Wednesday 21 March 2018

Official - Only one team have cover more ground than Man United and James Milner the hardest working player

Hard graft: Only one team have run further than United so far this season
Hard graft: Only one team have run further than United so far this season

Alistair Tweedale

Manchester United and Louis van Gaal have had their critics this season – and plenty of them – but one thing that cannot be taken away from the players is their work ethic.

The Dutch manager has not convinced everyone that he is the man to lead United back to the summit of English football, but he has his players on side; only Premier League newcomers Bournemouth have covered more ground this season than United.

Eddie Howe’s side have clearly recognised that they do not have the means to survive for a second season in the top flight without putting in the requisite work, and are covering more ground than any other team.

Their players have run a total of 696.9 kilometres – an average of 116.15km per match – making them the Premier League’s hardest-working team. Andrew Surman runs furthest for Bournemouth, having alone covered 70.8km. Whether he and his team mates can keep that up for a full campaign remains to be seen.

United are a close second, having covered 688.8km despite having enjoyed 58.9 per cent possession. Clearly, Van Gaal wants lots of movement off the ball and his players are providing just that, while they are also working extremely hard to win the ball back once they do lose it.

Chances have not flowed freely enough at Old Trafford – United have had the fourth-fewest shots of all Premier League sides, with 46 – but with 9 goals they have the third best conversion rate (19.6 per cent). That could be the result of their attacking movement creating more space and better chances for their forwards.

Mauricio Pochettino’s high-intensity style of play means Tottenham’s players are running an impressive 114.7km per match. Any deficiencies they have certainly are not for the want of trying. Harry Kane will surely find goals eventually with the effort he expends.

West Ham’s unprecedented treble of scalps at Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City was the result of plenty of hard work, while high-flying Leicester unsurprisingly rank towards the top of the table.

Covering lots of ground does not necessarily precipitate success, though, with strugglers Newcastle having run further than 14 of their 19 Premier League rivals but simultaneously barely outplayed anyone.

Steve McClaren’s side are in disarray and there is no obvious immediate solution to their problems. Trying harder, it seems, does not provide the simple route to safety fans desire.

At the other end of the spectrum, Alex Neil’s Norwich have started life back in the big time well in spite of the fact that every other team has run further than them so far, though Aston Villa and Stoke could arguably be working harder.

Arsenal’s players have run 637km, the fifth-shortest distance, and some fans may contest that their players are not putting in sufficient graft to challenge for the title. However, this could also be due to the fact that they have seen more of the ball (60.9 per cent) than any other team this season.

James Milner has run further than any other player as he attempts to win over the Anfield crowd, followed by Jack Colback, Surman, Aaron Ramsey and Mark Noble. Do British players naturally work harder; or do they simply have to in order to make up for a technical deficit?

Data courtesy of the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index, the Official Player Rating Index of the Barclays Premier League

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