Soccer: But what’s going on with FC Zurich?

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SoccerBut what’s going on with FC Zurich?

The defending champion waited nearly five games to score his first Super League goal of the season. With just two points on the clock, his debut was a failure. decryption.

The defending champions needed 474 minutes to score their first Super League goal of the season. Brutal return to earth for FC Zurich, who had quickly made their coronation unassailable last season. And even if Fabian Rohner was dismissed in Winterthur (1-1) on Sunday, that doesn’t solve all the problems: FCZ only have 2 points after five days.

Everything is more complicated for Zurich this season.

Everything is more complicated for Zurich this season.

fresh focus

Surprising start to the season. Of course there are some mitigating circumstances: the departures of coach André Breitenreiter, who was replaced by Franco Foda, and key players like Ousmane Doumbia and Assan Ceesay last year are among them. The same applies to the European Cup games that fill the Zurich calendar every week and force Foda to juggle with his team. But is the overall context enough to explain these recurring errors? decryption.

The undeniable bad luck

For Zurich, the shock this season is all the greater as everything that worked for them last year no longer works today. The contrast is most evident in the numbers: FCZ had a habit of excelling at every level last season. He scored much more than what the model of the Expected Goals predicted and he also conceded fewer goals than the theory suggested.

Of course there were tactical explanations: the ability to get into an excellent shooting position and, above all, to make all opposing attempts more difficult through density and aggressiveness in front of your own goal. Maybe there was a bit of luck involved, even if the championship title doesn’t stop there. On the other hand, Zurich has been undeniably unlucky since the start of the season.

The FCZ now stands out with a total underperformance. Especially from an offensive point of view: he only scored one goal while being loud Expected Goals, he should have scored seven goals, a far too wide margin that will require some return to average over the next few weeks. Antonio Marchesano’s missed penalty on Matchday 1 against Young Boys, when the score was still 0-0, explains some of this inefficiency.

A legacy difficult to accept

Statistically, Zurich cannot quite match the dynamics of the past year. Other data say so too. Starting with possession of the ball. In the 2021/22 financial year, the city ​​club has become a specialist in leaving the ball to the opponents: less than 47% on average over the entire season. The situation has changed. Maybe because their status isn’t the same anymore. Perhaps also because the arrival of a new coach and the departure of Ceesay, who spoke extremely well in the transition, changed the approach.

In any case, the fact is: Zurich now has the ball 54% of the time. But we have to admit that he still doesn’t manage to use it perfectly. Because the FCZ brings the ball more regularly into the last third of the opponent, he touches him less often in the area (16 times per game, compared to 19 in the previous year). So offensive principles are in flux. And at times there’s a feeling of a Zurich finding its way around, trying to reproduce actions that worked in the past but are less effective now.

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These principles that no longer work: A well-known pattern from FCZ last year was to set up three defenders with the intention of creating an excess on one side.  Especially on the left, like here against Winterthur.

These principles that no longer work: A pattern known from the FCZ last year was the three-defender construction with the intention of creating an excess on one side. Especially on the left, like here against Winterthur.

Aliti serves Guerrero.  The latter tries to return to the house with Avdijaj.  Except that this one looked for the call in depth.  And no midfielder came to fill the space.  The ball is lost.

Aliti serves Guerrero. The latter tries to return to the house with Avdijaj. Except that this one looked for the call in depth. And no midfielder came to fill the space. The ball is lost.

And the people of Zurich are a long way from the transition.  Gelmi can therefore touch Di Giusto directly, who will create an opportunity.

And the people of Zurich are a long way from the transition. Gelmi can therefore touch Di Giusto directly, who will create an opportunity.

Pages are no longer as secure as they were last year. There are fewer combinations, although Boranijasevic and Guerrero are still responsible for animating them. But the connection to the midfielders and the attackers is less natural. Like the search for verticality and depth that are less characteristic of Santini or Avdijaj. Or Gnonto, much more regularly aligned, but very demanding in the balls of the feet.

