Key Takeaways from the Champions League: Premier League to PSG without Mbappé

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There are lots of surprises in a knockout competition. The New York Giants beat the New England Patriots not once, but twice, while Kentucky might lose to Saint Peter’s and Oakland. 

It shows how unexpected these kinds of events can be that Morocco can shock both Spain and Portugal in a row. In UEFA events, even the Premier League, which is known for being rich and winning a lot of soccer games, can lose. 

In the semifinals of the Champions League and Europa League, many English teams’ hopes were dashed, and their stories were very interesting. After Antonio Rüdiger’s important chance and a second loss to Real Madrid in three years, Manchester City’s dream of a “Double Treble” was over. 

At the same time, Liverpool’s hopes of sending Jurgen Klopp off with a unique treble—the League Cup, the Europa League, and the Premier League—were dashed when their comeback against Atalanta didn’t last long.

Arsenal’s ongoing resurgence persists, but their dreams of reaching the Champions League semifinals for the first time in 15 years were dashed once again in familiar territory: Munich. Meanwhile, West Ham’s defeat to Bayer Leverkusen added to England’s woes, leaving only Aston Villa’s dramatic comeback against Lille in the Europa Conference League to salvage some pride for the nation.

Elsewhere, Barcelona faltered against PSG, marking a loss of both their lead and composure. The Champions League semifinals feature Germany’s top two clubs for the first time in 11 years, while Bayer Leverkusen, despite their success against heavyweight opponents this season, remain formidable in the Europa League.

Despite the unpredictable nature of these competitions, we tend to rush into crafting narratives in the wake of intriguing outcomes. Some claim the Premier League is overrated, while others argue the Bundesliga is underrated. Yet, with a few days to reflect, let’s delve deeper into what we’ve truly gleaned from these exhilarating quarterfinal matches.

Money matters, but so does everything else

It’s almost a given, but worth reiterating: Despite their quarterfinal setbacks, the Premier League remains unquestionably the top league in Europe, and consequently, the world. With its unparalleled financial resources, depth, and overall squad value, it stands tall. 

Prior to this season, it boasted seven finalists in the last six editions of the Champions League. In UEFA’s latest benchmarking report, the combined revenue of the Premier League’s 20 clubs equals that of all 38 clubs in LaLiga and the Bundesliga, as well as all 642 clubs in the bottom 50 European countries combined.

It was somewhat reassuring to witness that a league’s financial dominance alone doesn’t guarantee success. Despite the Premier League’s immense depth, it hasn’t translated into significant European triumphs in recent seasons. 

While Manchester City and West Ham claimed victories in the Champions League and Europa Conference League respectively last spring, they were the sole English representatives to advance past the semifinals. Chelsea and Manchester United managed to reach only the quarterfinal stage. 

This season, Newcastle and Manchester United were the lone English teams to progress to the knockout rounds of the Champions League, both exiting in the quarterfinals.

Despite the Premier League’s financial superiority, it hasn’t been enough to overcome the unpredictability inherent in knockout tournaments. Arsenal’s Mikel Arteta was outmaneuvered by Bayern’s Thomas Tuchel, mirroring Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp’s defeat against Atalanta’s Gian Piero Gasperini. 

While it’s unlikely Liverpool would consider the 66-year-old Gasperini as Klopp’s replacement, the notion is intriguing nonetheless.

Manchester City, on the other hand, appeared to outclass Real Madrid over two legs, registering 45 shots to the Blancos’ 22 and creating 3.5 expected goals while conceding just 2.1. 

However, they struggled to convert their chances into high-quality opportunities and were unable to overcome Real Madrid’s decisive moments and a penalty shootout.

The Champions League quarterfinal outcomes did little to promote European parity. Despite the Premier League’s financial supremacy, this year’s semifinalists still boasted significant revenue rankings: first (Real Madrid), fourth (PSG), sixth (Bayern), and 12th (Borussia Dortmund) overall in 2023. Notably, PSG’s victory over Barcelona (third in revenue) was the lone quarterfinal upset, and even that was relatively minor.

