the field and him Costa collecting his pass to hit the back of the net of the opponent team?

    I think when next Le Prof wants to do a senior or junior Gunner signing for Arsenal, he should also put into consideration if the player he’s about to sign has all three attributes of passing the ball accurately before signing him or them as the case maybe.Because if these three attributes of passing the ball are in his team they will be invaluable assets in the Arsenal team that will help them immensely in winning their games.

  • Al

    Xhaka’s long passes are like homing missiles.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Blinkered, there are a few entities and people I genuinely hate, but none of them are anything to do with football. The closest to hate in this game would be the legislators that allow corruption and do nothing while workers on infrastructure projects to die., but probably more contempt than hate.
    Afraid any neighbourly rivalries don’t even register on the hate scale.

  • Samuel Akinsola Adebosin

    The short, medium & long range passing are all the necessary ingredients of passing to have into the passing pot of soup to cook before the passing soup can become very sweet. But if one of the three passing ingredients is missing in the passing pot of soup, the passing soup will become less sweet.

    Arsenal should at all times in their game have the Gunners who can accurately short, medium and long-range pass the ball accurately. And apply any of the three passing options in their game when to apply is the most correct passing option to chose to do

    Not to have the Gunners in the Arsenal 1st team who can do any the three attributes of game passing could be a handicap to Arsenal which can lead to them dropping points is a game when a correct passing of the ball would have safe the day.

    It has been said in this article posting that Granit Xhaka is the only long-range passer of the ball currently at Arsenal. But what of Aaron Ramsey who I think should be one? I saw him in of the Arsenal’s PL game at the ems found his colleague far out with a long-range pass accurately and I was impressed. Or was it out of luck he succeeded at doing that?

    Who in or are in the Arsenal’s 1st team now that I can see him or them doing a Cesc Fabregas kind of long-range passing picking out Diego Costa far into the field, and him Costa collecting his pass to hit the back of the net of the opponent’s team?

    I think when next Le Prof wants to do a senior or junior Gunner signing for Arsenal, he should also put into consideration if the player he’s about to sign has all the three attributes of passing the ball accurately before signing him or them as the case maybe. Because if these three attributes of passing the ball are in his team, the attributes will be invaluable assets to his Arsenal team which can be helping his teams immensely to win their games.

  • Andy Mack

    Finsbury, having read the full article, the point is that the numbers don’t differentiate between hoofers and long passes, so little can be taken from them.

  • Granit is delivering 60 yarders with consumate accuracy, Toby of Spurs also, Drinkwater was, Vertongen isn’t bad either. Henderson can knock em long, but Liverpool aren’t clicking as well now the Klopp effect is not such a new phenomenon.

    A better measure is the percentage of accurate long balls played, because counter attacking will include direct play!

    Pogba is a prime example of inflating business prices.

  • finsbury

    Andy

    It’s a reasonable to conclude that the warehouse in SE Asia has the data that clarified this for the scouts and coaches (who of course were also using their eyes!) before the club boshed our 35 big ones on Xhaka?
    i would bet some wonga on it with the sponsors of Stoke/West Brum etc

    Big Sam developed his playing style with the aid of data, in his own words. He also recommends Accupnuncture etc for his players, so the above is not a critique of his playing style (unless we add in time wasting and fouling to injure), shame about the rest.

  • finsbury

    Acupuncture!

  • finsbury

    This season we’ve seen the evolution of the mid-range clipped pass and/or cross as a consistent theme and tool being used by players in this squad.

    Most consistently Alexis but others are catching up with him! And it’s been fun to watch.

    Obviously this has been discussed and commented upon by all the plundits and gallent podcastateers in the reams and hours of gibberish they gurn out?

  • finsbury

    Those who choose to believe that AFC don’t play long passes have been ignoring data and, yes, the football too

    https://youtu.be/1jNard-99JA

    When any of the modern Arsenal team’s that we have seen are playing well their passing ranges are not monotonous.
    The plunditocracy’s definition of Arsenal’s style of play is an absurd and misleading font of gibberish

  • finsbury

    Andy you must’ve missed my comment at 1.56?

    To clarify if we had the data to separate the wheat from the chaff, long passes from hopeful undirected punts, then the same teams listed above would most probably and logically be listed.

    Therefore the article is, in conclusion, of some relevance and value (that warrants further study) given that the average football fan doesn’t work for a club and have access to such data.

  • finsbury

    Goal no.1 here but a few others count too:

    http://youtu.be/Bim8UJ5tsog

    We saw a few of those moves before the football gods threw spears through both of Vermaelen’s ankles. Think the video needs to be updated 🙂

  • Leon

    And like the oozlam bird he disappeared up his own arse

  • finsbury

    Are you taking about the 5pur2 fans that trolls AFC blogs giving out amazing information on the 5pur2 board and owners whislt humiliating himself trying to rate a former 5pur2 footballer like A.Goal Kick Townsend (Jnr) who can’t control or do much with a football, on a football blog, read by football fans, again?

    That’s almost as weird as trying and failing to troll a series of articles collecting data going back years, without ever having the footballs required to mention said data.

    I guess it is a genius in PR, as well as physiotherapy, football & finance too. Amazing.