Association football/soccer is a challenging game which requires those participating in it at any level to be fit in order to effectively traverse across the pitch. The physical demands are even higher in top-tier competitions such as the English Premier League (EPL) where players have to constantly be at their peak for them and their team/club to have a chance at beating or even keeping up with their peers.
How far do Premier League players run in a game? EPL players normally run north or 9 or even 10 kilometers a game. The distances they run often depend on three things: the position a player plays, their duties (what a player is called upon to do) and their level of fitness.
With the latest developments in technology, it is now considerably easier to track the distances players run down to the meter. Most teams competing in the EPL regularly (and jointly) run well over 100 kilometers over the course of every game.
Distance Run by Position
A football/soccer team is usually made up of 11 players. The players each play a unique position, which is not played by anyone else on their team during a match. Players specialize in operating within certain sections of the pitch and are named accordingly.
There are generally four main positions a player can play: at the goal post (goalkeeper), on the defensive end (defenders), in the outfield/center/middle of the field (midfielders) and on the offensive end (forwards/strikers).
Goalkeepers often run the least distance in a game since they operate within a restricted area where they are allowed to use both their hands and feet to handle the ball. Data has shown that on average, most traditional shot stoppers run around 4 to 5 kilometers a game.
The distance covered is a bit higher for sweeper-keepers like Bayern Munich goalie Manuel Neuer, who ordinarily tend to venture a little deeper into the field to help with set pieces and preemptively disrupt their opponents’ attacks.
Defenders and forwards/strikers are known to average between 9 and 10 kilometers a game. Centre-forwards and central defenders often run the least in these two categories since they operate in the middle on the offensive and defensive ends of pitch respectively where the action is mostly focused and is at its hottest.
On the other hand, wingers and full-backs tend to average slightly higher distances than their counterparts since they are as much charged with offensive duties as they are with defensive ones. The majority of the distance covered by defenders and forwards/strikers is in the form of high-speed sprints they make to either get back on defense and thwart attacks or get into space to make attempts at their opponents’ goal on the offensive end.
Midfielders are arguably the busiest players on the pitch since their position requires them to operate on both sides of the pitch. Data shows that they average well over 10 kilometers in a match with central midfielders often surpassing the 11-kilometer mark.
Why Midfielders are the EPL’s Workhorses
One could say that midfielders are the magicians on a team. They are the link between their team’s defense (goalkeeper and defenders) and their offense (forwards/strikers) and simultaneously create goal-scoring opportunities for their team while intercepting those of the opposing team.
Midfielders frequently dominate the lists of players who run the most during a game and are unofficially labelled as the “running men” of the league. Their duties require them to always be in constant motion unlike defenders and forwards/strikers who may be required to execute bursts of speed or sprints but normally have intervals of rest in between.
A deep dive into statistics over the past few seasons reveals one common thread – that midfielders are without a doubt the hardest working EPL players. Some names that often feature in the list include Chelsea duo N’golo Kante and Jorginho, Burnley ace Jack Cork, Leicester maestro Wilfred Ndidi, Manchester City playmaker Bernardo Silva and West Ham’s Tomas Soucek.
A List of Impressive Feats
Four midfielders have distinguished themselves from their peers as arguably the most active players in the EPL – Burnley’s Jack Cork, Leicester’s Wilfred Ndidi and Chelsea pair N’golo Kante and Jorginho.
Statistics from their 2018/19 campaigns show that the four were top five in the list of players who covered the most distance. Crystal Palace skipper Luka Milivojevic (a right-back) rounded off the top five list and was coincidentally the only player who was not a midfielder.
Cork topped the list having covered a mind-boggling 360.74 kilometers (km) in that season. Kante was third with 352.94 km, Ndidi fourth with 341.17 km and Jorginho fifth with 328.99. Manchester City’s Bernardo Silva also featured in the top 10 list by finishing seventh. West Ham talisman Tomas Soucek broke into this exclusive season about two seasons or so ago.
Soucek featured heavily in the Hammers squad in their 2020/21 season, which was perhaps one of the best in the club’s history. A tally of Soucek’s exploits across all competitions in the same season revealed that the workhorse covered an absurd 460.6 km or 286 miles. As of October 2021, with 70 games or 18% of the season played, Soucek led the league in distance covered with a remarkable 80.7 km.
The EPL Record for the Most Distance Covered
A number of players hold records for the distance covered within a game. A familiar name, Manchester City’s Bernardo Silva is responsible for two such records. The winger shocked Premier League fans across the world after running 13.52 km (8.4 miles) against perennial rivals Tottenham Hotspur in 2018.
Silva later followed up the achievement and proved that he wasn’t a one-trick pony by running 13.68 km (8.5 miles) against Liverpool in 2019 – efforts which propelled City to their fourth EPL title that season. In the first 26 EPL games that season, the former Monaco star had run 281.64 km (175 miles).
Manchester United legend David Beckham also holds a record for the most distance run in regulation time albeit on the international stage. During a pivotal World Cup qualifier between England and Greece, which was held at Old Trafford, Beckham ran a full 16.09 km (10 miles). The Englishman’s hard work ultimately helped the Three Lions qualify for that edition of the competition where they went on to have a fairly decent outing.