The Art of Time-Wasting in Premier League Football

Premier League

In response to an opponent’s time-wasting tactics, Jose Mourinho once remarked, “You may as well put a cow in the middle of the pitch, walking.” And after that, halt the game because a cow was present.

It was a startling display of hypocrisy from someone who was so knowledgeable about the murky underbelly of a football game. Remember that this is the manager who famously commanded, “Ladies and gentlemen, I want at least two bookings for time-wasting before half-time.”

Who on the current Premier League roster has taken up the mantle of the supreme time-wasters with Mourinho currently reading through his thick tome of black arts in Serie A?

Premier League average time- wasting before resuming play in 2022–23

As of April 28, 2023, data taken from Opta

By squeezing every last bit of value out of the small details, Brentford has progressed from the third division of English football to the top half of the Premier League in just nine years. Statistically astute owner Matthew Benham asserts, for instance, that short travel time somewhat boosts teams’ chances of winning away games.

It is scarcely a leap to say that Brentford have thoroughly analyzed the advantages of laboring over restarts given the wide range of criteria taken into account. Why not limit the amount of time the opposition players have to demonstrate their greater financial value when Brentford plays them in nearly every Premier League matchup against a team with a significantly larger budget?

Time-Wasting in Premier League

Newcastle is now at the other end of the wealth spectrum after a highly contentious takeover, yet they are just as eager to squander time. Compared to any other side, Newcastle takes the longest to take goal kicks, while Brentford often delays for free kicks and throw-ins, which has turned out to be time well spent, given Brentford’s threat from offensive set pieces. Nick Pope waits an average of 36.8 seconds before kicking the ball upfield.

Erik ten Hag, the manager of Manchester United, called Newcastle “annoying” and lamented the short amount of time the ball is in play, or “effective time,” during Newcastle games, before to this year’s Carabao Cup final.

Ten Hag remarked in February of last year, “The referees want to play effective time.” Despite being the lowest in the league, Newcastle is fairly successful. When Ten Hag made these remarks, the numbers didn’t quite support his jab, but as of the end of April, Newcastle games do fact have the fewest plays with the ball.

Opta’s count indicates that Newcastle supporters enjoy 51 minutes and 15 seconds on average of live football each weekend. Jamaal Lascelles’ disciplinary history is the pinnacle of Newcastle’s efforts to keep the ball off the field. The referee issued four yellow cards to the club captain this year, but half of them were while he was warming up as a replacement, not even on the field of play.

The average time the ball is in play during a Manchester City match is almost an hour, or 60 minutes and 12 seconds, making them the division leader in this statistic. In the Premier League, only Liverpool waits just 23.3 seconds before each restart, which can particularly irritate Jurgen Klopp when playing opponents who do not possess his Corinthian spirit.

Klopp complained that Thomas Frank’s team “stretched the rules” following a 3-1 loss to seasoned time-wasters Brentford in January. With the score tied at 1-1 entering the last ten minutes, Newcastle made a valiant effort to shake the granules through the opening in the sand timer when they arrived at Anfield in August.

The fourth official initially gave the go-ahead for five more minutes, but Newcastle’s aggressive tactics of holding up play gave Fabio Carvalho enough time to score the game-winning goal in the 98th minute. Klopp could hardly contain his joy when the game’s final whistle was heard, while the Newcastle bench became incensed that the game had continued for so long. It’s the ideal response, he beamingly said.

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