Leeds in a league of their own when it comes to sprint output

On the run: Mateusz Klich, Helder Costa and Kalvin Phillips 

On the run: Mateusz Klich, Helder Costa and Kalvin Phillips 

LEEDS UNITED have by far the highest sprint output in Europe this season, according to data from tracking provider SkillCorner.

Marcelo Bielsa’s newly-promoted side, who currently sit 12th in the Premier League, averaged a sprint distance of 2234.3m in the Premier League matches up to November 16th (international break).

Portuguese giants Benfica are second, with an average sprint distance of 2074.1m, while Championship side Rotherham United, newly promoted from League One, are third for the whole of Europe with an average sprint distance of 2065.6m.

SkillCorner are able to compare individual and team data from multiple leagues - in this case 21 European leagues plus Brazil’s Serie A - by deriving tracking data from broadcast footage. Camera tracking is still the gold standard, but the data is not shared between leagues, meaning teams cannot be compared.

Although the sample size for this study is small - for example Leeds had only played eight Premier League matches by November 16th - and teams from different leagues have played a different number of matches - the data is nevertheless enlightening and throws up some fascinating results.

Bielsa’s Leeds were also the top team in Europe for sprint distance last season, with an average of 2017m per match, but SkillCorner's data shows they have actually gone up a notch in 2020/21,

Speaking this week, Polish midfielder Mateusz Klich, who joined the Yorkshire side in June 2017 when Thomas Christiansen was manager, said: “We seem like we can we play on 150% of our capacity because we all played the best football in our lives, and we are all in the best physical condition.

“We’ve never been running so much, or so quickly.I think everything I did before he (Bielsa) came I did on a slower pace. Now everything that I do I look quicker, I move better on the pitch and I know what my role is within the team more clearly.”

For this research, sprint distance has been defined as the total distance a team has covered during a match at a speed greater than or equal to 7m per second (25.2 km/h), which is the standard definition in football. Team level data was calculated by summing the individual data of the 10 outfield players on each team.

SkillCorner’s Paul Neilson added: “One important point is that the data has been normalised to account for variation in playing time, which is why we add P900.

“For player level data, metrics are often reported as ‘P90’ values - per 90 - and we use the same principle with team data, only it becomes P900 as we have aggregated 10 outfield players. The goalkeeper is excluded from this analysis.”

Average team sprint distance (to November 16th)

  • 1. Leeds United (England) 2234.3m
  • 2. SL Benfica (Portugal) 2074.1m
  • 3. Rotherham United (England) 2065.6m
  • 4. Barcelona (Spain) 1984.6m
  • 5. KV Oostende (Belgium) 1948.3m
  • 6. AC Milan (Italy) 1940.1m
  • 7. Bayern Munich (Germany) 1883.3m
  • 8. FC Zürich (Switzerland) 1831.4m
  • 9. Heracles Almelo (Holland) 1827.0m
  • 10. Red Bull Salzburg (Austria) 1773.0m

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