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The Young Guns in Green: How FC St. Gallen Sit Top of the Swiss Super League

 

The Swiss Super League is set to resume on 20th June. After 23 matchdays, FC St. Gallen – the youngest side in the league – lead the way on goal difference, with the two powerhouses of Swiss football, BSC Young Boys and FC Basel, sitting in second and third place respectively. We take a look at the numbers behind FC St. Gallen’s incredible and unexpected start to the 2019/20 campaign.

By: Donat Roduner

Since the 2000/01 season, only four clubs have been crowned Swiss Super League Champions: FC Basel (twelve titles), FC Zürich (three), Grasshoppers and BSC Young Boys (two titles each). FC St. Gallen – the oldest club in Swiss football – celebrated their last top-flight title back in 2000, 96 years after winning their first.

The current league leaders started the 2019/20 campaign with low expectations, but their unique style of play under coach Peter Zeidler, now in his second season in charge, has seen an improvement on the pitch and the results have duly followed. As the Swiss Super League restarts, we take a look at the numbers behind FC St. Gallen’s incredible and unexpected start to the 2019/20 campaign.

Swiss Super League 2019/20, Current Top Four

Pos.TeamGWDLFAGDPTS
1FC St. Gallen 187923143651312045
2BSC Young Boys23136446311545
3FC Basel 189323124748242440
4Servette FC23107638231537

Lethal From Long Range

St. Gallen (51) are the top scorers in the Swiss Super League this season, topping both Basel (48) and Young Boys (46). Despite having a lower expected goals total than those sides (Basel 44.1 and Young Boys 40.4), the league leaders have overperformed in front of goal, netting 12 goals more than expected based on the quality of their chances – the highest positive difference in the league.

Expected Goals Differential, Swiss Super League

RankTeamGoalsxGDifference
1FC St. Gallen 18795138.7+12.3
2BSC Young Boys4640.4+5.6
3FC Basel 18934844.1+3.9
4Servette FC3837.7+0.3
5FC Sion2831.6-3.6
6Neuchâtel Xamax2529.4-4.4
7FC Lugano2428.6-4.6
8FC Luzern2531.1-6.1
9FC Zürich2834.7-6.7
10FC Thun2331.6-8.6

St. Gallen have posed a huge threat from distance, scoring a league-high 10 goals from outside the box this campaign. Zeidler’s men have recorded the most goal attempts from all locations in the competition so far (388), with 47% of those coming from outside of the box (183), compared to a league average of 38%.

Shots From Outside the Box - Swiss Super League

RankTeamTotal ShotsShots From Outside the Box% Outside the Box
1FC St. Gallen 187938818347%
2FC Lugano30713544%
3FC Thun31513543%
4Servette FC34113239%
5FC Luzern30411337%
6FC Sion29210536%
7FC Basel 189335212235%
8BSC Young Boys35912635%
9Neuchâtel Xamax30310434%
10FC Zürich2979632%

Jordi Quintillà has been St. Gallen’s main threat from distance, with six of his nine goals this season coming from outside the box, at least three more than any other player in the league. The 26-year-old Spaniard, who came through Barcelona’s La Masia academy at youth level, has also contributed three of the seven direct free-kicks scored in the Swiss Super League this season.

You can see from his xG map that Jordi Quintillà takes the majority of his shots from range. He has scored more goals from outside the box (6) than he has had attempts inside it (3), excluding his 3 goals from spot-kicks.

The quality of his long-range shooting is reflected in the goals that he has scored from those shots, where he has significantly outperformed the quality of his underlying chances, valued at only 1.5 xG.

Ferocious Pressing

Zeidler’s philosophy revolves around pressing his opponents high up the pitch. St. Gallen have allowed the opposition just 8.7 passes per defensive action (PPDA) on average this season, whilst they also lead the way in duels per game (140) and pressed sequences per game (21). Pressed sequences are defined as those where the opposition has had 3 or fewer passes in a sequence, and the sequence ends within 40m of their own goal.

Pressing in the Swiss Super League - PPDA

RankTeamPPDA
1FC St. Gallen 18798.7
2BSC Young Boys9.5
3FC Basel 189310.8
4FC Zürich11.6
5Servette FC11.8
6FC Thun12.9
7FC Luzern13.2
8FC Sion13.3
9Neuchâtel Xamax14.2
10FC Lugano15.1

As a result, St. Gallen have forced the most high turnovers in the league (133), which are defined as winning back possession within 40 metres of the opponent’s goal, and they have allowed the fewest sequences comprising 10+ passes (52) and faced the fewest shots (254).

A Direct Style of Play

In the Swiss Super League this season, only two sides have attempted fewer passes than St. Gallen (Luzern and Xamax), whilst only Xamax (70.2%) have a lower passing accuracy than the league leaders (386 passes per game, 70.4% accuracy). Zeidler’s men have completed just 42 sequences comprising 10 or more passes this campaign (less than two per game), the fewest in the division.

St. Gallen have just one objective in mind when in possession of the ball: get it into a goal scoring location as fast and as directly as possible. Their sequences are the shortest in the league (5.8 seconds on average), with the highest direct speed (2.2 m/s towards the opponent’s goal). Another way to proxy team style is by looking at the directness of their sequences, a Stats Perform metric that measures the percentage of distance covered per sequence that is directly upfield.  St. Gallen are averaging a directness of 40%, which reflects their very direct progression towards the opposition’s goal in possession.

Youth and Hunger

Zeidler demands a lot from his players and they appear to have bought into his methods and philosophy. Only one member of the current St. Gallen squad has won the Swiss top-flight before: Cedric Itten in 2015/16 with FC Basel.

With the youngest average starting XI in the Swiss Super League this season (22 years & 315 days), the German manager has put his faith in youth and so far, that has been repaid. St. Gallen have started 17 of their 23 Super League games this campaign with an average age of 22 years old. No other side in Switzerland’s top-flight has fielded a side averaging below 23 years old. Their starting line-up in the last game before the break, against Young Boys, is reflective of Zeidler’s trust in youth. No player in FC St. Gallen’s regular back four was older than 22: Miro Muheim (22), Leonidas Stergiou (18 – the youngest player to appear in Swiss Super League this season), Yannis Letard (21) and Silvan Hefti (22 – club captain).

As St. Gallen prepare to travel to Sion for their first game since the enforced hiatus, they will be hoping their young, hungry outfit, and quick, direct style of play are just as sharp as they were before the break.