When FC Zurich were relegated from the Swiss Super League in 2016, there were more than a few eyebrows raised.
This was the side that had won the Swiss Cup just two seasons prior, and had been Swiss Champions in 2009. They would even go on to win the Swiss Cup again just a few days after being relegated.
For a team with such obvious quality (and the kind of financial backing that others could only dream of) to finish rock bottom of the Super League was almost unthinkable, and many fans were worried that off-field issues could have a devastating effect on one of the most well-known Swiss sides.
FCZ players celebrate with fans
To the fans who packed Zurich on Sunday evening, however, partying the night away as they watched their team lift the Swiss Championship for the first time in 13 years, those fears must have seemed light years away.
After a decade of domination by both FC Basel and BSC Young Boys, FC Zurich have broken the duopoly, bringing the title back to the country’s largest city, and they did it in style.
A 2-0 victory at the home of closest rivals, Basel, meant that FCZ’s lead in the race for the championship was insurmountable, but in reality this has been true (if not technically) for a lot longer.
After 32 game days, Zurich have amassed 22 wins, 6 draws, and just 4 losses since the start of the campaign. Early-season losses to Young Boys and Basel were not a shock, and after the 1-3 defeat at home to Basel, FCZ embarked on a ridiculous, seventeen game unbeaten run.
By the time they fell to a surprise 0-3 loss to a rejuvenated St Gallen side in March, Zurich were 12 points clear of second place, and so could afford to draw a blank for the first time since September.
What is most impressive about this title win is that, not only were Zurich not expected to achieve it, they weren’t even expected to be in the conversation. Since a fourth place finish in 2018, the season after their promotion back to the top division, FCZ finished seventh in 2019 and 2020, before dropping to eighth in 2021.
With Young Boys dominating the league and Basel fighting to regain top spot, nobody at all expected that it would be Zurich that took home the title in 2022. So how was it done?
Well, like a lot of surprise trophy-wins, Zurich achieved the title as a team. There are stand-out individuals in this side, for sure: Assan Ceesay’s 18 goals and 8 assists, Antonio Marchesano’s 12 and 5, the marauding Adrian Gurreiro at left back, and the incomparable Becir Omeragic (whose magnificent season was cut so cruelly short).
However, the load has been shared by the entire squad; not just a select few.
Assan Ceesay – Scored just 2 goals in 20/21, before hitting 18 this year.
For example, 15 players have scored for Zurich this season, 11 of those scoring twice or more. 16 players have provided assists, despite FCZ using only 25 players this season.
In contrast, FC Basel have used 31, while Young Boys have been forced into using 35 due to their injury crisis. This consistency of both matchday squads and the performance level of those involved has helped to make Zurich the unstoppable force they have proven to be.
The hiring of head coach Andre Breitenreiter must go down as a master-stroke as well, as both Young Boys and Basel parted ways with their respective coaches before the end of the season, while Zurich’s has gone from strength to strength since his appointment in 2021. His ability to draw the best out of a previously-underperforming group has been nothing short of impressive.
Now, after yet another period of domination has been broken in Swiss football, we wait to see if FC Zurich will be able to build their own empire now that they have reclaimed the throne.