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Can Three Champions Inspire Switzerland to Deep Euro 2024 Run?

Can Three Champions Inspire Switzerland to Deep Euro 2024 Run?

Switzerland could be considered dark horses at this summer’s Euro 2024. We take a look at three players who could make a big difference in Germany, after each of them had success at club level in 2023-24.


Switzerland are not the favourites to win Euro 2024 this summer. Yes, we know, cutting edge analysis.

However, they enter the tournament knowing they can bank on the form of three players who won three of Europe’s top five leagues this season: Granit Xhaka (Bayer Leverkusen), Manuel Akanji (Manchester City) and Yann Sommer (Inter). 

Swiss boss Murat Yakin called up 38 players for the ‘pre camp’ to prepare for Euro 2024, which starts next week. Of those, just 24 will make the trip to Germany – with extra space only for Denis Zakaria and Breel Embolo should they recover from injury in time.

But those three league champions certainly do not have to worry about their respective spots in the squad, or the starting XI for that matter. Can they make the difference to Switzerland’s chances of progressing from Group A? Could they even lead the team to a first ever European Championship semi-final? We take a look at the trio to see if their club form can carry over into the Euros.

Granit Xhaka 

Xhaka joined Bayer Leverkusen from Arsenal on a five-year contract last summer. The move made headlines in Switzerland and we now know his impact was probably far bigger than even Leverkusen expected.

It took Die Werkself a scarcely believable 51 matches before suffering their first defeat of an incredible 2023-24 season. Xhaka appeared in 49 of those. Agonisingly, that defeat was the 3-0 loss to Atalanta in the Europa League final, but Xhaka and his teammates were at least able to console themselves with a Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal double.

Of course, Xhaka was not the only reason Leverkusen enjoyed such success, but the midfield stalwart was a hugely important piece for Xabi Alonso, and his surface-level numbers illustrate his influence.

In the 2023-24 Bundesliga season, Xhaka finished with the most touches (3,648), total passes (3,259), completed passes (3,003) and secondary assists (12). The first three of those are single-season Bundesliga records since the start of detailed data collection (2004-05).

Boasting a 92% passing accuracy and winning possession back 226 times (ranking second in the league behind Nico Schlotterbeck), you can see why he was in serious consideration for the Bundesliga’s Player of the Season award, an accolade that eventually went to teammate Florian Wirtz.

Xhaka’s position at Leverkusen differs a bit from his position in the Swiss national team.

While he played in a central midfield duo for Alonso, usually alongside Robert Andrich, for Switzerland he has often been part of a midfield triangle with Remo Freuler and Zakaria.

Granit Xhaka touch map comparison Euro 2024 qualifying vs Bundesliga 2023-24
Jonathan Manuel / Data Analyst

In the Swiss media there were rumours about a disagreement between Xhaka and Yakin about the “perfect” position for the captain. Wherever he plays, though, Xhaka will be a key player for Switzerland in Germany.

He’s an ever-present in their side and is one of two players to have featured in each of the last 26 games for Switzerland in all competitions alongside Freuler, his partner in midfield.

Manuel Akanji

In what was his second season with Manchester City, Akanji was once again a key contributor. En route to winning City’s fourth Premier League title in a row, the 28-year-old put up solid numbers and was a regular under Pep Guardiola.

Manuel Akanji stats 23-24

Among all players in the top five leagues who played at least 10 games across all competitions in 2023-24, only 10 of them had a better passing accuracy than Akanji (93.7%); two of whom were teammates in John Stones (94.3%) and Rúben Dias (94.6%).

Manuel Akanji position mins 23-24
Manuel Akanji position by minute Euro 2024

Akanji was mainly used a right-sided centre-back in a back four for Yakin during qualifying, but he can play across the entire backline. His versatility has been honed by Guardiola at club level, who deploys Akanji everywhere from centre-back to full-back and even in midfield.

The fact Akanji can cover multiple positions gives Yakin options and helps to cover up one lingering problem: Switzlerland’s lack of orthodox full-backs outside of Ricardo Rodríguez and Silvan Widmer.

In the beginning of his time in charge of Switzerland, Yakin favoured a 4-2-3-1 system. In recent times, however, he’s tried a variety of formations including going with a defensive three. Being able to rely on Akanji as a high-quality option whatever the system will be invaluable in Germany.

Yann Sommer

It was a perfect match. After a short spell at Bayern Munich as a replacement for the injured Manuel Neuer, Sommer ended up at Inter last season. In Serie A, talk about his lack of height and questions around his performances quickly stopped.

Sommer was an integral part of the best defence in the top five European leagues. Inter conceded just 31 goals in 49 matches (0.6 per game) last season in all competitions. Apart from winning the Scudetto, the Swiss goalkeeper also kept the most clean sheets among all goalkeepers from Europe’s top five leagues (all competitions).

Most clean sheets 23-24

At first glance it seems obvious that Sommer should be Switzerland’s number one; and he is. Yakin stated in the winter that Sommer will be between the posts in Germany. But even with such impressive stats, there are people in Switzerland who believe the coach should reconsider. That’s because in Gregor Kobel, Switzerland have a very strong deputy.

Best goals prevented 23-24

The 26-year-old helped Borussia Dortmund reach the Champions League final, and although he was unable to stop Real Madrid from winning, he did prevent 13.8 goals across the season in all competitions according to Opta’s expected goals on target model – making him the best keeper in Europe’s top five leagues in that regard.

Sommer xGOT 23-24
Kobel xGOT 23-24

With two such strong goalkeepers, the German word for Yakin having to decide between the two of them is “Luxusproblem”. It has no exact translation in English, but it means “luxury problem” if you translate both words separately.

The same embarrassment of riches doesn’t extend to the other end of the pitch, though, with Switzerland’s attack their problem area right now. How Yakin is going to tackle that one remains to be seen.

Injuries permitting, though, he has three champions to make up the spine of his side as they look to surprise a few at Euro 2024.


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