Data scouting Finnish Veikkausliiga: finding a defensive midfielder

I think that many scouting pieces or analysis pieces love to look at Scandinavia, but that Iceland and Finland are hugely underrepresented in those pieces. In this piece I will look at the Finnish Veikkaussliiga and concentrate on finding a defensive midfielder.

In this scouting piece I’m going to look for a defensive midfielder with an accent for defensive capabilities. There are different types of defensive midfielders, but I’m looking for a profile that fits a defensive midfielder who can carry the ball and thinks progressively.

The data
The data used in this analysis comes from Wyscout. In the dataset for the defensive midfielders, I’ve selected each player who primarily plays on the defensive midfield position. Obviously, there are other players who have played in this position, but I’ve only selected the players that have played as a defensive midfielder as a dominant position in the current season. This leaves me with 27 players who qualify in the Veikkausliiga Lig 2021.

Because I’m looking at the current season, which is a full season, I want to make a selection for players that played a decent amount of games for me to assess them. For me, it’s important that they played at least 900 minutes in this season. After looking at that I’m left with 21 players in my dataset and they will go through my analysis process. The data was retrieved on 16th October 2021.

I will look at the following categories and metrics to assess their abilities through data:

  • Defensive abilities:
  • Ball-carrying abilities
  • Passing abilities

After going through the data analysis and visualisation, I will make a shortlist of players who I think are worth keeping your eye on.

Defensive abilities

The importance of defensive duels is evident. It’s to measure the physicality of defensive midfielders and the ability to win defensive duels to assess how well a player defends in defensive situations. T

The most defensive duels conducted per 90 are by the following players: Purme with 10,04 defensive duels per 90, Malolo with 10,25 defensive duels per 90, and Arifi with 10,72 defensive duels per 90.

If we look closer at the players that have the highest percentage of won defensive duels, the following players stand out: Alejandro Sanz with 67,30% defensive duels won, Popovitch with 70,50% defensive duels won, and Adjei-Boateng with 70,94% defensive duels won.

The importance of aerial duels is to assess two things. Firstly, to look at how many times a certain player conducts in an aerial duel during 90 minutes of football. And secondly, to assess how many of those aerial duels are won per 90. The aerial capability can be a contributing factor in the defensive strength of a defensive midfielder.

The most aerial duels conducted per 90 are by the following players: Asier with 2,28 aerial duels per 90, Nurmela with 3,51 aerial duels per 90, and Bushue with 3,75 aerial duels per 90.

If we look closer at the players that have the highest percentage of won aerial duels, the following players stand out: Bushue with 64,58% aerial duels won, Annan with 72,73% aerial duels won, and Laaksonen with 76,47% aerial duels won.

Ball-carrying abilities

Ball-carrying is a valuable thing for a midfielder to have. The ability to literally carry the ball from the defensive third to the middle or attacking third is not to be underestimated, and this is not different for defensive midfielders that I’m scouting. In what manner do they conduct themselves in progressing the ball? This can translated via data with the metrics dribbles per 90 and progressive runs per 90.

If we look at the dribbles per 90 metric, we can see that three players really stand out from the crowd here. Laaksonen has 2,68 dribbles per 90, Purme has 3,18 dribbles per 90 and Ramandingaye has 2,42 dribbles per 90. They attempt to dribble a lot more than the average player does, which is near 1,66 dribbles per 90.

When we look at the progressive runs per 90, we see a similar kind of top-3. The top players in this metric are the same as above, but in a slightly different order. Popovitch has 1,25 progressive runs per 90, Ramandingaye has 1,32 progressive runs per 90 and Purme has 1,49 progressive runs per 90.

Passing ability

Passing abilities. I could focus on the percentage of successful passes, but that doesn’t say a lot in itself. I want to see how well they progress the ball as well as without the ball. I’ve looked to the progression with the ball on their feet, but I also want to see how well the progression in passing is. That’s why I chose to look at progressive passes per 90 and passes to the final third.

Looking at the progressive passes we see three players stand out: Adjei-Boateng with 8,89 progressive passes per 90, Nurmela with 9,15 progressive passes per 90, and Lingman with 9,38 progressive passes per 90.

If we look closer to the passes to the final third, we see some of the same names featured at the top. Arifi has 8,82 passes to final third per 90, Adjei-Boateng has 10,34 passes to final third per 90, and Lingman has 10,59 passes to final third per 90.

Short list

This data can change within a few weeks, but looking at the data at hand and the above visuals – I’ve made a shortlist of five players who are worth scouting a bit more in terms of video scouting:

  • Bismark Adjei-Boateng (27) – KuPS (now Cluj)
  • Tino Purme (23) – FC Haka
  • Anselmi Nurmela (24)- AC Oulu
  • Johannes Laaksonen (30) – FC KTP
  • Anton Popovitch (25) – KuPS

In my opinion these players would be up for further investigation and research in terms of videoscouting and profiling within the Finnish league.

Sources

Data: Wyscout
Visuals: Tableau Public

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