In search of identity

In general, after a month of competition, you get the feeling of an FCZ looking for yourself. Franco Foda has already lined up many different players. He has to manage the playing time, but you can tell that on the pitch. This is shown by the different systems that have already been used: the 3-4-1-2 faithful to the Breitenreiter was sometimes abandoned in favor of a 4-4-2 or a not always well-animated 4-2-3-1. In those final games, Foda returned to the alignment that led to the title. That is.

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Very variable defensive animations: On the first day on the Young Boys' lawn, Zurich relies on high pressure.  It works in sequences.

Very variable defense animations: On the first day on the Young Boys’ lawn, Zurich is in full swing. It works in sequences.

Then, a week later, at the Lucerne reception, a 4-4-2 with a middle block is suggested.

Then, a week later, at the Lucerne reception, a 4-4-2 with a middle block is suggested.

Finally, the FCZ am Sonntag in Winterthur takes up a principle that worked last year: individual and axial orientation with a fairly high positioning.

Finally, the FCZ am Sonntag in Winterthur takes up a principle that worked last year: individual and axial orientation with a fairly high positioning.

But the animations also vary. Especially without the ball. Zurich never expresses their intentions very clearly, up to the point of going from a median 4-4-2 against Lucerne to a higher and more individual approach on Sunday against Winterthur. Without one or the other version really proves itself. And when it comes to defending deep, the cast of the surface is a little less conspicuous than last year. With a revealing fact: where the Zurich defenders countered almost a third of the shots aimed at them, they only blocked every fifth. As if they’d removed surface defense somewhat from their identity.

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A Less Impenetrable Defense: The surface defense is less closed than last year.  Only six people from Zurich are behind the ball, Di Giusto has to strike.  Luckily, Kryeziu comes out well and counters the punch.

A less impenetrable defense: The surface defense is less closed than last year. Only six people from Zurich are behind the ball, Di Giusto has to strike. Luckily, Kryeziu comes out well and counters the punch.

Defensive transitions also harbor a danger.  Guerrero loses the ball and Winterthur can go straight to Ramizi.

Defensive transitions also harbor a danger. Guerrero loses the ball and Winterthur can go straight to Ramizi.

The deep ball in the direction of Manzambi is enough to recapture the entire defense.  Winterthur will be able to open the scoring in this episode.

The deep ball in the direction of Manzambi is enough to recapture the entire defense. Winterthur will be able to open the scoring in this episode.

Questions about the games also arise from the point of view of offensive animation. For example, possession intent is commendable and can lead to certain interesting and controlled periods of possession in the opposing camp. On the other hand, it seems much more difficult to cope with the pressure during the relaunch and Zurich can be pushed back relatively easily (Winterthur’s defensive block took advantage of it on Sunday). With some worrying technical errors.

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Low resistance to pressure: Zurich shows some difficulty starting again when the opponent presses on the carrier.  Here Brecher serves Boranijasevic, who will lose control under pressure.

Vacuum resistance: Zurich shows some difficulties in restarting when the opponent presses on the carrier. Here Brecher serves Boranijasevic, who will lose control under pressure.

Another example against Winterthur: Zurich has high ball possession and Kamberi plays with Condé, full axis.  This cannot turn around and plays afterwards.

Another example against Winterthur: Zurich has high ball possession and Kamberi plays with Condé, full axis. This cannot turn around and plays afterwards.

A few seconds later, Winterthur has advanced its block and Zurich is in trouble.  Kamberi will have to play a long time.

A few seconds later, Winterthur has advanced its block and Zurich is in trouble. Kamberi will have to play a long time.

All of this is indicative of the transformation process in which FC Zurich is launched almost against its will. It will be difficult for him to repeat a season as perfect as last year. And knowing how to grieve isn’t easy: not because the recipe worked in 2021-22 will it be the same this season. It’s all very tricky for Franco Foda.


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