Over the years, the Premier League has brought some joyous moments of pure skill and drama, featuring some of the greatest goals in football history, and last-minute comebacks. However, it has also served up some shocking defeats and some teams have demonstrated their fair share of ‘off’ days.

Roy Keane used the label of ‘sloppy’ to describe this kind of play in Liverpool’s 3-1 win, and his choice of words irked many – including Jurgen Klopp himself. But what actually is ‘sloppy’ play, and how can we understand it better?

A possible definition that we considered was ‘failed’ actions – and there’s plenty of data available to help us quantify it. We studied thousands of failed passes, tackles, and crosses to determine which clubs in the top-flight league might be considered the ‘sloppiest’ on the pitch.

The Premier League Teams with the Most ‘Sloppy’ Actions (2019/20)

By our measure, the ‘sloppiest’ Premier League team in the 2019/20 season was Southampton, having accumulated a total of 5,057 ‘sloppy’ actions – 564 more than the season before (13% increase). Our data showed the Saints had 4,230 failed passes, 538 failed crosses, and 289 failed tackles throughout the course of the season, where they also ranked as the second ‘dirtiest’ Premier League team, boasting 250 fouls and 34 yellow cards.

Racking up a total of 4,786 ‘sloppy’ actions last season was Sheffield United, thus ranking them as the second ‘sloppiest’ Premier League team during the 2019/20 season. During the season, The Blades racked up 3,879 failed passes, 675 failed crosses, and 232 failed tackles in all their matches.

According to our analysis, Liverpool was the third ‘sloppiest’ team in the top-flight of English football last season, despite winning the league. In total, Liverpool racked up the second highest number of ‘sloppy’ actions (4,760), with 3,819 failed passes, 716 failed crosses, and 225 failed tackles during the 2019/20 season – 194 more than the season before (4% increase).

Burnley placed as the fourth ‘sloppiest’ Premier League club, as the team accumulated 4,603 ‘sloppy’ actions between them – 94 less than the season before (2% decrease). The club racked up 3,844 failed passes, 557 failed crosses, and 202 failed tackles last season.

Following closely behind in fifth was West Ham, with our data finding that the team made 4,462 ‘sloppy’ actions throughout the 2019/20 season – 217 more than the year before (5% increase). In total, the Hammers accumulated 3,624 failed passes, 560 failed crosses, and 278 failed tackles all-in-all.

Chelsea came in sixth, with the team making a total of 4,406 ‘sloppy’ actions in 2019/20. The Blues accumulated 3,486 failed passes, 646 failed crosses, and 274 failed tackles throughout the 2019/20 season – 585 more failed actions than the year before (2018/19), resulting in a 15% increase in ‘sloppy’ play in 2019/20.

Following behind in seventh is Brighton and Hove Albion, with our data recording a total of 4,370 ‘sloppy’ actions during the 2019/20 season. The Seagulls managed to rack up 3,455 failed passes, 537 failed crosses, and 378 failed tackles between them. When compared to the 2018/19 season, the club made 106 more failed passes, crosses and tackles during 2019/20 – a 2% increase.

According to our analysis, Everton placed as the eighth ‘sloppiest’ team in the top-flight of English football, with 4,353 ‘sloppy’ actions recorded in each of the 38 games in the 2019/20 season – 3,481 failed passes, 611 failed crosses, and 261 failed tackles. When compared to the season before (2018/19), the club saw a 7% decrease from the season before – 309 less failed actions.

The nineth ‘sloppiest’ team during the 2019/20 season was Wolverhampton Wanderers, with a total of 4,335 ‘sloppy’ actions made by the club – 95 less failed actions (2% decrease). Wolves racked up a total of 3,520 failed passes, 538 failed crosses, and 277 failed tackles in each of their 38 Premier League games.

Following closely behind in tenth was Tottenham Hotspur, with our data finding that the team made 4,326 ‘sloppy’ actions throughout the 2019/20 season – just 19 less than the season before (2018/19). Throughout the 2019/20 season, Spurs made a total of 3,542 failed passes, 532 failed crosses, and 252 failed tackles all-in-all.

Which club had the most failed passes?

Failed pass = Any passes by a player in a team that did not reach a teammate because it was intercepted by an opposition player or went out of play because quality/direction of pass was poor.

Which club had the most failed tackles?

Failed tackle = Any tackle by a player in a team which did not win the ball back or quality/timing of tackle was poor, so they ended up totally missing the player/ball when making the tackle.

Which club had the most failed crosses?

Failed cross = Any cross by a player in a team that does not reach a teammate because it was intercepted by an opposition player or went out of play because quality/direction of cross was poor.

