Friday , September 30 2022

UEFA Technical Observers review 2021/22 season!

Good crossing, ball-playing defenders, high pressing and five up front – these were just some of the key trends that shaped last season’s UEFA Champions League, UEFA Women’s Champions League and UEFA Europa League.

Covering over 180 matches across last season’s UEFA Champions League, UEFA Women’s Champions League and UEFA Europa League, 41 technical observers gave their input to review the key trends that shaped the respective competitions.

UEFA Champions League

The UEFA Technical Observers’ review of the 2021/22 UEFA Champions League season focuses on the rise of the five-man back line, and the fluid five-strong attack they are designed to counter.

Read the full technical report here

Five at the back … and the front too

“Often we speak about tactical systems and very often we forget that a defensive system with a very different behaviour has a completely different effect.” This quote by Roberto Martínez, the Belgium national coach and UEFA match observer, features in an analysis of three and five-man defences in last season’s UEFA Champions League that is found in the newly published technical report of the 2021/22 competition.

Martínez’s words are pertinent for highlighting how a formation can mean many things, depending on how it is applied. While the most common formations in 2021/22 were 1-4-3-3, 1-4-2-3-1 and 1-4-4-2, 17 of the teams involved from the group stage onwards started at least one match with a back three or five – and coaches took varying approaches.

UEFA Women’s Champions League

The UEFA Technical Observers’ review of the 2021/22 UEFA Women’s Champions League season highlights areas like high pressing and full-back deployment.

Read the full technical report here

Press for success

This was the first UEFA Women’s Champions League season with a full group stage and the Technical Observer team were keen to highlight how else the competition had developed. In 2018 the report noted how few teams successfully operated a high press but all that has changed in the space of four years.

Five clubs – Chelsea, Barcelona, Lyon, Bayern München and Real Madrid – allowed opponents 10.0 or fewer passes per defensive action before regaining the ball, perhaps linked to the rapid rise in athletic conditioning, with a 10% rise in high-intensity running (sprints of over 23km/h) in possession between 2020 and 2021, and a 30% increase out of possession.

The two most effective teams in this account were Lyon and Barcelona, who both scored nine goals over the season from ball recoveries in their attacking third. They of course reached the final and in he notes on that game, Republic of Ireland coach Vera Pauw noted: “Lyon tackled and battled for the ball with a high forward press and made immediate transitions to attack after winning possession. It resulted in Barcelona not being able to start the game in the way they would have wanted.”

UEFA Europa League

The UEFA Technical Observers’ review of the 2021/22 UEFA Europa League season has discovered that good crossing and ball-playing defenders are increasingly key elements to success.

Read the full technical report here

Crosses make a comeback

One of the main takeaways from the 2021/22 UEFA Europa League season was how well width was being exploited, with attacking wing play one of the most productive avenues to goal: 138 goals (37.7%) came from crosses (98 from open play).

The final was a prime example, with a collection of the competition’s best crossers all on the same pitch. Frankfurt’s Filip Kostić and Rangers full-backs Borna Barišić and James Tavernier turned the art of crossing into one of the key features of the entire 2021/22 campaign, and their success suggests it is a development which will stick. “The game is going more and more to fast transitions and we will see more of these, getting the ball into the box quick and low,” mused Technical Observer Mixu Paatelainen. “These crosses will lead to a lot of goals.”

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