Using the Wyscout database which feeds from over 270 competitions and 570,000 players globally, our expert team has studied data from Europe’s Top 5 leagues in the past 5 seasons, unveiling some interesting trends that could be a factor when approaching data for your football club.

Full of excellent teams with many different styles, the top five European leagues in the Premier League, LaLiga, Serie A, the Bundesliga and Ligue 1 have plenty of variety for their avid fans to enjoy, thus making it fascinating to see how they compare with one another using Wyscout football data over the last six seasons. 

Littered with aesthetically pleasing, highly technical and tactically sophisticated outfits, plus more functional, disciplined teams, there's certainly something for everyone in the elite divisions in European football. With much to unpack and discover, the findings below make for interesting reading.

1. Scoring

Upon using in-depth Wyscout data, it's intriguing to see how scoring first within the first 25 minutes gives the team who does so a far greater chance of not losing the game in the top 5 European leagues. Especially key in LaLiga, where 84% of times a side in the Spanish top flight opens the scoring early they don't lose the game (just in front of the Premier League who are at 82%).

Percentage of matches not lost when scoring in the first 25 minutes of the game

This is certainly a trend that dates back over the last six seasons, for La Liga topped this metric in 2020/2021 (85%), was second in 2019/2020 (81%), sat first in 2017/2018 (84%) and came in third in 2016/2017 (84%).

Considering LaLiga has recorded the lowest expected goals (XG) per match and the fewest goals per game in the previous three seasons, plus ranks lowest for shots per game in the last five campaigns among the big five, this further underlines why scoring first and early is crucial. Plus highlights why coaches and support staff are designing game plans and methodologies to maximise returns during this opening period of matches.

Average Expected Goals (xG) per game

Interestingly, the Bundesliga, Serie A and the Premier League came in the top three for XG per match, goals per game and shots per game last season, illustrating their overall attacking natures when compared to Ligue 1 and La Liga particularly.  To break things down further from last season, it warrants mention that the Bundesliga ranks first for goals per game and XG per match while Serie A tops the list for shots per game, underlining how offensively geared these leagues have become. 

Then looking at the EPL, and despite its obvious financial advantages, the Premier League comes in third in this trio of categories, with the all-around high quality in the league potentially bringing it down in these metrics.

Meanwhile, considering LaLiga and Ligue 1 rank last and second last respectively in all three graphics below that illustrate XG per match, goals per game and shots per game for last season, it’s clear to see their challenges in this area.

Average goals per game
Average shots per game

2. Set Pieces

When it comes to set pieces, there's no doubting what an integral aspect of today's game they've become. Diving deeper into the detailed numbers surrounding set pieces in the top five leagues that combines league average from corners, penalties and free kicks, it's Ligue 1 that comes out on top ahead of Serie A, the EPL, LaLiga and the Bundesliga.

Average number of goals scored from Set Pieces

Looking at corners specifically, it's fascinating to see Ligue 1's prowess here, for not only does it rank first for total shots arising from corners and league average XG from these situations, but it also comes in second for attempted corners behind the EPL, which enjoys an average of 15 more corners combined per game than any other league.

In some other corner categories, Ligue 1 and Serie A are joint first for shots from near post corners, EPL teams attempt the most and enjoy the most shots from deliveries to the far post and Serie A and the Bundesliga are tied for most shots from corners into the goalkeeper zone.

Set Piece data from corners - Wyscout 2021/22 Season Report

While short corners haven’t proved effective for any team in any league, it’s fascinating to see La Liga teams’ penalty area corners have produced the most shots and highest XG among the big five.

During the time of the data sample used in this report there has also been an increase in the investment teams have made in hiring specialist Set Piece coaches and football looks to borrow best practice concepts from other sports such as American Football and Rugby.

3. Game Tempo

While all of the big five leagues have increased their average match tempo over the last six seasons, Ligue 1, the Bundesliga and the Premier League are the clear standouts in the last two campaigns.

