Stoke City stats in Europe – making direct football work

According to Castrol EDGE Performance analysis 34% of Stoke City’s attempts on goal in the Europa League this season have been headers.

The English team have been put down for only posing a threat from set pieces and long balls, a view backed up by 14 of Stoke’s 41 shots in this season’s Europa League being headers. Only Ireland’s Shamrock Rovers have such a high percentage of headed attempts.

However, Stoke seem to have found considerable success with their direct tactics in European competition and go into the 5th matchday on top of their group requiring only a draw to qualify for the next round.

Europa League 11/12: Ratio of Headed Shots per Team
Europa League 11/12 Shots Headed Shots Headed Shots / Shots
Shamrock Rovers 29 10 34%
Stoke City 41 14 34%
FC Schalke 04 42 14 33%
Besiktas 37 12 32%
FC København 21 6 29%

In this season’s Europa League, Stoke City are the team that have attempted the fewest passes (1161) and have also attempted the fewest in the opposition half (624).

On top of this the English team have had only 1888 touches of the ball in the 2011/12 Europa League group stages, by far the least of all the teams in the competition.

Europa League 11/12: Least Passes and Touches
Europa League 11/12 Passes Passes Opposition half Touches
Steaua Bucharest 1266 690 1930
Red Bull Salzburg 1249 728 2013
Rapid Bucharest 1187 663 1994
Stoke City 1161 624 1888

Yet, despite having an approach to football that requires little technique, Stoke’s other aspects of the game are well honed and quite possibly the key to their success in this year’s Europa League.

Tony Pulis’s side have launched more  successful long balls than any other team (70)  and also have the most precise long ball delivery (59.3%) in the 2011/12 Europa League.

To add to this, Stoke City also have the most precise crosses in the competition with 37.1% of them reaching team mates.

Europa League 11/12: Long Balls and Crossing
Team Successful Long Balls Long ball accuracy Cross completion rate
Stoke City 70 59.3% 37.8%
SK Sturm Graz 48 40.3% 7.3%
AEK Athens 47 46.1% 19.2%
PSV Eindhoven 46 44.7% 25.3%
AEK Larnaca 45 40.2% 17.5%

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