English Premier League evolving each season
English soccer has always been renowned for its pace, power and tough-tackling, but new research appears to quantify the idea that current Premier League teams are playing a different game now than as recently as six years ago.
A study conducted by the University of Sunderland and Chris Barnes, the head of sports science at West Bromwich Albion, analysed the physical and technical performance levels of more than 1000 EPL players over 23,000 ''match observations''.
Over a seven-season period from 2006/07 to 2012/13 the findings showed how the English top flight has transformed its approach from long balls and 4-4-2 formations into a league dominated by passing, possession and high-intensity.
After watching Barcelona enjoy great success with their tiki-taka style, many English clubs have tried to perfect their own versions of possessional play.
Titled: The Evolution of Physical and Technical Performance Parameters in the English Premier League, the study showed that players in the 2012/13 season produced 40 per cent more passes with a greater success rate than in 2006/07.
Despite that increase, players in the 2012/13 season completed 84 per cent of their passes compared to 76 per cent in 2006/07.
''We can clearly see the evolution within the game between 2006/07 and 2012/13,'' Paul Bradley from the University of Sunderland said.
''It is likely that this is a consequence of players developing physically, technically and tactically in their preparation.
''This now gives professional clubs new benchmarks to be set in terms of typical physical, technical and tactical levels.
''It will also help with the recruitment of players because clubs can look at their capabilities and whether they will fit into the hustle and bustle of the English game and the various tactical systems used.''
As the frenetic pace of the EPL takes it toll on the players it is hoped the research can be used to aid training programmes in the future.
''There is a commonly-held belief that the Premier League has become faster and more physically demanding over recent years,'' Barnes said.
''This research provides the first objective evidence to back up those beliefs.
''It identifies the specific areas where the game has developed both physically and technically, and thus the findings are of tremendous value to coaches and conditioning staff.''