The wealthiest league failed to yield the wealthiest results, leading to a dramatic shift in the coefficients race. In the upcoming expanded Champions League, two spots will be allocated to countries with the highest overall success in UEFA competitions. 

Italy has secured one spot due to impressive performances in the Europa League and Europa Conference League, with England initially favored for the other. However, following the quarterfinals, England’s chances plummeted to a mere 1%, while Germany soared to 99%. 

The unpredictability of the results was staggering. Although there’s a slim chance for the Premier League to reclaim its position if Aston Villa triumph in the Europa Conference League and Germany’s remaining entries falter, the odds are stacked against it. It seems unlikely that the world’s richest league will dominate the Champions League spots next season.

Real Madrid wins with quality over quantity (again)

Two years ago, Real Madrid beat Liverpool to win the Champions League, even though Liverpool had 244 shots on goal. It might look like Real Madrid always has good luck in the Champions League, but their success wasn’t just due to luck. 

Even though they had a lot more shots than the other team, they were able to create the most important scoring chances, which eventually turned the game in their favor. 

At the time, I said, “In soccer, a single, high-value scoring chance can have a big effect, especially in knockout games where both teams are very good and the stakes are high.” The xG numbers add up over time to show a bigger picture, but in the short term, it’s the big scoring chances that matter the most. 

Let’s look at the details of last week’s 1-1 draw between Madrid and City with this point of view in mind.

Shots: Manchester City 33, Real Madrid 8.

That’s pretty lopsided.

Shots worth at least 0.3 xG: Real Madrid 3, Manchester City 1.

Out of City’s 33 shot attempts, merely 10 were within 10 meters of the goal, with 24 registering an xG value of 0.08 or lower. Real Madrid strategically defended, limiting high-quality chances and challenging City to produce exceptional moments. 

While City showcased brilliance in past matches, including a remarkable 4-0 win over the Blancos, they struggled to replicate such feats against Madrid. 

Despite City’s technical prowess, Real Madrid’s ability to capitalize on key opportunities, coupled with their defensive resilience, secured their victory.

PSG is winning without (much from) Mbappé

At first glance, PSG’s recent Champions League quarterfinal victory may seem driven by their star player. However, a deeper analysis reveals a more nuanced picture.

Kylian Mbappé’s combined expected goals and assists (xG+xA) may top the charts, but his impact goes beyond mere statistics. While his penalty goal was crucial, a significant portion of his xG came from a penalty drawn by Dembele, and another sizable chunk came from just two touches. In contrast, other players like Dembele, Vitinha, Ruiz, and Barcola made substantial contributions throughout the matches.

This is particularly significant considering Mbappé’s likely departure from PSG after the season. With the club’s focus shifting to a younger, more balanced squad, Mbappé’s role becomes even more scrutinized. PSG’s recent acquisitions demonstrate a strategic shift towards nurturing young talent, a departure from their previous reliance on veteran players.

While PSG’s future spending remains uncertain, their recent roster building efforts have laid a solid foundation for sustained success beyond Mbappé’s tenure.

Thomas Tuchel would make an incredible West Ham manager

The Tuchel era at Bayern Munich promises to be an intriguing chapter, especially if they secure a Champions League victory. Tuchel’s tactical acumen is undeniable, having steered Borussia Dortmund to their highest post-Klopp Bundesliga points tally and led Chelsea to a Champions League triumph in 2021. 

However, his tenure at Bayern has been marked by clashes with club executives and a penchant for advocating the overpayment of Premier League stars. 

Despite Bayern’s impressive point total this season, largely attributed to the acquisition of Harry Kane, Tuchel will forever be associated with the end of the club’s 11-year Bundesliga title streak. With his departure agreed upon at the end of the season, Bayern’s performances have remained inconsistent. 

Nevertheless, Tuchel’s tactical prowess was evident in outmaneuvering Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal in the recent Champions League quarterfinal. Despite Arsenal’s dominance in possession, Bayern capitalized on transitions to create dangerous opportunities and emerged victorious with a 3-2 aggregate scoreline.