The Premier League Teams with the Most ‘Sloppy’ Actions in 2020/21 so far

Southampton holds onto first place this season too, with the team also racking up a whopping 1,016 ‘sloppy’ actions in total. Of the games played so far this season, our research can reveal that the Saints have had 886 failed passes, 73 failed crosses, and 57 failed tackles.

Leeds United came in second spot, with the Premier League club making the second-highest number of ‘sloppy’ actions so far this season – a total of 1,000. This figure consists of 788 failed passes, 138 failed crosses, and 74 failed tackles.

Sheffield United placed as the third ‘sloppiest’ club in the Premier League so far this season, with a total of 914 ‘sloppy’ actions recorded at the time of our analysis. Thus far, the Blades have racked up 720 failed passes, 132 failed crosses, and 62 failed tackles since the season began.

Brighton and Hove Albion come in fourth, with a total of 903 ‘sloppy’ actions recorded during the 2020/21 season so far. The Seagulls have made 739 failed passes, 116 failed crosses, and 48 failed tackles this season, ranking them as the fourth ‘sloppiest’ club in the top-flight thus far.

Also accumulating 903 ‘sloppy’ actions is Leicester City, with the club having a total of 730 failed passes, 108 failed crosses, and 65 failed tackles so far this season.

Following closely behind with a total of 900 ‘sloppy’ actions recorded is West Bromwich Albion, thus ranking as the fifth ‘sloppiest’ Premier League club so far this season. This figure consists of 748 failed passes, 94 failed crosses, and 58 failed tackles.

According to our analysis, the sixth ‘sloppiest’ Premier League club so far this season is Burnley, with 886 ‘sloppy’ actions recorded. Since the start of the season, Burnley have racked up 743 failed passes, 106 failed crosses, and 37 failed tackles.

Also accumulating 886 ‘sloppy’ actions is Liverpool, with the club having a total of 716 failed passes, 129 failed crosses and 41 failed tackles.

With a total of 869 ‘sloppy’ actions this season, Tottenham Hotspur are said to be the seventh ‘sloppiest’ Premier League club according to our analysis. In total, Spurs have had 728 failed passes, 86 failed crosses, and 55 failed tackles since the 2020/21 season started.

Chelsea have made a total of 868 ‘sloppy’ actions so far this season – just one less ‘sloppy’ action compared to their London rivals, Spurs. In total, the Blues have made 710 failed passes, 104 failed crosses, and 54 failed tackles, thus ranking them as the eighth ‘sloppiest’ Premier League team this season.

Ninth place goes to West Ham United, with the team racking up a total of 850 ‘sloppy’ actions so far this season. Since the season began, the Hammers have made 654 failed passes, 129 failed crosses, and 67 failed tackles.

According to our analysis, the tenth ‘sloppiest’ Premier League club so far this season is Crystal Palace – the fourth London-based club to make the top 10. The club have accumulated 821 ‘sloppy’ actions during the 2020/21 season so far, which consists of 660 failed passes, 90 failed crosses, and 71 failed tackles.

Method:

1) Compare.bet utilised statistics from the Premier League to establish who was the ‘sloppiest’ Premier League team during the 2019/20 season.

2) To achieve this, Compare.bet analysed the profile of each of the Premier League teams from the 2019/20 season (except for Watford, Norwich City and Bournemouth who all got relegated) to identify the total number of failed passes, crosses and tackles by each of the clubs for all 38 of their Premier League matches during the 2019/20 season.

3) Each variable included as a part of overall ‘sloppy’ actions is defined as:

Failed pass: Any passes by a player in a team that did not reach a teammate because it was intercepted by an opposition player or went out of play because quality/direction of pass was poor.

Failed cross: Any cross by a player in a team that does not reach a teammate because it was intercepted by an opposition player or went out of play because quality/direction of cross was poor.

Failed tackle: Any tackle by a player in a team which did not win the ball back or quality/timing of tackle was poor, so they ended up totally missing the player/ball when making the tackle.

These are essentially the variables that teams/players have a great deal of control over and time to perfect through various aspects of match preparation such as training, opposition analysis and practicing patterns of play.

4) Once data for each of these variables was collated, they were added together for each team to establish the total number of ‘sloppy’ actions committed by each of the Premier League teams during the 2019/20 season and then, put into rank order from highest to lowest.

5) To give the 2019/20 sloppiness figures context, they were compared against the 2018/19 statistics (except for Sheffield United and Aston Villa – who both got promoted during 2019/20) using the same three variables to show if each team had become more or less sloppy during the 2019/20 season when compared to the 2018/19 season statistics.

6) The year (2018/19) on year (2019/20) sloppiness comparison data for each of the included Premier League teams is presented in percentage format.

7) To show how teams are progressing this season (2020/21), Compare.bet also found out which Premier League teams have been the sloppiest thus far into the season using the same process of adding together failed passes, crosses and tackles for each of the games played so far by the 2020/21 Premier League teams.

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