The trickle of signals that announced the advance of the Premier to the Spanish LaLiga as the dominant competition of European football became effective. On Wednesday, with the elimination of Atlético by Chelsea, England went on to lead the UEFA ranking of clubs that dominated Spanish teams since the 12-13 season. At this Friday's draw (12.00, Movistar Champions League) for the quarterfinals of the Champions League, the Premier appears shiny with three representatives (Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea), for only one from LaLiga, Real Madrid. It is also significant that only five players from Luis Enrique's last list (Ramos, Rodri, Eric García, Ferran Torres and Thiago) remain in the great European club competition.
Alerts of a possible stagnation of Spanish football against English cover from simple statistical nuances – in Spain the effective playing time is much lower than in other major leagues – that shape the game of the dizzying new stylistic paradigm that is imposed on the economic supremacy of the English Premier. “By economic power, English clubs have become a talent vacuum cleaner, which is the argument for good football and to achieve results. That is dangerous because it makes them more money and generates more differences. It is a bit what happens in Spain with the big clubs, who can go to the whole world to sign great talents and the rest only middle class ”, analyzes Jorge Valdano.
From the game, the tie between Atlético and Chelsea left the same sensations that were already produced in the last eight-game in Lisbon when Bayern disfigured Barcelona and Leipzig out of the box at Atlético after City struck down Madrid. Chelsea's high pace and precision to execute transitions at that speed surpassed Atlético. “You don't have to be catastrophic and you have to have patience and moderation. Another thing is that this takes a long time. It is true that Chelsea left a sensation of speed and physical power against Atlético. But Madrid ate Atalanta, who play this type of football, and Barça and Sevilla were able to eliminate PSG and Dortmund in the second leg matches, ”says Vicente del Bosque. PP Quique Sánchez Flores led English Watford in two stages between 2015 and 2019 and points to an ideal progression of English football. “For 15 years they have evolved with the arrival of foreign coaches, but without giving up their roots. When we talk about the big English clubs like City, Liverpool or Chelsea, we see that they combine versatile tactical systems, that they handle the ball well with very fast circulations, that they are very physical and that they beat you in hand-to-hand contacts ”. César Azpilicueta, Chelsea captain, points out: ”Football has changed a lot in England since I arrived in the Premier. There is a different rhythm and intensity and it is becoming more and more physical. We are used to playing with that intensity in our League and we try to replicate it in the Cham pions. ”
The Atlético clash left a glaring example of the difficulties that Spanish teams are encountering in terms of physique and how to compete with arbitrations that allow more contact. Rüdiger collided with Luis Suárez in a corner of the area. The body was not exactly shoulder to shoulder, but the German center-back forced friction with his slightly outstretched right arm. The Uruguayan forward went to the ground and claimed a penalty for the push, but Italian referee Daniele Orsato did not point it out. “Fernando [Sevilla player] already said it in an interview in EL PAÍS before playing the second leg against Dortmund. Spanish teams must get used to the fact that refereeing in Europe allows more contact [Spain is the second major European league where more fouls are called per game]. Orsato does not whistle in Italy the same as a Champions League match. In European club competitions or in a World Cup there are not so many protests or simulations because an expulsion can leave you out of the next tie. This makes the referee let him play more, because he also knows that the players are going more fully, ”explains former collegiate Iturralde González.
The comparison between the Premier and LaLiga also opens a debate on which football is more attractive. “In Spain we are happy that everyone is proposing with the ball, but this does not reflect the football with which the big clubs now compete. We tend to slow down the game, to pause it. They surpass us in precision and speed, it is another more effective, strong and precise football ”, says Sánchez Flores.
Jorge Valdano is confident in the ability of Spanish football to resurface, but warns: “One of the defects of revolutions is that they are exaggerated. The tiki-taka ended up being decisive for the imbalance, but now also to protect oneself and there appears the inconsequential touch and the boring matches. And that is the worst that can happen, because the tendency is to open up to societies with strong economies such as those in Asia or the United States to attract fans ”. And he adds: “I am firmly convinced that Spanish football cannot make mistakes and abandon the path of what made it great. Players like Pedri continue to emerge from that training revolution, who seems to have been born knowing. Faced with this more physical English, German or French football, what you have to achieve is that the ball runs more. ”
Spain, with more fouls and less playing time
The drop in the performance of LaLiga clubs in the Champions League in the last years coincides with two of the worst data of the Spanish competition with regard to the rhythm of the matches. According to the company specialized in analysis and statistics Opta, in Spain 26.09 fouls are committed per game, the second highest figure of the major leagues on the continent, just behind Serie A (27.5), but well above of the Premier (21.99), the tournament that has sneaked the most teams into the Champions League quarter-finals by qualifying Liverpool, City and Chelsea. In the top European competition the tendency is to stop playing when the contact is light, in the electrifying football that has dominated in the Champions League in the last two seasons, in which Liverpool (2019) and Bayern (2020) were proclaimed champions, LaLiga also suffers from matches with less effective playing time. In the Champions League the ball runs on average for 58 minutes and 57 seconds, while in Spain only 52m 53s are played, that is, there is 10% more time in which the leather is stopped. The Spanish has in this section the worst record of the major European leagues, far behind the Premier (56m 27s), Ligue 1 (57m 13s), the Bundesliga (56m 31s) and Calcio (56m 56s). in which the spectator sees the ball in motion for more minutes. The fall of the Spanish teams has been transferred to the UEFA 'ranking'. For nine seasons, since 2011/2012, that the Premier did not lead this classification. During eight courses, Spanish teams dominated: between 2012/2013 and last year's campaign, LaLiga raised five Champions Leagues (four from Real Madrid and one from Barça) and two runners-up (both from Atlético), in addition to another five in Europe. Leagues (four from Sevilla and one from the rojiblancos). However, the sensation and the data indicate that Spain is now lagging behind.
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