Tuesday 27 October 2020 2:07 pm

Champions League trends in six charts: Goals, possession, set-pieces and most effective goalkeepers and forwards

How many goals per game do you get in the Champions League? How are those goals being scored? And is it all changing?

Uefa’s technical report on last season’s Champions League answers all those questions and more.

It’s a goldmine of insights that reveals how football is subtly shifting at the very highest level.

The report is compiled using observations from leading coaches including England manager Gareth Southgate and Belgium’s former Everton boss Roberto Martinez.

But the raw numbers alone reveal some fascinating trends playing out in the Champions League.

More goals than ever

The rate of goals per game in the Champions League hit a new peak last season of 3.24.

As a metric, the figure has been steadily rising since the competition’s current format was introduced in 2003-04.

And it was not the only measurement to illustrate the increase in action.

Goalless draws were at a record low level, while the group stage saw a record high number goals.

More emphatic wins

Last season’s 11 wins by a margin of four goals or more was short of 2014-15 peak, but the general trend continued.

As the graph below shows, emphatic victories have become far more regular in the Champions League over the last decade.

In only one campaign from 2003-04 to 2009-10 was there more than six wins by four or more goals.

But in the last 10 years, only once has that number fallen below six and, mostly, it has remained in double figures.

This statistic would seem to support claims that football is polarising, with the biggest teams getting ever stronger.

More possession before goals

The amount of time a team has the ball for before scoring has been broadly trending upwards for a decade.

But it peaked last season, while the number of passes leading up to a goal followed a similar trajectory.

These numbers indicate a slowing of counter-attacks, as exemplified by a Liverpool team known for their rapid transitions.

Liverpool’s 12.8 seconds in possession and 4.6 passes before scoring in 2019-20 were up markedly on 7.6 and 2.6 in 2017-18.

Fewer set-piece goals

For a third year running, goals from set-pieces fell in the Champions League last season.

From making up 19 per cent of goals in 2016-17, that figure fell to just 12 per cent.

Only one goal of the 386 scored in the competition came from a direct free-kick going straight in.

That was an effort by Juventus forward Paulo Dybala against Atletico Madrid.

Best goalkeepers for stopping goals

Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana proved the best in the Champions League last season for preventing likely goals.

The ‘goals prevented’ metric compares the expected goals rating (xG) of shots faced with the number actually conceded.

Onana topped the charts for the second year in succession, ahead of Barcelona’s Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Galatasaray’s Fernando Muslera was the least familiar name in the top five, which did not feature Bayern’s Manuel Neuer.

Most clinical forwards

Robert Lewandowski top scored in last season’s Champions League with 15 goals, but it was a Bayern team-mate who was more clinical.

Lewandowski’s 15 came from an expected goals rating (xG) of 14.75, meaning he scored fractionally above what was statistically likely.

But Serge Gnabry’s nine strikes were from an expected goals of just 3.73, meaning he outperformed xG by more than 5 goals.

PlayerxGGoals scored
Lewandowski (Bayern)14.7515
Haaland (Dortmund)7.210
Gnabry (Bayern)3.739
Sterling (Man City)6.666
Kane (Tottenham)4.776
Mertens (Napoli)3.736
Mbappe (PSG)8.195

Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Haaland, Tottenham’s Harry Kane and Napoli’s Dries Mertens also noticeably out-performed their xG.

But Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe was a surprise under-achiever, scoring five goals from an xG of 8.19.

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