An early look at the ‘big five’ European divisions

There have been just about enough matches played across the ‘big five’ leagues to justify having a quick look at how they’re attacking and defending using my surely-by-now-famous scatter graphics, which are explained here. I’ve been tweeting out individual league graphics, which I’ll link to below first of all:

English Premier division: AttackingDefending

German Bundesliga: AttackingDefending

Spanish La Liga: AttackingDefending

Italian Serie A: AttackingDefending

French Ligue 1: Attacking & Defending

Attacking: combined graphic

I couldn’t resist repeating the exercise from last season and combining these all together. I’ll warn you that the result is a bit of a mess, which is why you might find it useful to refer back to the individual ones above. Clicking on this will bring up a huge version in a new tab:

Big 5 att eff

A few of the stand-out observations from this:

  • There are German clubs at all four extremes at the moment: Dortmund are out-shooting every other team significantly while their compatriots Freiburg have created the fewest chances.
  • However Freiburg have been very sharp at taking the few chances they do create, although not quite as good as Hoffenheim, who narrowly edge Barcelona and Roma as the most efficient attack in Europe so far.
  • Unfortunately the Bundesliga provides us with a true outlier in wastefulness too: poor Braunschweig have needed almost three times as many attempts as the average side to score each goal.
  • Sunderland, Sassuolo and Valenciennes are the next most profligate sides: unlike similarly wasteful Tottenham they aren’t creating enough chances to compensate for their wayward finishing.
  • It’s interesting to see how ordinary Man Utd look on here – they were devastatingly efficient last season – but it’s still early days and they have plenty of time to improve.

Defending: combined graphic

As for the attacking graphic above, clicking will bring up an enormous version in a new browser tab:

Big 5 def eff

Again a few observations from me:

  • Roma have utterly ruined this graphic by being so difficult to break down, but it puts their impressive start (just one goal conceded) into stark perspective.
  • Continuing the stereotypical reputation of Italian sides being strong defensively, Juventus are proving the most expert at preventing their opponents from shooting.
  • It’s a Spanish team who currently have the unwanted title of leakiest defence: it’s taken fewer than four shots on average to score each goal against Vallecano.
  • An honourable mention for Southampton, who probably didn’t expect to be defending almost as well as Bayern this season.
  • There are a handful of sides who really are facing a lot of shots: FulhamVerona and Nurnberg probably aren’t too surprising given their league positions but Werder Bremen aren’t doing that badly. Are they due to fall down the table or will their attack keep them afloat?
  • Reims‘ defence has been valiantly soaking up waves of pressure, although if you look back at the attacking graphic you’ll see that they aren’t causing many problems for their opponents at the other end.


I fully expect these graphics to move a lot over the next few rounds of fixtures, with some of those extreme outliers moving to a less insane position. I’ll refresh them in a few weeks time – with some improved visuals if I’m able – to see how things have changed. If you look at last season’s (linked above) you’ll get a feel for how the shape will eventually look.