In a new series for OptaPro, TruMedia Networks’ Paul Carr uses ProVision to analyse stand-out players and teams from leagues and competitions across the globe. In this first article, Paul explores the Danish Superliga in further detail.
As most European leagues begin the final stretch of their seasons, clubs will begin to shift their focus to the summer transfer window, which officially opens on 9th June.
Finding affordable additions isn’t always easy for clubs that are further down the financial food chain in Europe. With that in mind, we turn to the Danish Superliga, which at the time of writing begins their six-team championship playoff round next week.
When thoughts turn to Denmark, Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen is the obvious success story that leaps to mind, though he never played professionally in Denmark, instead transferring from Odense Boldklub’s youth team to Ajax in 2009, then joining Spurs four years later.
Other names won’t resonate like Eriksen and Tottenham, but several clubs have found benefited from the Superliga recently. Over the past five seasons, Celta Vigo (currently 10th in La Liga) are one side in particular to have invested in this region.
Celta bought Stanislav Lobotka from Nordsjaelland for a reported £4.5 million last summer. The midfielder has played all 29 La Liga games this season, and his 220 recoveries are 55 more than any other Celta Vigo player.
Winger Pione Sisto transferred from Midtjylland to Celta Vigo in July 2016. Since then, he’s played in 57 of 63 league games, and he leads the team with 12 assists in that span.
Talent can be found in the Danish Superliga, and data can help inform this process. Scouts may not have time to watch dozens of games, so ProVision can suggest players on whom a scout can focus. Conversely, a scout might have seen one or two games and be curious if a player maintained his level or style of play. ProVision provides a glimpse of those truths in seconds.
Before diving straight into ProVision, it’s helpful to know what the (ahem) goal is, just like scouts don’t go to games without some idea of whom they’re watching, or at least what sort of player they’re hoping to find.
Let’s say a team needs a creative midfielder (who doesn’t?!). ProVision’s Creativity sub-tab covers the core numbers associated with imaginative players, including assists, chances created, attacking-third passing and take-ons.
After filtering to the 2017-18 Danish Superliga and players age 25 and under, we know that Brondby’s Hany Mukhtar leads the list with eight assists.
Looking at the underlying numbers shows that Mukhtar ranks second in chances created, six behind leader Mathias Jensen and 13 clear of third place. Drilling deeper and sorting by big chances created, which spawn shots deemed to have an excellent opportunity to be scored (about 40% of the time or more), Mukhtar also shines. His 16 big chances created this season are five more than any other player.
Mukhtar’s quality shows up in expected assists as well. Similar to expected goals, expected assists calculates how many assists a player is projected to have given the opportunities he created for teammates. In part because of the 16 big chances created, Mukhtar is the runaway leader in expected assists with 8.50. This suggests his assist total is not a fluke, since he’s slightly underachieving his projected total.
As a search is narrowed down, the comparison chart provides a shortcut to seeing where specific players rank, instead of manually sorting each column. Mukhtar is represented by the blue dots in this image, with the solid lines showing the league average.
ProVision allows for several stat views other than totals, which may emphasise quantity over quality. Looking at the same numbers on a per-90-minute basis, Mukhtar isn’t quite as dominant, still leading in big chances created and expected assists, while sliding to third in chances created behind Jensen and Besar Halimi, who played seven fewer games.
The type of creativity matters, since a central midfielder and a winger would fit differently into a line-up. Looking at types of passes attempted, Mukhtar ranks second with 13 through balls and 32nd with 22 crosses, indicating he plays primarily in a central role.
Filtering down to the central third of the field shows that 12 of his 13 through balls come from there, as do 58 of his 60 chances created, profiling Mukhtar as a number 10.
Creating a detailed stat using the custom filters takes the analysis a step further. A few clicks show Mukhtar ranks second with 10 chances created on passes from the centre of the field to the penalty area, and he leads with four big chances created and 2.12 expected assists on such passes.
More simply, here are Mukhtar’s touches this league season (attacking left to right, click on image below to expand):
It is worth noting that a key player on a low-possession team may not have the counting or per-90 numbers to top a leaderboard, but he might be making a considerable contribution to his team’s attacking player. The ‘percent-of-team-on-field’ view can provide additional perspective for a player’s skills by placing his data in the context of his team.
Mukhtar has a lower percentage of his team’s creativity numbers than others, ranking toward the lower half of the top 10 in most categories. That might suggest Mukhtar is just in a good attack, since other teammates rise above him in some departments. Or perhaps the numbers indicate that he’s comfortable fitting into a system and while not dominating the ball, Brondby are using him perfectly.
Taking a step back, Mukhtar’s playing pedigree aligns with his perceived quality. He came through Hertha Berlin’s youth system before being sold to Benfica in 2015, and he has three caps for Germany’s U-21 team.
Perhaps Mukhtar’s presence at the top of so many lists isn’t surprising, given his club and experience, but having the numbers as backup is informative. His background and favourable statistics suggest that Mukhtar is worth investigating further for teams chasing a young creative talent this summer.
ProVision is the cutting-edge analytics tool developed by OptaPro in partnership with TruMedia Networks. You can find out more about this platform here.
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