Average match tempo

Giving the fans some exciting, attacking football, it's also notable how this trio are in the bottom three for average fouls conceded, which clearly lends itself to an increased speed of game.

League average for fouls conceded

To shine the focus on LaLiga, and seeing as many teams like to dominate the ball, methodically build up in possession and strategically break down opponents such as Barcelona, Sevilla, Real Madrid, Real Sociedad, Villarreal and Celta Vigo, it's understandable why La Liga ranks last in the tempo stakes. 

Indeed, teams in Spain have long been admired for promoting the hiring of specific leaders of Methodology, where the role is primarily focused on centralizing the youth academy approach to style of play to produce players for first teams and in the best instances working between youth and senior teams to create synergies. 

This trend has spread across Europe including the top 5 leagues as it links to the football industries need to create sustainable business models.

Average team possession in the 2021/22 season

Moreover, seeing as LaLiga is the only league to have five teams average over 55% possession and four under 50%, whereas all the other leagues have less and more respectively in each category, this highlights the above.

The fact that the quickest leagues in Ligue 1, the Bundesliga and the EPL rank first, second and fourth for minutes afforded to to U21 players, highlights the impact younger players can have in speeding things up due to their energy levels being suited to the more fast paced, high octane teams in these leagues.

Average number of minutes played by U21 players

In the case of the medium and smaller teams of Ligue 1 and the Bundesliga, the focus on developing academy prospects is imperative as a result of their comparative lack of financial muscle, with their willingness to trust their youth often and therefore their need to use player trading as a key source of revenue. As the CIES Football Observatory highlight, France in particular is one of the highest exporters of players in the world with Germany considered second within the countries where the Top 5 European leagues operate.

Meanwhile, LaLiga ranks last in this compartment, for they've placed at the bottom of the pile for minutes granted to U21 players in each of the last three seasons. It is, however, worth stating that La Liga has long been admired for its structure to provide U21 players senior professional minutes via the B Team system. However, could this also be creating a limitation when it comes to these players being given an opportunity to perform in the highest level of Spanish football? 

More broadly, Spain leads the way in providing homegrown players professional minutes as highlighted in this blog by Hudl Partner, Training Ground Guru. La Liga has launched a 10 year ‘National Plan for the Optimisation and Improvement of Youth Academies’ formulated by all 42 La Liga clubs, both first and second division, rather than the league itself. Improving the pathway of young players into La Liga’s top division is an important aspect of this plan.

Further reading:

Percentage of minutes played by U21 local players - out of the total amount of minutes - vs U21 foreign players

4. The Quality Gap

The gap in quality between the bottom and the top sides in all of the top five leagues is a conundrum that will always prove difficult to solve due to the immense financial advantages the powerhouse clubs have over the rest.

Towering above their competitors in terms of budget, resources, player quality and strength in squad depth, it's little wonder it's so difficult for the medium-sized and smaller teams to sustain a challenge on the big teams for an entire season no matter what league it is.

While it's always terrific to witness a smaller team beat the elite outfits or embark on a purple patch of form, these teams usually struggle to sustain their high level throughout an entire season due to their lack of squad depth when injuries inevitably hit and their heavy reliance on their key players.

The below dashboard, displaying the difference between Expected Points (xPoints) and actual points among top 5 leagues in the 2021/2022 season, offers much insight too, with LaLiga on top ahead of the EPL, Serie A, Ligue 1 and the Bundesliga.

Teams' average Expected Points difference in the 2021/22 season

Turning our attention to the points differential between the first and last teams on the table in the big five, this offers a good insight into the gulf in class, with it especially apparent in the EPL.

Gap in points from top to bottom team in each league

Delving into the numbers regarding the gap between the fourth placed team and the third last teams in the top five leagues, it was the Bundesliga that had the smallest gap on 25 points behind Serie A (40), the EPL (36), LaLiga (31) and Ligue 1 (30).

