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How aggressive is your football? From Bolivia to Japan

Issue number 284 of the CIES Football Observatory Weekly Post ranks 92 top divisions worldwide according to the average number of cards (yellow and red) per game during the current or the last completed one. The figures range from 2.3 in Japan up to 7.0 in Bolivia. Within Europe, the extreme values were recorded in Norway (3.1) and Ukraine (6.2).

The study reveals great geographical differences in aggressiveness put in the game. Eight out of the ten leagues with the most cards are from Latin America: Bolivia, Uruguay, Guatemala, El Salvador, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Argentina. At the opposite end, three of the five leagues with the least cards are from Asia: Japan, Vietnam and South Korea.

The values for the five major European leagues vary between 3.7 cards per game in the English Premier League and 5.8 in the Italian Serie A. Per club, the figures vary between 1.0 for Borussia Dortmund and 3.7 for Bologna, while at worldwide level they range between 0.8 for FC Tokyo and 4.0 for Montevideo Wanderers.

Technical report on the Major League Soccer

The renewal of the fruitful collaboration with OptaPro has allowed the CIES Football Observatory to innovate by developing its first ever technical report on a non-European competition: the Major League Soccer (MLS) of the United States and Canada. The 52nd Monthly Report compares the style of play of the MLS with that of the five major European leagues.

The style of football played in the MLS differs from that of the big-5 in two principal aspects: the pressing on opponents and the aerial game. The average number of duels per match recorded in the MLS is lower than that observed in each of the five major European leagues. This reflects the lesser pressure applied by players on whoever has possession. Consequently, MLS teams have the opportunity to take more shots.

Partly due to the lesser pressure on the player who has possession, the MLS footballers privilege the passing game on the ground. This is reflected in a much lower number of aerial duels: -14% in comparison to the big-5 and -25% in comparison to the English Premier League. The MLS teams also carry out fewer crosses than clubs in any of the five major European leagues.

While the Major League Soccer has already undergone significant development over the past decade, the enthusiasm for soccer in the United States, with the organisation of the FIFA World Cup in focus, will allow the competition to grow further, both economically and sportingly. MLS teams will thus be able to attract more top talents from abroad.

The challenge will also be to develop better footballers on site and retaining them for longer. While some of them will continue to join the best performing European clubs, the eventual improvement of the training system will strengthen the US national team, with very positive fallout for the MLS development and the popularity of soccer across the nation at large. Go to the Report.

From Chelsea to Real Madrid: net transfer spending

Issue number 283 of the CIES Football Observatory Weekly Post presents the financial balance for transfers carried out by clubs worldwide during the last two transfer windows. Real Madrid recorded the most negative balance (- €181 million) ahead of Aston Villa (- €169 m) and Barcelona (- €166 m). At the opposite end of the table are Chelsea (+ €205 m), Benfica (+ €167) and Ajax (+ €137 m).

The seven fee paying transfers concluded by Real Madrid during the summer 2019 and winter 2020 transfer windows had a total estimated cost of €330 m (add-ons included). During the same period, the incomes generated by the Spanish team for the release of seven other players were €149 m. On its side, Chelsea earned €250 by transferring 16 footballers, while it only spent €45 m to reinforce its squad (Mateo Kovačić).

At the level of the five major European leagues, the net balance for transfer operations range from - €844 million for the English Premier League and + €106 m for the French Ligue 1. Negative balances were also recorded in the Spanish Liga (- € 418 m), the Italian Serie A (- € 407 m) and the German Bundesliga (- € 263 m).

Most fielded youngsters: Kulusevski tops the list

Issue number 282 of the CIES Football Observatory Weekly Post presents the list of players born in the 2000s who played the highest percentage of domestic league minutes during current season. Dejan Kulusevski (Parma, on loan from Juventus) tops the table for the big-5 league players ahead of Sandro Tonali (Brescia), Max Aarons (Norwich) and the 17-year-old French talent Eduardo Camavinga (Stade Rennais).

Conor Gallagher (Swansea, on loan from Chelsea) heads the rankings for the second divisions of big-5 league countries. The Spanish prodigy Pedri (Las Palmas) is fourth. Born in 2002, the attacking midfielder has already signed a long-term contract for FC Barcelona. At 19th position is a player born in 2003: Jude Bellingham (Birmingham City). The English midfielder already scored four goals in the Championship.

The Dutchman Sven Botman is at the top of the rankings for players from the other top divisions taken into account. The centre back loaned by Ajax to Heerenveen outranks the Brazilian midfielder Gustavo Assunção (Famalicão) and three very young talents: the Czech forward Adam Hložek (2002, Sparta Prague), the Australian midfielder Louis D’Arrigo (2001, Adelaide) and the Swiss defender Leonidas Stergiou (2002, St-Gall).

Efficiency rankings in 31 European leagues

Issue number 281 of the CIES Football Observatory Weekly Post compares points achieved by teams from 31 European leagues with points expected according to a statistical model taking into account ball possession, as well as the number and distance of both shots taken and conceded as per InStat data. The analysis highlights the great efficiency of clubs such as Benfica (+0.71 points per match), Liverpool (+0.66), Juventus (+0.64), Schalke 04 (+0.57) and Valencia (+0.55).

The pitch production of Benfica should have allowed them to achieve 2.11 points per match compared to 2.82 in reality. The greatest positive gap out of the 496 clubs from the 31 leagues surveyed was recorded for Astra Giurgiu (+0.85). The Romanian side obtained almost two points per match despite having conceded more shots than those taken and having had only about 45% of ball possession. The same holds true for Turkish league leader Sivaspor (+0.73).

The greatest negative gap overall was registered for Heart of Midlothian: 0.62 points achieved compared to 1.39 expected (-0.77). Champions League round of 16 participants Atalanta (-0.71) and Napoli (-0.61) were also particularly inefficient with respect to their pitch production. Manchester City (-0.36) and Chelsea (-0.33) are at the bottom of the Premier League efficiency rankings. More exclusive InStat data is accessible in the CIES Football Observatory Performance Atlas.

Liverpool FC also are European fair play champions

Issue number 280 of the CIES Football Observatory Weekly Post ranks teams from 35 European domestic leagues according to their number of fouls per game as per InStat data. Champions League titleholders Liverpool FC committed the least fouls per match so far this season (8.1). This is partially related to the less strict refereeing style in the English Premier League: 20.4 fouls whistled per game compared to an average of 27.2 in the 35 competitions surveyed.

Eight Premier League teams are in the top 18 positions of the rankings: Liverpool, Newcastle, Bournemouth, Leicester, Chelsea, Norwich, Tottenham and Manchester City. If we relate fouls committed to the average measured at league level, Hamburger SV heads the table (-32% of fouls with respect to rivals), ahead of Slovan Bratislava (-29%) and Shakhtar Donetsk (-27%). Vojvodina made the most fouls per match overall (22.9), while Zlaté Moravce committed the most compared to league rivals (+38%).

Per league, the lowest average number of fouls per game whistled by referees was recorded in the English Premier League (20.4), the Danish Superliga (21.0) and the Dutch Eredivisie (21.6). At the opposite end of the table are the top divisions of six Eastern European countries: Serbia (34.9), Bulgaria (31.6), Czech Republic (31.4), Romania (31.0), Poland (30.9) and Ukraine (30.5). For more exclusive analysis, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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