Covering Ground

The FIFA website is carrying ‘distance covered’ stats for the 2014 World Cup, which is particularly interesting as this information isn’t usually available, so I thought it was worth a closer look.

They’re only small samples of course, but having never had access to this data before, it should still be of interest. FIFA break the total figures down by the distance run both  n possession and without it (though as it doesn’t add up to the total distance covered, I’m not entirely sure how it’s calculated).

A note on the players I’ve included: I have looked at everyone who has appeared for England (as I am closely monitoring their stats during the World Cup), and also Liverpool’s representatives at the tournament (aside from Coates, Lambert and Mignolet who haven’t played at least ninety minutes).

For a frame of reference, I’ve also included (in italics) Serge Aurier (who has currently logged the tournament’s top speed) and Marcelo Diaz (who at present has covered the most ground in total). The Liverpool lads are highlighted in bold, and the data is correct as at 24th June 2014.

Let’s start with a look at the players’ top speed. For the record, it’s sadly not clear from the FIFA site how this is calculated, but I assume it’s the fastest single sprint that a player has recorded.

WC Top SpeedIt’s very interesting to see that Lallana leads the way for the England contingent, as that backs up the data I had in my assessment of his statistics. At the opposite end of the table, Lampard is slower than Joe Hart; maybe time to call it a day, Frank? It’s surprising to see that Sterling and Rooney posted an indentical figure, though this could be small sample syndrome or a quirk of how the data is calculated, as I would’ve assumed that Raheem the Red would be faster than Salford Wayne.

We’ve covered top speed, but how long on average does it take the players to cover a kilometre on the pitch?

WC Mins Per KMNotice how central midfielders such as Gerrard, Lampard, and Wilshere are far higher up this table, which makes sense; they all cover a lot of ground, if not necessarily sprinting across the turf too often. Here’s how quickly the players cover a kilometre when in possession of the ball.

WC Mins Per KM In PossessionThis is another chart where Lallana leads the way, though credit to Rooney for being the top English player with at least two games worth of pitch time. Of course, it’s important to remember that these figures are derived from total playing time as that’s all I have, not by the time spent in possession. I doubt Gerrard actually covers a kilometre in possession quicker than Raheem Sterling does, but rather he has the ball for longer so can run a thousand metres with it in less time overall. Here’s Sterling in action, in case you need reminding how quick he can be with the ball…

Sterling2The next table is the most interesting for me, as it relates to far more of a player’s pitch time than the ‘with the ball’ data. How quickly do players cover a kilometre without the ball?

WC Mins Per KCWPI think Brendan Rodgers would be proud to see several of his players near the top of this table, as this shows that they have been working hard without the ball. No doubt Adam Lallana’s form here is part of his appeal to Liverpool as well.

To make this a really good measurement though, I think we would need to factor in how long the teams didn’t have the ball for, as that would affect how long the players didn’t have possession (and even then, a player’s team can obviously have possession even if they themselves did not). I’m sure the professional analysts at clubs are already all over this kind of information, but it’s beyond me for now at least.

To finish, a look at the top twenty-five players for the tournament so far for speed of covering ground without the ball (with a minimum of three appearances and 180 pitch minutes).

WC Mins Per KCWP 3-180Considering that 122 players meet the criteria at the time of writing, that’s not bad going by Steven Gerrard to feature in the top 18% of them, in twenty-first position. England averaged more of the ball than their opponents (54.4%) too, and the Liverpool captain was one of the team’s top passers, so would’ve had less time without the ball than most of his colleagues. There’s life in the old dog yet!

Please check out my World Cup stats, articles on Liverpool transfer targets, and follow me on Twitter or via Facebook. Scroll down to see the related posts for this article. Thanks.


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