Even though the gap in the Bundesliga isn't as severe as some, the case of Bayern Munich indicates the challenge the rest face. With Bayern ranking third for revenue among European football's biggest clubs on €611 million, behind only Manchester City and Real Madrid, it's little wonder why they're rarely troubled in their quest for domestic glory.

When compared to Germany's second biggest team, Borussia Dortmund, the differences in overall revenue (€611m to €338m), operating income (€86m to €17m), broadcasting income (€1B to €592m) and commercial earnings (€1.2B to €395) aptly punctuates Bayern's tremendous financial position (as per Forbes).

Even though bridging the gap between the heavy hitters and the rest looks set to continue to be a problem, at least in a game like football things like smart analysis, shrewd recruitment and intelligent tactics by the smaller teams can serve as a real leveler even if the best teams finish in high league positions over the course of an entire season.

5. Loanees

In terms of loan dealings, Serie A are streets ahead of the rest, for they top the list for players sent out and players brought in.

Indeed, the use of loans in Italian football has been an integral component for many clubs not only so they can develop their own youngsters and help clubs bolster their squads, but also to strategically stockpile talent before selling them if they decide they don't want to keep them after their loans away.

Players loaned out

Masters at bringing players to either use for themselves or send them out to gain experience and subsequently increase their value, Atalanta have used the system particularly shrewdly. Indeed, the fact they had 63 players out on loan last season, 32 of which were aged 21 or under, demonstrates how invested they are in this approach.

Despite the plethora of overseas players plying their trade in Serie A, it's not that common for Italian footballers to leave for pastures now, with internal loans often preferred. Very comfortable within the familiar confines of Italy, many feel staying in a stable environment is best for their careers, as opposed to venturing abroad, where they need to adjust to a new language, different culture, switch in diet and being away from family and friends.

Players loaned in

The likes of Parma and Genoa have also deployed this loan method in the past. But with the introduction of new rules on the horizon, things look set to change.


FIFA loan rules

With FIFA having just introduced new loan regulations that came into force on the 1st of July that state clubs can only loan in eight and send out eight foreign players, this will mean many sides will have to review their loan strategies. Some teams that this could hinder most could be newly promoted Girona, who are part owned by the City Football Group, and have regularly benefitted from Manchester City sending them their youngsters on loan, plus Chelsea and Atalanta, who are both renowned for sending a plethora of players out on loan year in, year out.

It’s worth mentioning that players that are aged 21 and younger club-trained players will be exempt from these limitations, which of course provides an insight into where clubs are most likely to focus their efforts in the future when it comes to their loan strategy. This does provide a great challenge though, as highlighted in FIFA’s global report into youth football (published May 2021), whereby it is younger aged players that find it hardest to earn senior professional minutes.

These new rules aim to develop young players, promote competitive balance and prevent the retention of players in large numbers at a single club that could potentially be playing professional minutes elsewhere. This will certainly be a key talking point in the coming years.

Conclusion

With so much food for thought to be extracted from this report, it’s clear why the top five leagues, which contain some of the best teams and players, are streets ahead of the rest. 

Like all leagues globally, there is, however, still room for improvement, with the gap in quality between the top and the bottom teams and the pressure this puts on commercial revenue streams needed to secure investment and raise standards being one thing that particularly needs addressing despite this being an extremely difficult issue to combat.

Other conundrums arise in the form of getting more minutes into players into U21 players, speeding up the tempo in certain leagues and dealing with the new loan regulations FIFA have introduced.

The challenge ahead will now be implementing strategies to improve these areas where possible, which if done right, can propel the top five leagues to another level and make them an even greater source of enjoyment and entertainment than what they currently are today.

Here at Hudl we look forward to continuing our long history of support for professional teams across men's, women's, youth and senior football. Helping teams ‘give every athlete the shot they deserve’.


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