Home → Elite → Football → Performance Analysis Football Wyscout Performance Analysis Hudl’s Analysis of Europe’s Top Women’s Leagues 19 Jul, 2023 11 Min Read By Tom Robinson Using Wyscout data, we analyze what insights can be gained from benchmarking the top women’s leagues in Europe. With Europe’s leagues wrapped up for the season, it provides the perfect opportunity to analyze the status quo of the top level of women’s football. In England, Chelsea secured a fourth-consecutive title as attendances almost trebled in the WSL. Barcelona underlined their superiority domestically and continentally, while Bayern and Wolfsburg duked it out at the top of the Frauen-Bundesliga in Germany. Meanwhile, Lyon reasserted their dominance in France's Division 1 Feminine and there was a first year of professionalism in Italy with a first Serie A Femminile title for rising force Roma. Using the Wyscout database, which feeds from over 500 competitions and 600,000 players globally, our expert team has studied data from Europe’s top women’s leagues over the past 5 seasons, unveiling some interesting trends that could be a factor when approaching data for your football club or organization. Data benchmarking allows teams and federations to compare and contrast against elite outfits to gain insights into best practice, informing decision making for leaders, coaches, developers and recruiters. So, without further ado, let’s dive into the findings. Average Age The first thing that jumps out when looking at the leagues’ change in average age over time, is the pattern of each of the competitions getting progressively younger. Whether that be due to increased player pathways, the fruits of a more established development infrastructure or a response to the increased physical demand, it is a clear trend across the various national contexts. We also see that the German Frauen-Bundesliga ranks as the youngest league, with an average age of 24.63, suggesting that they may be the most willing to trust in youth. It also could provide recruiters with a hint as to where to find the next young star. Looking at the specific club examples from the 2022/23 season, French side Reims are the squad with the youngest average age at 22.6, with players like Magou Doucoure (22), Melchie Dumornay (19) and Kessya Bussy (22) all playing key roles. Other notable examples are SGS Essen - consistently one of the youngest sides in Germany - with an average age of 22.8 and Real Sociedad in Spain with 23.6. When looking at the most successful clubs, there appears to be a tendency of posting above the league average age. Analyzing the league champions from 2022/23, we see that Barcelona (26.8), Chelsea (27.1), Lyon (27.3), Bayern (25.9) and Roma (26.7) are all slightly above their league average, perhaps due to the fact they are able to draw on the quality of more experienced stars. Diving deeper into the make-up of Barcelona’s squad, we can see if it provides further insight into the state of their squad. Data and statistics can be useful in terms of squad planning and building - such as with Wyscout’s Shadow Teams tool - allowing you to establish which positions might need reinforcement in the near future.We can see that Barcelona have a good mix of experience, players in their prime and young prospects ready to step up and play a bigger role. The majority of Barcelona players playing most minutes are in the traditional 'peak years' and there are a whole host of young players waiting in the wings, all pointing to a very healthy squad balance and one that is not in need of major renovation any time soon. Goals Using data from Wyscout, we can see the trends in goalscoring over the last five seasons in the top women’s leagues by looking at the average goals per game. All the leagues average above a healthy three goals a game and there haven’t been too many fluctuations over time. The WSL is the league with the most notable rise in goalscoring, from 3.05 up to 3.33, with Serie A posting a comparable 3.32 goals per game in the most recent 2022/23 season. Spain's Liga F has seen a slight rise too, but has typically been lower than other European leagues. France and Germany have both seen drops in their goals per game, which could also suggest that defences are improving, rather than an issue with how attacking the football is. Despite the decline, Germany still ranks as one of the highest scoring leagues with 3.23 goals per game, having started at a significantly higher 3.92 compared to the rest of Europe. The difference between the goals scored from those at the top and bottom of each league can also give us insights into the quality gap and competitiveness of each competition. The Liga F has a noticeable difference but this is largely due to the fact it is a larger league, with more games played and a wider range of clubs, and the presence of high-scoring Barcelona who have averaged over 100 goals a season. If we take out the top and bottom sides in Liga F, then we get a goal difference of just 45 and a points difference of 54 between second and second last - bringing it in line with the rest of Europe. The league average of shots per 90 is another metric which can provide more information on attacking tendencies too. Since 2019/20, almost every league has experienced a decline in shots per game, with Italy being the one exception. However, making the assumption that as a result teams are less attacking could be premature. Given that goals per game has stayed relatively stable - and in some cases gone up - it could suggest that teams are taking fewer shots but are becoming better, more efficient finishers or being more selective with their choice of shot. Italy is an interesting anomaly, having gone from having the lowest shots per 90 (10.54) to the highest (12.4) in this time period. This could be down to being at a different stage of the league’s development compared to some of the more established European competitions or simply suggest that a more attacking style is espoused. Serie A champions Roma are a case in point. In 2022/23, Le Giallorosse were the side with the second highest average of shots per 90 taken (20.59) across Europe’s top divisions and four out of five of the highest shot takers in Italy came from Roma. What’s more, they weren’t afraid to try their luck from distance, with 15 goals from outside the area - accounting for 22.1% of their league goals - and they were the side who attempted most shots from outside the area (264) in all of Europe’s top leagues. Set pieces Set pieces are increasingly becoming an area where teams can find marginal gains through data and video. Analyzing the 2022/23 season, we can see that Wolfsburg top the charts in terms of maximizing goal return from set pieces, with a third of their league goals coming from this source.There are also a number of teams from outside the established elite, punching above their weight in this area. The likes of Fleury 91 and Hoffenheim have much smaller resources but both achieved fourth place finishes in their respective leagues, helped in no small part by their goal-scoring return from set