Stats hint at tactical tweak by Manchester United, but none at Arsenal

Arsenal are renowned for their neat, passing game and are sticking to that philosophy, but Manchester United play a surprising amount of long balls.

‘Lump it long’ would not be an approach you would normally associate with Manchester United.

It is not even one you would pin on them this season, with the likes of Michael Carrick bringing a touch of class to midfield and summer arrivals such as Angel di Maria and Daley Blind comfortable in possession.

It is, therefore, surprising to find the Red Devils towards the top of the Premier League long ball league.

Only one side, struggling Burnley, have favoured route one on more occasions than Louis van Gaal’s side.

It is a tactic which appears to be working, with United having played considerably more successful long balls than any other side.

They do not have a traditional target man up top, though, with the likes of Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie and Radamel Falcao more about clever movement than physical battles with no-nonsense centre-halves.

Perhaps the passing ability within the United ranks means they are able to go direct with greater accuracy than their rivals, with long balls delivered to feet rather than chests and heads.

  Total Long BallsAccurate Long BallsAppearances
Burnley 1,338 592 17
Man Utd 1,261 725 17
QPR 1,216 561 17
West Brom 1,208 475 17
Hull City 1,194 528 17
Aston Villa 1,191 547 17
Southampton 1,188 600 17
Leicester 1,184 468 17
West Ham 1,139 514 17
C. Palace 1,123 369 17
Everton 1,111 598 17
Newcastle 1,077 461 17
Sunderland 1,075 500 17
Stoke 1,053 527 17
Tottenham 1,007 524 17
Liverpool 974 528 17
Chelsea 972 510 17
Swansea 972 467 17
Man City 810 374 17
Arsenal 768 381 17

Looking at those towards the opposite end of the scale, four sides renowned for the emphasis they place on keeping the ball on the deck occupy the bottom four spots.

Arsene Wenger is not about to desert his tiki-taka approach at Arsenal, while Swansea City have favoured a similar style throughout the reigns of Roberto Martinez, Brendan Rodgers, Michael Laudrup and Garry Monk.

Manchester City and Chelsea, meanwhile, have invested heavily on some of the finest players on the planet and you would expect that the millions they have spent would deliver a brand of football that is pleasing on the eye.

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