Wes Hoolahan – 2020/2021 analysis

Player analysis. I think this is one of the hardest things to write about if you don’t focus on a part of that player’s style or qualities. In this analysis I’m trying to look at something broader than just passing or shots, but I want to look at the output of a player, which will be hard to do – but will make for some interesting conversation nonetheless. In this analysis I will look at Wes Hoolahan’s 2020/2021 season with Cambridge United in the League Two.

This analysis will look at his data as an attacking midfielder in which he will be compared to his peers in League Two. All these players will have played in attacking midfield as well. This data will be translated into visuals in the analysis below. After looking at the data I will use video to look at some of the assists he has made during the season, as he was instrumental in Cambridge going up. The data was retrieved on June 3rd, 2021 from Wyscout, the videos have been retrieved on June 3rd, 2021 from Instat.

Player profile

  • Nationality: Irish
  • Age: 39
  • Date of birth: 20/05/1982
  • Current club: Cambridge United
  • Career: Belvedere FC, Shelbourne, Livingston, Blackpool (L), Livingston, Blackpool, Norwich City, West Bromwich Albion, Newcastle United Jets, Cambridge United
  • Market value Transfermarkt: 300.000,-
  • Position: Attacking midfielder
  • Secondary position: Central midfielders, left wide midfielder
  • Preferred foot: Left

Wes Hoolahan has been brilliant for Cambridge United in a season that saw them finish second in the League Two, meaning they are promoted to League One for the 2021/2022 season. Hoolahan has played 2904 minutes for Cambridge in 34 games this season, averaging 0,22 goals per 90 minutes and averaging 0,25 assist per 90 minutes. He scored 7 goals and assisted another 8 with 5 second assistt, which makes him involved in 20 goals this season. This is 27,4% of the total of 73 goals – a huge influence on this Cambridge United side.

In this analysis I will look to his positioning, his comparison to his peers, the passing and the shooting – and finally look via video to his assists of the season. All this will give me a better idea how to judge his season and where he stands among attacking midfielders in the League Two.

Position

In the image above you see the heatmaps based on all events of Wes Hoolahan in his last 10 games of this League Two season. He operates mainly in central midfield if we look at position and actions, but does flow to the attacking midfield in possession of the ball or to the defensive midfield when they play without possession. His main area of operating is the middle third – when we look at the last few games of the season.

Data analysis

The data in this analysis comes from Wyscout and for the attacking midfielders in this league, I get the 90 players. These players have played a variety of minutes, but I only want to look at players that have played at least 900 minutes or the equivalent of ten full games. After making that selection, I’m left with 58 players who I will do the further analysis with.

In the image above you can find a scatterplot to measure the ability on the ball: how much does the player progress? We can measure this by looking at the progressive passes per 90 and by looking at the progressive runs per 90 in this League Two season.

When we look at Hoolahan, we can see that he does exceptionally well in both metrics – he is marked by the yellow dot. He has 8,74 progressive passes per 90 and 2,51 progressive runs per 90 – both scoring way above average and the Cambridge player is one of the top players in this metric.

In the image above you can find a scatterplot to measure the ability to pass in the final third: how many passes go to the attacking third and how dangerous are they? We can measure this by looking at the passes to final third per 90 and by looking at the passes to penalty area per 90 in this League Two season.

When we look at Hoolahan, we can see that he does exceptionally well again in both metrics – he is marked by the yellow dot. He has 6,54 passes to the final third per 90 and 4,8 passes to the penalty area per 90 – both scoring way above average and the Cambridge player is one of the top players in this metric.

In the image above you can find a scatterplot to measure the ability to contribute to a goal: what is the probability of a pass or shot turning into a goal or assist? We can measure this by looking at the expected goals 90 and by looking at the expected assists per 90 in this League Two season.

When we look at Hoolahan, we can see that he does exceptionally well again in the expected assists metric – he is marked by the yellow dot. He has 0,28 expected assists per 90. His expected goals per 90 is below average with 0,05. This ranks him below average.

Percentile ranks – profiles

In the pizza graph above you can see the percentile ranks of Wes Hoolahan if we look at the attacking data compared to his peers. It’s easy to spot that he is really good in non-penalty goals per 90, Assists per 90, xA per 90, offensive duels won % and touches in box per 90. Having said that, he does score very low in the shots per 90, shots on target % and successful dribbles %.

