REVEALED: The 9 Worst Culprits of ‘Long Ball’ Tactics in Europe’s Top 5 Leagues

In a world where playing neat, technical football is seen as the pinnacle, a heavy reliance on long balls is viewed with plenty of scorn and disdain – even if the end result is effective.

Using statistics on what percentage of average attempted passes per game are long, ​90min research based on raw data available from​ WhoScored can reveal exactly which teams in Europe’s top five leagues are the worst culprits when it comes to ‘long ball’ tactics.

Figures correct as of 8th December 2016 when research was completed

9. Espanyol – 20.01% of average passes per game are long

Club Atletico de Madrid v RCD Espanyol - La Liga

Long Ball Accuracy: 40.78%

Barcelona’s less famous neighbours couldn’t be much more different than the tiki-taka drilled Camp Nou residents across the city.

On average per game, Espanyol have looked for the long pass once every five attempts so far this season. There are, however, other Spanish teams that have gone long more often.

8. Bastia – 20.23%


Long Ball Accuracy: 41.73%

Bastia are actually the only team in Ligue 1 whose attempted long balls make up more than 20% of their overall number of attempted passes per game.

Elsewhere in France, Paris Saint-Germain lead Europe as far as playing short is concerned as only just over 7% of their average passes per game have been long.

7. Sunderland – 21.49%


Long Ball Accuracy: 39.25%

David Moyes’ tactics didn’t work for Manchester United, while it has taken a little time for Sunderland to start earning more positive results.

The Black Cats have attempted fewer average passes per game than any other Premier League club this season with 309.4, while almost 21.5% of those have been sent long.

6. Crotone – 21.77%

FC Crotone v UC Sampdoria - Serie A

Long Ball Accuracy: 37.52%

Promoted to Serie A for the first time in their history at the end of last season, Crotone have a distinct way of playing in a desperate bid to try and stay competitive in the top flight.

So far they are struggling, though, and are already four points adrift of safety. Their long pass accuracy is also significantly the worst in Serie A.

5. Osasuna – 22.67%


Long Ball Accuracy: 37.94%

Osasuna are rock bottom of Spain’s top flight and have resorted to playing long ball more than 22% of the time across their games so far.

But the worst record for long ball accuracy in La Liga actually belongs to Sporting Gijon, with just 35.7% of their average attempts per game actually successful.

4. Burnley – 23.10%

Burnley v Crystal Palace - Premier League

Long Ball Accuracy: 42.69%

Burnley lack enough technical quality to compete in the Premier League and so long balls have become an important part of levelling the playing field for the Clarets.

So far this season, they’ve hit in excess of 23% of their attempted passes per game long.

3. West Bromwich Albion – 23.19%

West Bromwich Albion v Watford - Premier League

Long Ball Accuracy: 40.33%

Drilling his teams in physical long ball tactics is a reputation that Tony Pulis has carried around with him ever since he arrived in the Premier League with Stoke in 2008.

His Baggies have looked to lump it forward with more than 23% of their passes per game.

2. Eibar – 23.27%


Long Ball Accuracy: 42.79%

Eibar may be prone to playing the ball long more than any other team in La Liga, but the most important thing is that it is definitely working for the small Basque club.

They are currently in 8th place in the Spanish standings as the halfway stage of the campaign approaches and are actually only four points off the Champions League places.

1. Darmstadt – 26.85%

SV Darmstadt 98 v FC Ingolstadt 04 - Bundesliga

Long Ball Accuracy: 39.58%

No side in Europe’s top five league can be considered more of a ‘long ball team’ right now than Darmstadt in the Bundesliga.

More than a quarter of all the Hesse-based club’s attempted passes per game are hit long, while fewer than 40% of those have found their intended target.