Going backwards to go forwards: City are the masters

Issue number 327 of the CIES Football Observatory Weekly Post crunches the InStat data on the direction of passes made during current season by more than 500 teams from 31 European leagues. No club made so far a greater percentage of passes backwards than current Premier League leaders Manchester City: 41.6%. This reflects the emphasis put on possession by Guardiola’s side.

Six other teams from the five major European leagues are in the top 10 positions of the table: Chelsea (4th), Arsenal (5th), Sassuolo (7th), Barcelona (8th), Paris St-Germain (9th) and Real Madrid (10th). The only exceptions are Shakhtar Donetsk (2nd), Lokomotiv Moscow (3rd) and Ferencvaros (6th). Conversely, with only 24.0% of passes backwards, the bottom-ranked Championship team Wycombe Wanderers are at the bottom of this table too.

The more competitive the leagues, the higher the percentage of backward passes. The greatest proportion of passes backwards was recorded for the English Premier League (36.5%). The time for kick and rush is definitely over. This is not that much the case for less performing championships. The lowest percentage of backward passes was observed in the Austrian Bundesliga (29.6%). More statistics at team level are to be found in the CIES Football Observatory Performance Atlas.

Percentage of backward passes (season 2020/21)

Domestic league matches played until 24/02/2021. Data: InStat.