Tuchel is poised to secure another managerial role at a top club in the near future, as is customary for seasoned coaches. However, Bayern Munich’s success in the 2023-24 season has been defined by their prowess without possession.

When Bayern maintained possession rates below 60%, they garnered an impressive 2.73 points per game (PPG) in 15 matches. Conversely, matches where possession ranged between 60-70% yielded only 1.70 PPG in 23 games. Surprisingly, possession rates exceeding 70% resulted in a middling 2.50 PPG across six matches.

In Bundesliga encounters, opponents often resort to defensive tactics against Bayern, leading to challenges in breaking through defensive lines without exposing themselves to counterattacks. However, when Bayern’s opponents afford them space, they capitalize on it effectively.

Considering this, Tuchel’s potential fit at West Ham, especially if David Moyes departs, is intriguing. Tuchel’s tactical approach aligns with Moyes Ball principles, making him a suitable candidate to carry forward Moyes’ legacy.

Moreover, Bayern’s upcoming semifinal clash against Real Madrid promises to be enthralling. Both teams excel without possession, evidenced by Real Madrid’s remarkable record in matches where they cede the ball to opponents. 

The encounter will feature explosive transitions from the likes of Vinicius Jr. and Jude Bellingham, contrasting with the threat posed by Bayern’s Leroy Sané and Harry Kane in open space. Possession may not guarantee advantage in this highly anticipated matchup.

The last step in the Arsenal project: attacking good teams

Arsenal’s recent dominant victories over Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur, with a combined score of 8-2, left me wondering, “Where was this performance earlier?” These wins have reinvigorated their Premier League campaign, with Liverpool’s chances dwindling. 

According to Opta, Arsenal now holds a 35% title chance compared to Manchester City’s 65%, and they’ve surged to the top of the league with 85 Premier League goals this season, the highest tally. Their attacking brilliance is mesmerizing, yet it’s notable that most of their impressive displays come against weaker opposition.

On average, a 90.0 score in Opta’s power ratings places a team among Europe’s top 20. Below is a table of the top 20 teams with the best records this season against opponents rated 90 or higher at the time of the match. Essentially, these are the European teams that have excelled against the strongest opposition.

Arsenal’s ability to compete against top-tier opponents has kept them in the Premier League title race. In encounters with Manchester City and Liverpool, they’ve secured two wins and two draws out of four matches. However, beyond notable victories over Liverpool and Manchester United earlier in the season, their goal-scoring prowess has been lacking. 

They’ve managed only 11 goals in 13 other matches, often struggling to create quality scoring chances. While their defensive record remains solid, with just 14 goals conceded in these matches, their inability to capitalize on opportunities has been evident in disappointing performances. While Arteta’s emphasis on control has its advantages, ultimately, winning matches requires more than just caution.

Cups rule

Undoubtedly, your domestic league holds the utmost importance throughout the season. Spanning over nine months and involving more than 30 matches, it truly tests your team’s depth and consistency unlike shorter knockout competitions.

Yet, this year, domestic leagues have lacked tight title races. While the Premier League offers excitement with a three-way battle, Bayer Leverkusen and Inter Milan have already secured their league titles.

Similarly, PSG and Real Madrid enjoy comfortable leads in Ligue 1 and LaLiga, respectively. Cups, however, consistently deliver thrilling moments. UEFA competitions and domestic cups have provided wild plot twists, including memorable victories and Cinderella runs. Cups truly showcase the best of football, and they deserve even more recognition. 

Perhaps, domestic cup winners could be rewarded with spots in the Champions League qualification playoff, elevating the stakes and celebrating their achievements further.

Author: Md Afraz AlamI am a seasoned digital marketing professional and a dynamic news blogger. With a flair for engaging content, I craft insightful digital marketing blogs on www.techfee.com and cover a spectrum of news topics, including politics, Economy, Technology, Science, Weather, Travel, Health, Fitness, startups, investments, stocks, cryptocurrency, entertainment, and sports here on this news site.With an eye for detail and a passion for storytelling, I continue to captivate audiences with my diverse and compelling writing style.

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