The secrets of a Champions League winner
Uefa’s Technical Report on the Champions League season 08/09 reveals what’s needed to win Europe’s most prestigious trophy. The report is 24 pages long, but we’ll try pick out the best stats, facts, trends and innovations which is believed to be a must for a top European side.
Speed: The first requirement noted down is simply speed. Many abilities are required, such as speed endurance and sprinting ability, but most importantly things like fast combinations, reaction time and swift solutions in front of goal are what they believe is a must for a team gunning for glory. An interesting quote noted down is by Bayern Munich’s Mark van Bommel after Barcelona had just beaten them. “With Barça’s combination of speed and skill, we couldn’t get close to them.”
Squad Depth: It helps to have depth in your squad. With the amount of matches in modern day football, players will be forced to be rotated or some could miss games due to injury. One intriguing fact from last year’s Champions League season is that clubs fielded an average of 21.2 players, (nearly enough to make two teams) with a total of 678 players from 32 clubs.
The Lone Striker: There is a new trend nowadays to play just the single striker. UEFA believe that the twin-striker partnerships have now been reduced, and the classic centre forward is almost ‘extinct’. 4-3-3 was a popular choice for most managers, with two wingers, which Manchester United had done last year, and other teams use the 4-2-3-1 system. Teams that may use the 4-4-2 may adopt it to become a 4-3-3 such as Inter Milan.
STAT: The 61-75 minute was the most prolific goalscoring period last year.
Spreading the Workload: Manchester United and champions Barcelona were the best at doing this. A lot of work done by wide players is key, and you do get the occasional switch between the wingers and the forwards. This is to spread the workload. Park, Ronaldo and Rooney had done this often for Man Utd and for Barca, Lionel Messi and Thierry Henry were also successful in doing this.
The Importance of Possession: Why were Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona so good? They had the players to keep possession, a mammoth 62% of it while United managed 55%, which is still very good. When both these teams played in the final, the Catalan giants managed 53% to United’s 47 per cent. And here’s a remarkable fact: The passing success rate of midfield duo Xavi and Andres Iniesta was an astonishing 93 per cent and 86 per cent respectively.
Source: Uefa Champions League Technical Report 2008-09