Data scouting: on the hunt for a complete central midfielder in German 2. Bundesliga

It’s time for a data piece again isn’t it? I haven’t written anything on my blog about data and scouting since the beginning of January and it’s time for a new venture. In this article I wanted to look at one specific league and look for a central midfielder. Why a central midfielder? Because I think it’s hard to assess whether a midfielder is a central midfielder in comparison to a defensive/attacking midfielder. I have chosen for the 2. Bundesliga, because it’s a league well-respected, but also a little bit all over the place. It hasn’t been scouted by myself as much as the Championship, Ligue 2 and Serie B – so that’s why I chose this league.

The data I’m using for this analysis is provided by Wyscout and in their database I’ve been looking for the best midfielders in each metric – which I will mention below. I’m looking at a data set of 30 midfielders as we are looking specifically for the best central midfielders and not the best midfielder with central midfielder qualities.

In this article I will look at the following metrics:

  • Goals & assists
  • Passing
  • Dribbling
  • Defensive duels
  • Interceptions and sliding tackles

The 30 best players I’ve found on Wyscout are as follows:

When looking at this data, I wanted to have a player to have 900 minutes or more on the pitch (=10 full games in total) and that’s why I excluded Hunt and Kinsombi in my further scouting. The total of players I will look closer at is 28.

Goals and assists

First I will look at the attacking numbers as central midfielders are often involved with goalscoring or creating the goalscoring opportunities. In the image above you can see the expected assists vs the acutal assists in this 2020-2021 season in the 2. Bundesliga. A few players really stand out in this metric: Sessa, Justvan and Kempe. Kempe has a high xA and is right on level with the assists according to that xA. Justvan and Sessa are overperforming, as their assists per 90 are higher than the quality of the passes would suggest.

In the image below I had a look at the goals of these central midfielders.

If we look at the expected goals per 90 and the goals per 90, there are three players really standing out. Muhling with 0,3 xG and 0,37 goals per 90, Green with 0,35 xG and 0,39 goals per 90, and Kempe with 0,31 xG and 0,42 goals per 90. These three really stand out and all are slightly overperforming their xG: converting those chances into goals more than the chances would suggest.

Passing

A midfielder is tasked with a lot of passing. Obviously they are tasked with progressing attacks, but they are also connecting the defence with the attack and have a vital role going forward. In this first visual on passing, I will look at the progressive passes vs progressive runs, to see how well they progress on the pitch.

Four midfielders really stand out with their progressive passing during this season. Becker has 7,3 progressive passes per 90, Riese also has 7,3 progressive passes per 90, Seguin has 8,5 progressive passes per 90, and Sontheimer has 9,4 progressive passes per 90.

As said above, the central midfielders also have a vital role going forward with their passing. In the image below you can see the key passes per 90 vs the through passes per 90.

If we look at the key passes per 90, four players stand out: Jae-Sung Lee with 0,51 key passes, Seguin with 0,53 key passes, Hauptmann with 0,54 key passes, and Zalazar with 0,66 key passes. When we look at the through passes per 90, three players stand out: Becker with 1,33 through passes, Seguin with 1,42 through passes, and Mehlem with 1,89 through passes. Overall, Seguin scores the best in these metrics.

Dribbling

How well do they perform with the ball and maintaining control of the ball? We can look at this with the metric of dribbles. It’s not always possible to pass the ball or sometimes there’s space going forward, so dribbling can be a very important part of a central midfielder’s play.

The best dribblers in this season of the 2. Bundesliga so far are Becker with 3,32 dribbles and 78%, Sessa with 4,09 dribbles and 63,64%, and Justvan with 4,65 with 68%.

Defensive duels

It obviously is not only attack, attack and attack. Defensive positioning and duels are very important. In this metric we will see how well they do in the defensive duels as they assist the defensive midfield in order to strengthen the defensive block.

Kroos (63,11%), Sobottka (63,54%), Becker (64,15%), Fandrich (64,81%) and Morales (65,12%) have the highest percentage of won duels in this season in the 2. Bundesliga, but I’m particularly impressed with Krauss, as he has over 9 defensive duels per 90 with a win percentage of 62,42.

Sliding tackles and interceptions

Part of the defensive actions in a game are the sliding tackles and interceptions. What do they say? Interceptions say something about seeing the problems/opportunities in front of you, while sliding tackles say something about the ultimate defensive action. Obviously it’s different for teams with a lot of possession and teams without possession, that’s why it is adjusted for possession.

What immediately stands out is that Gnjatic has a lot of interceptions and sliding tackles. This means that he is involved in a lot of defensive actions in his games and stands out from the rest with 1,94 sliding tackles per 90 and 7,77 interceptions per 90. I think that Krauss does very well in his forward thinking with 8,38 interceptions per 90.

Short list:

All things considered I’ve made a short list of players who are complete central midfielders according to the data we’ve looked at:

  • Kempe – Darmstadt 98
  • Krauss – Nürnberg
  • Seguin – Greuter Fürth
  • Sessa – Heidenheim
  • Becker – St. Pauli.

The next step is to look at these 5 players in different games and follow them via video scouting.

Data from Wyscout
Tableau Public:

https://public.tableau.com/profile/marc.lamberts#!/vizhome/CentralmidfieldersGerman2_bundesliga/

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