In the pizza graph above you can see the percentile ranks of Wes Hoolahan if we look at the key passing data compared to his peers. Well this explains a lot about how everyone rates him, because bar the through passes per 90, he scores in the 90+ percentile for every metric in this graph. He is really good at key passing and part of it has definitely contributed to Cambridge United’s promotion push.

In the pizza graph above you can see the percentile ranks of Wes Hoolahan if we look at the defensive data compared to his peers. He ranks PAdj sliding tackles, shots blocked per 90 and aerial duels won %, but doesn’t do well in PAdj interceptions, Interceptions and defensive duels won%.

Passing

Like I said above, Hoolahan does exceptionally well in the key passing stats and in the beeswarmplot above, you can see the consolidation of that. It shows us in another visual way, how good he is compared to his peers.

What I’m particularly interested in, is the way he makes his final third passes and that’s what I’m going illustrate by looking at his final third passes in his last 10 games of the 2020-2021 season with Cambridge United.

In the image above you can see the last 10 games Hoolahan has played for Cambridge United. This shows us the final third passes of Hoolahan in these games with yellow meaning a successful pass and red meaning an unsuccessful pass. He is very present in that final third with his passing – only in the games against Grimsby and Tranmere, he didn’t have a lot of presence.

Shooting

Like I said above, Hoolahan does exceptionally well in the key passing stats and in the beeswarmplot above, you can see the consolidation of that. It shows us in another visual way, how good he is compared to his peers.

This tells us of the quantity of the shots, but I want to know where he shoots them from – so I had a look at his 2020/2021 shot map below.

In the image above you Wes Hoolahan’s shot map of the 2020/2021 season. He had 33 shots of which 7 were goals, 14 were shots on target, 10 were shots wide, and 9 were blocked shots. He has a conversate rate of 21,2%. The goals are marked in green, the shots on target in orange, the shots wide in yellow, and the blocked shots in red.

We can see that his goals come from zone 14 and within the penalty area with the highest xG also coming from those places. The size of the dot corresponds with the size of xG of that particular shot. I’m going to look into the shots of the last ten games and see were his shots came from in those particular games.

In the image above we can see the shots of Hoolahan in the last 10 games. The grey dots indicate shots, while the red dots indicate goals scored.

This shows us the shot locations in the last few games of Hoolahan and shows us whether he scores a goal in one of these matches. What we can conclude is that he always is looking to shoot, but doesn’t always manage to do so – with 40% of his last 10 matches going without a shot.

Assists
In this section I will look at three assists by Wes Hoolahan and how they were conducted. They not only show us the pass that leads to a goal, but also his position and what kind of pass it was. Where does he get the ball? Does he progress with the ball before passing it? Was it a long or a short pass? I will attempt to show you the answer to these questions.

In the video above we see Cambridge United playing against Salford City, when Cambridge United press and regain the ball in the Salford’s final third. The pressing is done by Hoolahan and he manages to progress in that attacking third, and giving the upcoming player on the left the ball – who then converts in the bottom corner. Hoolahan makes sure he progresses the ball, but still is looking for options to pass the ball too.

In the video above we see Cambridge United playing against Newport County. After a quick break, Hoolahan goes down the left flank and spots the striker in the middle who will make a run into the six-yard box. His pass is precisely good and times, which makes the tap-in for the striker quite easy.

In the video above we see Cambridge United playing against Crawley Town. Hoolahan takes the free kick from a while out and steers it between the far post and the central zone, which makes it easier for the runners to get there and score a goal from it.

In the video above we see Cambridge United playing against Harrogate Town and this video shows how good Hoolahan is with little time and space, showing his technique in the penalty area. The ball isn’t suitable to have an attempt on goal, but with his dribbling he buys his team mates some time and in the end he manages to find one at the far post – providing another tap-in.

Final thoughts

Wes Hoolihan has proved himself to be such a good football in League Two and it was like having a cheatcode with him in the team. With accounting for more than 25% of the goals (involvements) he did a huge part in getting Cambridge promoted and they will be very happy with him still. He doesn’t excel in defensive duties or even some attacking stats, but his key passing stats are very, very good and we can only have respect for the player that is 38/39 and playing like he is.

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