How Far Do Premier League Footballers Run?

The Premier League is the most popular football competition in the world, with a huge global audience and widespread appeal. There are many reasons it is so popular and the fast, frenetic action is certainly one of them. England’s top flight provides high-energy, high-tempo football from the first whistle and can be great fun to watch.

Improved sports science and nutrition, plus the fact that players are now so well paid that absolute commitment to excellence is a given, mean that players are fitter and faster than ever. Footballers are generally running further during games than ever before but just how far does a Premier League player run in a game? How does this vary by position and which players run the furthest? And, how is that ground covered, in terms of sprints, walking and all the gears in between?

2023/24 Premier League Running Stats

Bruno Fernandes
Agência Brasília, CC BY 2.0 via Wikipedia

In November 2023, with almost a third of the season gone (12 gameweeks), the Premier League’s official site published an article detailing which 10 players had run the furthest. It didn’t detail how many minutes each player had played, nor how many games, however, the basic info can be seen below:

Rank Player Distance in KM Club
1 Christian Norgaard 138.2 Brentford
2 Bruno Fernandes 137.2 Man United
3 Abdoulaye Doucoure 137.1 Everton
4 Dejan Kulusevski 135.9 Spurs
5 Conor Gallagher 134.6 Chelsea
6 Vladimir Coufal 133.9 West Ham
7 Bryan Mbeumo 132.4 Brentford
8 Dominik Szoboszlai 132.2 Liverpool
9 Declan Rice 129.7 Arsenal
10 James Ward-Prowse 126.9 West Ham

Digging further into the issue, we can see that Norgaard missed just 47 minutes during the first 12 league games of the campaign. He played at least 70 minutes in each game, so on average, per match, he ran just over 11.5km, or around 7.16 miles. If we allow for the brief amount of time he was off the pitch (he was subbed off in three games), then his average distance per full game increases slightly to around 12km.

Bruno Fernandes played every minute of United’s opening 12 games (in fact, aside from one game missed through suspension, he hasn’t missed a minute in the league after 25 games), whilst Doucoure missed 30 minutes. Kulusevski was subbed off for around 45 minutes in those first 12 games and we suspect that it would be a similar picture for most of the players on that list. As such, we can say that the most energetic players in the Premier League cover between about 11km and 12km per 90 minutes (90 minutes being the maximum per match, with stoppage time included in that).

Which Positions Run Furthest?

There is obviously a big difference in the ground covered by a goalkeeper and an outfield player, but what about between defenders, midfielders, and strikers? Well, for the record, one scientific study revealed that goalkeepers in the PL covered around 5km to 6km per match, although very little of that (around 10 meters or so) was sprinting and only 20m to 100m was at high intensity.

Looking at the list of players above, anyone with a decent knowledge of the Premier League would realise that it tends to be midfielders who cover the most ground. Of the 10 players, eight are essentially midfielders, with Coufal a full back and Mbeumo tending to operate on the right of a front three or sometimes as a striker. Fernandes, Doucoure, Kulusevski and Gallagher could be seen as attackers too, although we would still say they are fundamentally midfielders.

As a general rule, looking at the bigger picture, not just analysis from the first portion of the 2023/24 campaign, it is safe to say that midfielders do generally have the highest running stats. Perhaps surprisingly there is a mix of attacking, defensive and box-to-box types among the list. Looking at the entirety of the 2022/23 campaign, we can see that Ward-Prowse ran the furthest, Rice was third and Fernandes was sixth. However, we also had Harry Kane coming in at eighth, Martin Odegaard at seventh, and Pascal Gross second. The only defenders on the list from last season were Kieran Trippier and Leicester’s Timothy Castagne, both full backs.

Unsurprisingly, players with more clearly defined roles tend to run the least. Goalkeepers (of course), centre backs and out-and-out strikers (Kane often operated in a deeper role for Spurs last term) will rarely deliver huge running stats. This is because they tend to have one job, either to attack or defend, and so spend far more time in one half than other players. Midfielders, in particular, and also full backs and other wide players, play a vital role in both attack and defence and this means they are required to cover more ground.

Who Has Run the Furthest in a PL Game?

James Milner
James Milner (Антон Зайцев, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikipedia)

Stats have not always been kept on this metric and so we cannot be 100% sure but it seems possible that the record was set in the current campaign. Tottenham’s Kulusevski ran a massive 13.36km in his side’s game against Everton in December 2023 and whilst James Milner is reported to have covered 13.56km for Man City in 2015, those stats were only recorded by EA Sports.

Sticking with the Spurs man, he played 90 minutes (excluding stoppage time) in that clash with the Toffees, so ran his kilometres at a pace of less than seven minutes each, or just under 11 minutes per mile. Any runners out there will know that is no great pace. However, the ball is in play for around 55 minutes on average, which means that pace improves to around four minutes and seven seconds per kilometre (although some distance is still covered whilst the ball is out of play).

How Much Do Players Sprint, Walk, Jog and Run in a Game?

As we have seen, top PL players cover around 11-12km in most games, and goalkeepers far less, shot-stoppers also rarely sprinting or even running. But what about outfield players, how much of their workload is done at high intensity? Once again, this varies by position, player and match, but in general we can say the following.

  • Standing still – players may stand still for as much as 3% of the game!
  • Walking – even outfield players might walk around 40% of the time
  • Jogging – typically slightly less than walking
  • Sprinting – generally no more than 15% of the game is spent at full tilt

Average Amount of Springs Per Player Per Game

In general, central defenders performed the fewest sprints, with stats from one paper showing the following:

  • Central defenders – around 11 sprints per game
  • Full backs – 18
  • Defensive midfielders – 19
  • Wide midfielders – 21
  • Attacking midfielders – 15
  • Centre forwards – 17