The big difference between Wolves and Manchester United

What is really the big difference between Wolves and Manchester United? What makes them in contention to be one of the absolute best footballing clubs in the world year after year when Wolves in their part struggles to stay in the Premier League or trying to get there? That is something that has occupied my mind lately.

Of course it’s a question of money. Of having the funds to buy the best players in the world. But what do these players possess that Wolves players does not. And is it really only the players?

If we look at available statistics for players from United and compare them with the Wolves players we will first rule out the skills that the players seem to have in common – irrespective if they play for Wolves or Manchester United:

  • The amount of fouls given – it’s a bout the same for both teams
  • The amount of fouls conceived – also about the same
  • Clearances – dependent on who you meet, not on players skills

When it comes to the amount of tackles and tackles won in percentages of all tackles, Wolves are in fact the team who are the best of the two. They are in fact the best tacklers in the Premier League at the moment. But there are three statistical facts that I think are crucial for Manchester United being more successful than Wolves:

  • The precision of their passing
  • The amount of attacks created
  • The involvement of all players in the action and the movement of the players

Let’s examine these three parts of the game a little closer.

Accurate passing

When you look upon the best teams in the Premier League and compare the statistics for accurate passes there is a big difference between them and Wolves as well as other teams in the lower half of the tables.

The best players in the best teams accurate passing frequency is amazing. For example Fletcher in United made 69 passes against Villa. He missed only one. Vidic had an accuracy of 87% and Berbatov didn’t miss a pass of his thirteen in the match. And that was in a match that United lost.

If we take a look at Wolves players they typically have between 10 and 20% lower accuracy in their passes. Taken together that’s a lot of  passes going to the opposite side or off a line in a match. Giving away the ball to the opposition so that they can create attacks.

Creating attacks

The best teams creates at least the double amount of attacks on goal to the teams that struggles. One of the main reasons are of course the giving away of the ball to the opposition because the lack of passing skills as said above.

Another reason that can clearly be seen is that they have much more attack minded defenders. Especially their full backs are creating a lot of attacks. And – of course – because of their passing skills their attacks goes the whole way to their forwards instead of ending up off play or in the hands (or feet) of the opposing team.

The activity of the players

When you look at a sheet over the action of individual players on the pitch as can be seen on various sites on the net today, a big difference between the top teams and the teams in the lower half of the Premier League are the amount of different sorts of action they are involved in during a game.

A player from Manchester United is in average involved in about the double amount of ‘situations’ with the ball than his opposing number in Wolves. The situations I’m talking about is firstly short passes. But also others like long passes, duels, headers, ball recovery. You name it, the list can be made long.

The thing is that the players in top teams are much more active on the pitch. They are more hard working, trying to get involved in every moment they can in the game. They put a shift in, as manager McCarthy uses to say.

That is of course not only an individual quality. It is part of a team effort. A system of play that leaves nobody out of the ultimate effort. To get forward to win the game or to defend so that you don’t let any balls in.

There are no ‘alibi players’ in these teams. No players that can hide and be lazy. Everybody takes their part in the action and everybody is a brick in the managers wall, a piece of the puzzle. And everybody seem to know exactly what to do and when and how to do it.

That last quality of course rests on the manager and his staffs skills. It must also be of the uttermost importance to play a team together under a long time and only to change a few parts now and then so the ‘machine’ will keep running at a good pace without ever stopping.

So the possibility to be able to buy the best technically skilled players in the world is of course a big plus, but it’s not everything. A manager and a coach and trainer who has the time to play together a reasonable good bunch of players and who has the skills to get them to play together so that everybody is involved in the action and active, can deliver results with smaller means.


Christophe Berra and Michael Owen battling in the Carling Cup clash


~ by paddytheflea on December 14, 2009.

2 Responses to “The big difference between Wolves and Manchester United”

  1. […] When looking at other things as interceptions, duels and clearances the stats show us that Foley was very active all over the pitch with this as well, from Hahnemann’s posts to the United penalty area. He did really put a shift in – as our revered manager uses to say. He was probably the main reason that this team was available to give United a match for the points after all. And after my earlier analysis about how important accurate passes and to be active on the pitch is I am personally in no doubt that Foley did a very good performance against United. (see about that HERE) […]

  2. […] for instance HERE and in the ratings I give or in the head-to-head stats I have published. The best players of the […]

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