There has been a noticeable change in soccer in the past couple of years– a lot more scoring is occurring. Instead of the 2-1 matches we’ve been used to in the past, the wins have now become more significant. A prime example is Liverpool’s 5-2 lead over Roma in the first leg of the semi-final. The 2017/2018 Champions League season has followed suit. It has become the highest-scoring season ever in the history’s league. It’s been goals galore. Out of the 123 games so far, 391 goals have been made, which is about 3.18 goals per game. So what’s caused this change?
Between 1992-2009, the Premier League saw an average of 2.7 goals per game in one season. Since 2010, the average has risen to more than 2.7. This can be accredited to a different style of play, specifically attack pressing. It’s not exactly a new tactic, but it’s one that managers have been using more frequently. In fact, it has been used since the 1970s; however, there’s a slight difference as to why the tactic is more effective now.
Modern players are more fit and perform at higher-intensities. The players operate at two extremes. The current algorithm is quick sprints followed by low-intensity play. This is completely opposite from how soccer players performed in the past. Those players functioned at a more steady pace, so when they pressed on the attack, it was not as severe as the ones we see today.
The Biggest Supporters
Liverpool is the most notorious user of the attack pressing tactic. Manager Jürgen Klopp is an avid believer in it, and his team’s standings demonstrate it’s success. Liverpool pushes it’s midfielders forward with the intention to win the ball further up the field, and once possession is won, to quickly send the ball out to the strikers. Opposing teams usually become overwhelmed and lose their formation in the process. This could explain why Liverpool’s James Milner leads the Champions League in assists.
Though the tactic is designed to make plays, there is a downside. Attack pressing does create more opportunity for scoring, but it also leaves a weak defensive line. With the majority of players pushing forward, a loss of possession in midfield could rapidly lead to an advantage for the other team.
Despite the growing use of this trend, not all managers have adapted it. Manchester United manager José Mourinho has his team play with a more defensive approach. Mourinho has been criticized for this because not only do people think he’s forgoing the full potential of his players’ skills, but the stats speak for themselves. Manchester United scored only 13 goals in the Champions League as opposed to Liverpool’s 38.