On Saturday in northern Germany, Werder Bremen and Hannover drew 3-3. The game featured leads of 1-0 and 2-1 for Bremen and later 2-3 for Hannover. There were 31 shots attempted, 13 from the danger zone. Most notably, five shots were attempted following fast breaking attacks which covered more than five yards per second. That sounds like a fun match to watch, right? That's the Bundesliga. It's the fun league.
Now, there are many different ways to enjoy football. One can enjoy a 0-0 featuring smart substitutions and counter-tactical adjustments just as much as a fast-paced 3-2. People may prefer the clever passing in a slow-developing possession attack to the quick-paced verticality of a great counter. Some people even like Chelsea.
But many do prefer a fast-moving game with a lot of happenings. And further to that, the narrative of the English Premier League as the world's best football league has revolved around the pace of the English game. Can a new player adjust to the EPL's style? The numbers suggest this question may need to be flipped. The German Bundesliga is now the most exciting, fastest-paced league in the world. At the most basic level, there are just more goals and more chances in a Bundesliga match this season.
But of course not all chances are equally fun to watch. And not every goal is a moment you want to remember. So to look more precisely for excitement, we can consider statistics on speed of attack.An enjoyable end-to-end match will feature not just shot attempts, but shot attempts following quick, vertical build-up play.
The following chart shows the number of shots attempted from fast attacking moves. These can be considered from two angles. First, there are shots following moves measured at over five yards per second from the beginning of the possession to the shot attempt. Second, there are moves that result in a shot attempt in seven seconds or less. And here we see not the small Bundesliga advantages from above but rather a massive gap.
So what is going on here? The Bundesliga features more goal-scoring, more shooting, and much more attacking at speed than any of the four other largest leagues in Europe. It seems unlikely this should just be random chance.
Indeed, there is one man most responsible for the Bundesliga's speed explosion. Jürgen Klopp. The Borussia Dortmund manager introduced his version of the high press to Germany years ago, and his ideas have spread. Hoffenheim, Wolfsburg and Werder Bremen are all playing aggressive, high-pressing styles, while Roger Schmidt at Bayer Leverkusen has introduced a shockingly fast new style which appears to have turned Klopp's gegenpressing up to eleven.
The key to Klopp's style is the counter-press, an aggressive defensive effort made immediately after the opposition gains possession. As the team in possession transitions their shape from defense to attack, they are particularly vulnerable to a high-pressing defense. As Klopp's Dortmund terrorized the league with their press, opposing managers adapted (which might also explain his side's current low position in the table). Now it seems like almost everyone in the Bundesliga has a press they can rush out on turnover of possession.
To measure this, I created a statistic for gegenpressing. When a team gains possession in open play in midfield, are they able to keep that possession for seven seconds, and do they avoid facing a tackle attempt by the opposition in that time? In most European leagues, new possession is held about 55-60 percent of the time, while in Germany that number is only 50 percent.
For this reason, there are also many more new midfield possessions in each Bundesliga match. Compared to about 80 new midfield open-play possessions gained in a league match in England, there are about 95 per league match in Germany. So we do not only see more shots and more fast attacks, but midfield also features higher-stakes play. Defensive presses are engaged, possession is difficult to hold, and new attacking opportunities are constantly appearing.
Again and again, the Bundesliga stands out. Its speed of play is unmatched, its rate of fast breaking likewise. And there are just most goals in Bundesliga matches. The new style of play fostered by Klopp and adopted almost throughout Germany is something all football fans should check out.