pieces. Using tools such as Wyscout’s Set Pieces, which allows you to analyze dead ball situations of your team and your opponents, the analysis of these game phases can help clubs gain the edge over their rivals. On the ball In general terms, more possession is often linked with a greater likelihood of positive results, as teams with more of the ball tend to generate more offensive actions and restrict their opponents from creating chances. Research has shown that once teams pass the threshold of 57% possession, the chances of victory significantly increases. In the image below, we see a general correlation between teams dominating the ball and on-field success. Many of the top women’s clubs in Europe achieve around 60% possession, but it isn’t as simple as the team with most possession ensuring the best position - as demonstrated by Chelsea, who topped the WSL but had the third highest possession in the league. Having said that, possession for possession’s sake can lead to sterile domination. It is also important to look at other ways of measuring and judging how a team is using the ball. Passing rate measures how many passes are made per minute of possession, with higher figures suggesting that teams move the ball more quickly. This can lead to a more dynamic style of play and means that the opposition defence has to adjust more regularly, increasing the likelihood of spaces to attack being created. We can see that over the last four seasons, most of the leagues have slightly increased their passing rate, suggesting a faster paced game and increased technique. The WSL tops Europe with a passing rate of 13.12, while the Liga F consistently posts a lower passing rate, hinting at a slower, more patient build up. By comparing these figures to match tempo from the 22/23 season, we see a clear link with the WSL once again topping Europe for the highest tempo (16.3) and Liga F the lowest (14.7). Teams are increasingly looking to develop distinct playing styles, which can be implemented at academy level to create a club identity and improve pathways to the first team, and factors such as tempo, passing rate and possession levels are key areas which decision makers look to. Turnovers Transitions are crucial moments in modern football and, as the women’s game develops further, it is interesting to consider off-the-ball metrics too. Looking at the average for recoveries per 90 from the 2022/23 season across the top women’s leagues in Europe, we see that Germany and France average the most, recording 88.25 and 87.11 per 90 respectively. This could suggest that there is a more aggressive, intense style of football with typically more turnovers in possession. Emblematic of this trend is the fact that two of the clubs that post the highest average number of recoveries were Paris FC, with 110.68 per 90, and Eintracht Frankfurt, with 98.60 per 90. Both have made this part of their style of play and have reaped the rewards with third place finishes last season. Where on the pitch these recoveries are happening can often be as enlightening as the total numbers. Although there are typically less recoveries in a game in England or Spain, a higher percentage of recoveries made are in the final third. This tells us that WSL and Liga F clubs are targeting winning the ball higher up the field than their European counterparts, as this gives teams a better chance of converting that into a goal. This is also a pattern among the top clubs across Europe posting above average recoveries in the final third, such as Barcelona (18.08 per 90, 21% of their total recoveries), Lyon (22.20 per 90, 22% of their total recoveries) and Chelsea (17.73 per 90, 22% of their total recoveries). This is in part due to the fact they tend to spend more time in their opposition’s third, but also points to a deliberate tactic in how top teams look to recover the ball. Perhaps the most extreme examples of this are found in Bayern Munich and Manchester City. Bayern rank bottom of the Frauen-Bundesliga for recoveries (81.78 per 90) but highest in terms of percentage of recoveries in the final third (20%), while Manchester City are second bottom for recoveries (78.68 per 90) in the WSL but highest for the final third (18.87 per 90), suggesting an absolute focus on a high-pressing approach. Another measure of the off-the-ball aggression is challenge intensity, which tells us how many defensive actions (duels, tackles and interceptions) a team is making per minute of the opponent’s possession. Across Europe we can see there has been a slight decrease in challenge intensity over the past 5 seasons. The French D1 Feminine ranks as the highest over this period of time, with a 6.78 score for the 22/23 season remaining top of the five leagues, suggesting that teams in this division tend to be more intense in their challenges. Intrinsically linked to challenge intensity is PPDA, which stands for passes per defensive action, and is a metric to quantify high press intensity. Broadly speaking, it counts the number of passes an opponent makes before a defensive action is made and only events in the final 60% of the field are taken into consideration. The lower the PPDA, the better a team is in executing a high press. By looking at the past five seasons, we can see that all the leagues have slightly lowered their PPDA in that period - albeit with some fluctuations along the way - suggesting an increased propensity and ability to press in the final third. The spike in PPDA in the WSL and Division 1 Feminine in 2020/21 is an interesting outlier but could potentially be explained as a response to COVID, with teams not at the peak physical conditions through disruptions to training schedules and player availability. It must be noted that a higher PPDA score doesn’t necessarily mean teams don’t press well, as they may be choosing to press a different area of the pitch or a specific player. Conclusion By benchmarking the top women’s leagues in Europe using Wyscout data, we have been able to analyze some interesting trends and patterns that can help teams measure themselves against and consider when looking to build a style of play and identity for their club. Across Europe we have seen a tendency of lowering average squad ages and the importance of squad planning and future-proofing, while the top teams usually espouse possession-based styles with a focus on winning the ball higher up the field. We have also seen how set pieces are important in terms of goal-scoring, particularly for those smaller teams looking for an advantage, as well as seeing the different approaches from leagues when it comes to metrics such as tempo, shooting and challenge intensity. The challenge now is to continue to improve and develop women’s leagues around the world and, by leveraging data and video offered by Hudl, players, teams and organizations will be able to take their game to the next level. Learn more about how elite teams in global football use performance analysis in our High Performance Workflows Series. If you want to learn more about Wyscout Data & API, get in touch! Start your 15-days Wyscout free trial now.