The domestic football season concluded at the weekend in typically dramatic fashion.
The title went down to the wire in France and Spain, while Champions League qualification was up for grabs for some big names in England and Italy.
Much of the focus during the closing rounds in Germany was on Robert Lewandowski’s record bid, but there was no shortage of intrigue whichever way you looked.
It was in keeping with the rest of an unpredictable campaign, one that Stats Perform breaks down with the use of Opta data.
LILLE, LALIGA AND LUKAKU SHAKE THINGS UP
Lille, Atletico Madrid and Inter all have relatively recent history of league glory, but a pre-season wager would have fetched long odds.
In Ligue 1, Paris Saint-Germain had won seven of the previous eight titles and would have expected to do so again, having claimed a domestic treble and reached the Champions League final in 2020.
As it was, under new coach Mauricio Pochettino, they had to settle for pushing Lille all the way.
Les Dogues claimed the title but had already set a club points record when they reached 79 with two games to spare. PSG finished on 82, though, meaning Lille desperately needed the final two results to boost their tally.
4 – Lille have won their fourth Ligue 1 title in their history after 1946, 1954 and 2011. Lille are the third team to win at least two Ligue 1 titles in the 21st century after Lyon and Paris (7 each). Champions. pic.twitter.com/DJo2gv59Nk
— OptaJean (@OptaJean) May 23, 2021
Despite the presence of Real Madrid and Barcelona in LaLiga, Atletico’s triumph was perhaps more likely, even if the impressive nature of it may have come as a surprise.
Although they stuttered on the home stretch and had to come from behind on the last day to edge out Madrid, Atleti spent 30 matchdays at the top of the table – a mark only bettered once in their 10 other title-winning campaigns (36 matchdays in 1995-96).
Indeed, Atleti are used to having to wait to celebrate, with 10 of their 11 championships seeing the destination of the trophy decided on the final day (all except 1976-77).
Inter are another big name but had been waiting even longer than Lille for their most recent title, with one Milan victory and then nine in a row for Juventus since the 2009-10 Nerazzurri treble.
Antonio Conte’s men completed the job in style, though, confirmed as champions with four games to play before finishing with 91 points (behind only their 2006-07 haul of 97) and 89 goals (third-most behind the classes of 1949-50 and 1950-51 – 99 and 107 respectively).
Talisman Romelu Lukaku was involved in 35 of them, becoming the first Serie A player to have at least 20 goals and 10 assists in the same season since at least 2004-05.
BAYERN BACK ON TOP, CITY SCALING NEW HEIGHTS
In Germany, the title race was a little less exciting. Winners of everything in 2020, Bayern Munich took home the Bundesliga crown for a ninth successive season.
Prior to this run, no team had won more than three on the bounce, yet there appears no end to Bayern’s dominance in sight. They have now won 52 per cent of the championships since the formation of the competition in 1963.
100% – @FCBayernEN are the 3rd team in @Bundesliga_EN history to score in all matches of a single season after @fckoeln 1963-64 (only 30 matchdays) and Bayern themselves in 2012-13. Scorcher. #FCBFCA pic.twitter.com/Ps0NuC08Kl
— OptaFranz (@OptaFranz) May 22, 2021
Julian Nagelsmann, arriving from RB Leipzig, will be the coach tasked with achieving 10 in a row and Hansi Flick has set the bar high. His 86 games brought seven trophies.
Manchester City could soon be reflecting on a similarly dominant dynasty having now claimed three titles in four seasons.
Pep Guardiola played a big part in Bayern’s run and now has nine league wins in 12 top-flight seasons as a coach, although this was an unprecedented achievement, with City eighth on Christmas Day – the lowest position at that stage for an eventual Premier League champion.
A record English league run of 12 away victories played a pivotal role in City’s season, while defending champions Liverpool saw a club-record 68-game unbeaten home run in the Premier League ended as they subsequently lost six consecutive league matches at Anfield for the first time in their history.
City could yet win the Champions League too, where Sergio Aguero is in line for his final appearance before his contract expires. He will hope it is as successful as his last league outing, during which he scored twice against Everton on Sunday to set a new record for the most Premier League goals by a player for one club (184).
RECORD-BREAKING LEWY DELAYS NEXT GENERATION
Aguero might have had his say on the final day, once the title was secure, but he largely took a backseat – unlike Lewandowski at Bayern.
His 41 Bundesliga goals broke Gerd Muller’s long-standing record of 40 in a single season. The next-best tally in Europe’s top five leagues in 2020-21 saw Lionel Messi trailing well behind on 30.
— OptaFranz (@OptaFranz) May 22, 2021
Lewandowski unsurprisingly also led Europe in expected goals, with his chances worth 32.2 xG, and expected goals on target, producing shots with a value of 35.8 xGOT.
As Lewandowski took the Kicker-Torjagerkanone and Messi went away with the Pichichi, Cristiano Ronaldo (29 goals) won the Capocannoniere, having also previously topped the charts in England and Spain.
Kylian Mbappe (27) was the leading marksman in France, while Harry Kane (23) earned the Premier League Golden Boot for a third time.
Kane is set to be the subject of intense transfer speculation throughout the close-season – replacing Aguero at City might be one option if he gets his wish to leave Spurs – and he will join Mbappe and Erling Haaland in that regard.
Haaland also scored 27 league goals and only just trailed Mbappe’s seven assists with his six.
The expectation is both players will establish themselves as the world’s best in the coming seasons, but it is now Lewandowski, rather than Messi and Ronaldo, they must surpass.
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