HomeExplainerExplained: Passes per defensive actions or PPDA

Explained: Passes per defensive actions or PPDA

In recent years pressing has become an integral part of the successful blueprint of teams across Europe.  It has replaced the possession style football based on the ‘Tiki-Taka’ philosophy which dominated the 2010s and is fast becoming the most dominant and preferred style of play in football.


What is PPDA?


The growing popularity of pressing systems has in turn has given rise to new stats to understand and analyze pressure. The old metric opponent pass completion percentage, has now been replaced. It has been replaced by PPDA or passes per defensive action.

PPDA in short means opponent passes allowed per defensive action, in the opponent’s defensive 3/5th of the pitch. It signifies the intensity of the press, but not the quality.

For example, if the PPDA of a team is 13, it means the team allowed the opponent to complete 13 passes without interrupting them by a tackle, challenge, foul or interception (Defensive Actions) on average.

Thus has become the best indicator of the pressing intensity of a team. The lower the PPDA the more intense the press. Since it does not tell us the quality of the press, it is important to realize when analysing pressure the figure itself does not paint the complete picture. It is imperative to see the team’s approach to the game.


How important Is it?

As mentioned above, PPDA is the intensity of the press. One of the reasons it has become such a widely recognized stat is that it is easy to interpret. By reading the PPDA value throughout the game, one can see any changes in the pressing approach of the team.

The Premier League is regarded as the toughest and most intense league in the world right now. It is backed up by the PPDA numbers of top 5 teams in the English top-flight. It’s the lowest compared to the top 5 teams of other European leagues.

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The likes of Jurgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola and Thomas Tuchel are major advocates of the pressing game. The PPDA of their teams has almost always been less than 11, which signifies how important it is to take into consideration when understanding pressing systems. It lacks the qualitative side so PPDA should not be taken at face value. 

PPDA in the modern game

A low PPDA also does not mean the team would be successful. A perfect example of this is  Leeds, especially under Marcelo Bielsa. El Loco’s team had the lowest PPDA at 9.71, which is due to the highly physical and intense man-marking system Bielsa deploys. Due to the low PPDA or pressing intensity Leeds do tend to give away easy scoring chances. It has made them the worst team in the league as they have conceded 60 goals!

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Klopp’s Liverpool have the second-lowest PPDA in the league at 9.87 but the German’s pressing system seems like a more coherent one as their season has been growing great as they are chasing league leaders Manchester City while Leeds are hovering over the relegation zone.

Thus, PPDA is a very important stat in the modern game. Especially since pressing is fast becoming the most popular philosophy adopted by coaches. Since it does not measure pressing quality it is important to use it in combination with qualitative analysis. Only then can one use it to support or disregard tactical analysis.

Vidur Arora
A Swansea City fan, who fell in love with the game watching Joe Allen play. Usually found in the wild with headphones in his ears and bobbing his head. Love his art too.

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