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07
Sep 2011
11:45
Is La Liga better than the Premier League?

General Articles

Rafa Benítez

Introduction.

My first impression, and whenever I have been asked this question I have been convinced of this, is that the Premier League is quicker and has bigger physical demands than the Spanish championship, and that La Liga is more technical and tactical.

I think that most football fans who are acquainted with both leagues will think the same thing, but, looking at the data we have received from companies such as Opta (who analyse more matches) and Amisco, and having read some published articles on the subject, we decided to do this analysis.

The first thing you have to take in to account is that according to the criteria used by these companies to define the parameters, the data can be different. For example, to count blocked shots as a shot or not completely changes the statistics. The same applies to the speed of the players; a sprint can be defined as over 21km/h or over 24km/h, which obviously changes the analysis.

To avoid the problem, having compared the data, we decided to use the most reliable data and present it in the clearest possible way; so the study will not have any scientific value but will give us a more objective idea of the 2010-11 season in both leagues.

From a Technical Point of View.

The first data we analysed showed only small differences in time of ball in play, 53 minutes in La Liga and 54 minutes in the Premier League last season.

Attacking:

La Liga AttackPremier League
2.74 Average goals per game2.79
15 Average shots per game18
45% Shooting accuracy36%
17% % of headed goals19%
35% % of Set Play goals34%

The goals average is slightly better in the Premier League, 2.79 goals per game compared to 2.74 in La Liga.

The average number of shots per game, 18 in the Premier League compared to 15 in La Liga, has been the same for the last 2 seasons. It stands out that La Liga players are more accurate in shooting, 45% compared to 36% in the Premier League.

There is little difference in headed goals, 17% compared to 19%.

The percentage of goals from Set Plays was higher in the Premier League, 37% compared to 29%, in the 2009-10 season whereas in 2010-11 it was 35% in La Liga compared to 34% in the Premier League.


Passing:


La Liga PassingPremier League
819 Passes per game801
23% % of long passes26%
489 Passes in Opposition Half494
258 Passes in Final Third276
66% Accuracy of passes in Final Third62%
27 Crosses per game33

The number of passes per game is similar for the last 2 seasons in both leagues, although slightly higher in the Spanish league. There is not a significant difference.

More long passes in the Premier League, more in the opposition half and also more in the final third, but with less accuracy. This may be due to the fact that in the Premier League many of these passes came from the goalkeeper. Similarly, more crosses in the Premier League over the last 2 seasons.

General Play:


La Liga General PlayPremier League
38 Dribbles per game33
37% Successful dribbles43%
42 Final Third entries per game56

In La Liga, they dribble more and with more success in the Premier League.
Higher number of challenges in the Premier League, and this is an important factor when we consider the disciplinary data.

Discipline:

La Liga DisciplinePremier League
19 Fouls per game17
5 Number of Fouls between cards7


More tackles in the Premier League, fewer fouls given and fewer cards shown in relation to the number of fouls given, clearly indicates that the Premier League is more physical than La Liga.

Tactical Analysis.

The systems used are similar, 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3, 4-4-1-1 and 4-4-2, in both leagues. The quality of the team dictates their style. In Spain, they look more to pass and support, but in England, whilst there are also many teams who try to move the ball on the ground, generally the play is more direct, as we have seen in the long pass data and the entries to the opposition area, reflected in the shots attempted and goals scored.

Physical Data Analysis.

This is the latest data we compiled from Amisco and you can see the prevalence of La Liga compared to the Premier League. However, in another study as well as in our own collected data from different seasons in both leagues, we do not see the same results. Due to the low number of matches from which this data was collected because there was no specialised equipment, the data may not be absolutely 100% accurate. Therefore we consider the data we directly collected to be more reliable, and thus we believe that in the Premier League they run more and more quickly than in La Liga.

La Liga Distance CoveredPremier League
  Per Player
 
10508 Distance covered (m)10494
273 Distance in sprint (+24 km/h)264
322 High Speed (21-24 km/h)297
595 High Intensity 561
  Our Data from other Seasons
 
11072 Total Distance covered11174
489 High Intensity530

In another study, our conclusion is corroborated and confirms that in the Premier League, they run more, more in high intensity (blue) and more in sprints (see graphic).

Imagen

Psychological Aspects.

This is influenced as much by the tempo of the game as by the duels, fouls, cards and challenges in general.

As we can see in the graphic, the Premier League is much more demanding in terms of physical contact, both on the ground and in the air, and in our experience, we know that the English fans demand intensity and high tempo, so, from a psychological point of view, the game is more demanding in the Premier League.

If you hide, you won’t survive in the Premier League, something that the following graphic of aerial and ground duels (blue) suggests.

Imagen

Confrontations in Recent Years.

The only reliable references to compare teams in the Premier League and La Liga are Champions League meetings, although Atletico Madrid beating Liverpool in the semi-final and then Fulham in the final of the Europa League also stands out.

In the Champions League, going back to season 2008-9, we have the victory of Arsenal against Villarreal (4-1 over 2 legs) and Liverpool over Real Madrid (5-0) with obvious English superiority.

But also, Barcelona beat Chelsea in the semis, and later United (2-0) in the final to become champions.

In 2010-11, Real Madrid beat Tottenham (5-0) and Barcelona beat Arsenal (4-3) and then United (3-1) in the final, showing the Spanish teams’ superiority.

These results show us the equality of both leagues, and today, the superiority of Barcelona, with their style based on possession, which the Spanish National team uses, as well the younger teams, with good results in all competitions.

Conclusions.

Analysing the data, we see that the technical aspects, the systems of play and also the tactics, are becoming similar in both leagues due to the continental influence in the Premier League. We can also appreciate that the speed and intensity of play and the physical contact are the biggest differences between the 2 leagues.

As far as the European meetings go, it is significant that continental referees give more free kicks and show more cards than in the Premier League (proved by the number of fouls and cards in La Liga) which can affect the performance of English teams in Europe.