Now that the 2014-15 campaign is well and truly underway in most of Europe’s major leagues, it’s time to look back at how Bayern Munich, Juventus, Atletico Madrid, Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain conquered their respective countries last season.
There’s no denying that all of these five reigning champions have a seemingly unlimited supply of individual talents, but the same can be said about many of their domestic rivals. How exactly did they finish top of their leagues, then?
The key to success in Bundesliga was not the presence of individual quality, but the ability to retain possession instead, with Bayern holding off all their title rivals with ease.
The Bavarians’ possession-figure of 71.2 per cent over 2013-14 is a remarkable 17.2% higher than the runner-up in the German possession ranking, Borussia Monchengladbach. Bundesliga runners-up Dortmund's 53.8% possession showcased the side’s preference for a counterattacking style.
In Italy, Juventus were outdone offensively by a number of teams, yet they excelled in defence to emerge victorious in the end. They might not have been able to produce as many shots per game as AC Milan or complete as many dribbles as Inter, but they conceded fewer goals per game than any other team in Serie A.
Juve conceded just 23 goals in 38 games last term, an average of 0.61 per match, with only Roma’s average of 0.66 anywhere near the titleholders.
Despite the presence of world-class attackers such as Lionel Messi, Neymar, Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale at Barcelona and Real Madrid, Atletico finished top of La Liga and it was their tough defending that won them the title last season rather than individual brilliance.
Their average of 24.6 tackles per game is the highest of all Spanish clubs, with only Athletic Bilbao being able to keep close with 23.7 tackles. Barcelona and Real Madrid, meanwhile, are not even among the top five tacklers in La Liga with 20.5 and 19.8 tackles per game respectively.
Over in the Premier League, it was not Manchester City’s prolific attack that made the difference in 2013-14, irrespective of the presence of stars such as Edin Dzeko, Alvaro Negredo, Stevan Jovetic and Sergio Aguero, yet their strength in defence as they conceded just 9.5 shots per game.
Their biggest title rivals Liverpool, for example, had to deal with 12.8 shots on average each game.
Finally, it was Paris Saint-Germain’s incredible passing accuracy that made the difference for Laurent Blanc’s men in Ligue 1. PSG players found a team-mate with 88.8% of the passes they attempted, whereas rivals Monaco had to settle for a passing accuracy of 82.8%.
Want to keep track of all the key statistics in Europe’s top five leagues? Keep an eye out for the Huawei Team Ranking, due to be launched in the first week of September.