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Examining the pressure rates of the Premier League's bottom five battling to survive

2PKK823 Kelechi Iheanacho of Leicester City in action during the Premier League match between Leicester City and Bournemouth at the King Power Stadium, Leicester on Saturday 8th April 2023. (Photo: Jon Hobley | MI News) Credit: MI News & Sport /Alamy Live News

With the season coming to a close and the relegation battle hurtling towards its conclusion we wanted to look at some of the pressure data for the current five teams at the bottom of the Premier League.

PFF’s pressure process is used whenever a player attempts to put their opponent under pressure by actively closing the space between them and when they do so successfully. The yardage of what is deemed a pressure can either shrink or expand based on the intensity and direction of the players involved.

The process differentiates between situations where an opponent pressures the ball carrier versus situations where they pressure the passing or shooting lane, rather than the ball carrier directly.

Team Pressures per game League rank
Southampton 239.8 6th
Leeds United 238.1 7th
Leicester City 225.6 11th
Everton 206.1 16th
Nottingham Forest 194.3 19th

We adjust pressures for possessions because pressure is a defensive metric as you can only press when you don’t have the ball. This means we can compare teams with both high and low possession percentages to show how they press when they’re without the ball.

Southampton press more than any of their fellow relegation candidates and press the same amount whether they’re playing home or away (only a 1.6% decrease in the number of pressures when playing away compared to at home).

Leeds’ Premier League ranking of 7th is a far cry from 2021-2022 when they pressed the most in the league. Leeds press 249.4 times at home and 226.7 away, which is the second largest difference between pressing at home and away (Arsenal rank first).

Forest also have a large difference between their home and away pressure numbers, however Forest press far more away from home than they do when they play at The City Ground (183.2 possession adjusted pressures per game at home, 204.7 away). No team in the league presses less at home than Nottingham Forest.

Team Percentage of lane pressures League rank
Everton 15.80% 7th
Nottingham Forest 14.60% 9th
Southampton 13.40% 13th
Leicester City 13% 15th
Leeds United 11% 19th

At PFF we capture two types of pressure. Player pressure is direct pressure hurrying the ball carrier and trying to disrupt the pass or shot. We also collect lane pressure, where the player presses the pass lane to try and force the ball into a less dangerous situation.

A higher percentage of pass lane pressures suggests that a team is more patient and happy to allow the opposition to keep the ball in less dangerous areas or to wait for the right moment to aggressively press the player on the ball. A lower number of lane pressures tells us a team is more direct when they press, trying to get to the ball and hurry the man as often as possible.

Everton having the most lane pressures shows that Sean Dyche’s players have bought into his philosophy in the two-and-a-half months he has been at the helm. Since Dyche took over, Everton have tended to have less possession than their opponents and his side is happy to force the ball wide and let crosses come into the box to be dealt with by their centre-backs.

Even though Leeds don’t press as often as they did under Marcelo Bielsa, they are still one of the most direct pressing teams in the league this season under Jesse Marsch and Javi Gracia. Only Liverpool have a lower percentage of lane pressures (8.5%).

Total pressures contributed by position
Team Defenders Midfielders Forwards
Southampton 22% 33% 45%
Leicester City 25% 34% 41%
Nottingham Forest 27% 33% 40%
Everton 24% 44% 32%
Leeds United 24% 20% 56%

Most of the teams follow the pattern you would expect here. Forwards press the most as they lead the line, then midfielders, and defenders. The two standouts here are Leeds and Everton.

Leeds for how their forwards account for over half their team's pressures and for more than double what their midfielders contribute. A lot of this comes down to Brendan Aaronson who has the highest number of pressures and the most pressures per-90 minutes in the Premier League.

The lack of pressures from their midfield is partly because they’ve had a fairly settled pairing in the middle this season of either Tyler Adams and Marc Roca or Adams and Weston McKennie. These three are the only centre-midfielders that have played over 500 minutes this season for Leeds, compared to seven forwards reaching this milestone.

Everton are also set apart from their rivals in that they are the only team whose midfield contributes the majority of their pressures. Abdoulaye Doucouré has the highest pressures per-90 for Everton this season and has consistently pressed a high amount since Sean Dyche reinstated him in the starting lineup.

Also, Alex Iwobi has played the majority of his games this season at centre or wide midfield rather than as part of the forward line. Dyche implementing a 4-5-1 since he took charge rather than the 4-3-3 Everton played under Lampard has also meant there hasn’t been a typical front 3 leading the press recently, leaving it to their midfielders to be the first point of contact once teams pass their lone striker.

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