The Best in Europe
While we await another exciting round of Champion League fixtures, let us look at who’s dominating the European Big Leagues.
It was the perfect Valentine’s Day gift a soccer-loving Parisian could have asked for. Paris Saint-Germain 4–0 Barcelona. Messi and Co. were outclassed at the exact brand of soccer they had mastered. Up until then, pretty much ever soccer fanatic considered Barcelona, one of the world’s best teams, to be the tournament favorites. The game at Parc des Princes proved every one wrong. This got me thinking. A single night of soccer surely couldn’t discredit Barcelona’s achievements. But then, they had been beaten fair and square! So, which team can be called the best in Europe? Is it the current Champions League holders, Real Madrid? Is it the ever-dominating, German giants, Bayern Munich? Is it the free-scoring AS Monaco or Europe’s most consistent team, Chelsea?
The Champions League final is still a couple months away and a lot could happen between then and now in the world of soccer (but Manchester United will still remain 6th in the English Premier League). The quickest way to analyze the best teams in Europe would be to compare the leaders of the top 5 leagues in Europe, namely: England, Spain, Germany, Italy and France; and based on raw statistics, come to a conclusion.
Our competitors are, as of 5th March, 2017, the five best teams in Europe. Chelsea (England), Real Madrid (Spain), AS Monaco (France), Bayern Munich (Germany) and Juventus (Italy) will be fighting for ultimate supremacy in seven different categories (some offence, some defense).
For those unfamiliar with the rules of soccer, scoring goals is an important aspect to win a game. As per Squawka.com, AS Monaco lead the way when it comes to putting the ball in the back of the net, averaging almost 3 goals every game. This is mainly due to the resurrection in Radamel Falcao’s form, and the emergence of young Kylian Mbappe. Real Madrid are second with 2.68 goals per game this season followed by Bayern Munich (2.35). Chelsea and Juventus share the last spot having relied on stronger defenses with the lowest scoring average among these five teams with 2.12 goals per game.
With prolific midfield maestros like Thiago Alacantra at Bayern Munich, Eden Hazard at Chelsea, there are plenty of opportunities presented to players to score goals. Creation of chances exhibits skill and guile which is what separates a good team from a great team. Real Madrid are the most creative team with 13.84 goal scoring opportunities created every game. Bayern Munich are close behind with 13.3 followed by Juventus at 11.35 chances created every game. Chelsea finish fourth with 10.81 chances created. But what really surprises me is how good AS Monaco are at converting these chances. They create a meagre 9.85 chances every game but still are the leading goal scorers in Europe this season.
With every chance created, comes an opportunity to take a shot at the other team’s goal. Sometimes it may not even be an opportunity, but certain goal enthusiasts try lightening up crowds anyway by taking shots from outside the D or from impossible angles. But to be fair, there need to be shots, so that there can be goals. Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid take over 17 shots per game in hope to seal the three points. Bayern Munich, with all their fire power in Robert Lewandowski, Arjen Robben, Thomas Muller and Frank Ribery average about 16 shots every game. Juventus are third on the list with about 11 shots. Chelsea and AS Monaco are similar when attacking as they average about 10 shots per game.
If you’re not scoring a lot of goals, then not letting a lot in is the next best thing. The five have the most high profile names in soccer defending their goal and ensuring maximum points are obtained week in, week out. Bayern Munich are the most miserly team with an average of 0.57 goals conceded every game. This comes as no surprise since the Bayern Munich players have the honor of lining up with Manuel Neuer, arguably the world’s finest goalkeeper. Veteran Gigi Buffon and his Juventus side are a close second averaging 0.65 goals being let in every game. Chelsea’s 3-man defense has worked wonders under manager Antonio Conte which is why they have the best defense in the league and the third best in Europe’s top 5 shipping in only 0.73 goals per game. AS Monaco (0.93) and Real Madrid (1.06) take up the fourth and fifth places respectively.
The ability to read the opponents’ mind and preventing an attack before it reached the last line of defense is highly commendable. It is a trait not often witnessed in a player. Claudio Makelele was arguably the best holding midfielder of the previous few decades. Xabi Alonso, N’golo Kante and Ander Herrera are the ones carrying his mantle in the game today. Bayern Munich take the honors in this category with a whopping 19.09 interceptions per game; which is no surprise since the concede the least amount of goals. The other 4 teams are relatively similar intercepting around 14 passes every game.
“There is a greater chance of you scoring a goal when you’re in possession of the ball than when you’re not”. Quoting a profound analytical mind made me realize the truth in the simplicity of this statement. Barcelona redefined soccer with its tikki-takka brand of possession based game towards the end of the last decade. Managers still opt for possession based tactics only so that it gives them a greater probability of winning the game. Bayern Munich have become so dominant in their own league that they are amassing almost 700 passes every game. Very far behind in the second position is Juventus with about 520 passes per game and Chelsea occupy the third spot with 515. Real Madrid roll out about 500 passes. AS Monaco finish last with 424 passes per game on an average.
Soccer has so many dimensions to it that teams cannot be solely assessed through offensive abilities of defensive. There will always be a team better than another team. But come May, there will be team crowned as the best in Europe. Up until then, these statistics will be our guide and help us judge. So, who do you think is the best in Europe?
All statistics and data provided by squawka.com