Data scouting Turkish Süper Lig: finding a defensive midfielder

In the last data scouting piece I spoke about the fact that I wanted to look further than the usual countries in Europe and scouted the Australian A-League. Although I still stand by those words and wanted to broad my view, I came to realise that I’ve not really looked into certain countries in Europe that are worth looking into. My eye will focus more closely to the leagues in Portugal, Russia, Austria and Turkey in the next weeks. Starting with Turkey.

The Turkish top tier is known for their intense rivalry between Galatasary and Fenerbahce, but it’s so much more – as we have seen in the European competitions. The Turkish national side has a variety of very good players and it’s not strange to look at their domestic leagues to look for exciting and emerging talent.

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 pisition.. 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 60 players who qualify in the Süper Lig 2020-2021.

Because I’m looking at the current season, which is a full season, I want to make a slection 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 40 players in my dataset and they will go through my analysis process. The data was retrieved on 17th April 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. Mickael Tirpan is on loan with Fortuna Sittard, but has played more than 900 minutes for Kasimpasa in the first half of the season, so he is included in this data.

Defensive abilities

The importance of defensive duels is evident. It’s to measure the physicality of a strikers 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: Murawski with 9,21 defensive duels per 90, Nwobodo with 9,63 defensive duels per 90, Poko with 9,73 defensive duels per 90, and Biglia with 10,76 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: Güctekin with 62,67% defensive duels won, Cigerci with 64,58% defensive duels won, Vetrih with 65,03% defensive duels won and Dioussé with 66,15% defensive duels won.

The importance of aerial duels is to assess two things. Firstly, to look 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: Souza with 3,98 aerial duels per 90, Jevtovic with 5,23 aerial duels per 90, Topal with 5,56 aerial duels per 90, and Ndayishimiye with 5,87 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: Boumal with 62,71% aerial duels won, Claudemir with 63,41% aerial duels won, Hutchinson with 65,38% aerial duels won and Özdemir with 67,31% 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. Fabricio Baiano has 2,77 dribbles per 90, Tufan has 2,81 dribbles per 90 and Parmak has 2,42 dribbles per 90. They attempt to dribble a lot more than the average player does, which is near 1,4 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. Tufan has 2,27 progressive runs per 90, Parmak has 2,93 progressive runs per 90 and Fabricio Baiarno has 3,04 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 six players stand out: Souza with 9,24 progressive passes per 90, Biglia with 9,34 progressive passes per 90, Cigerci with 9,6 progressive passes per 90, Akyol with 9,61 progressive passes per 90, Hadziahmetovic with 10,06 progressive passes per 90 and Sosa with 11,63 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. Cigerci has 10,59 passes to final third per 90, Topal has 11,04 passes to final third per 90, Souza has 11,37 passes to final third per 90, Hadziahmetovic has 11,71 passes to final third per 90 and Sosa has 12,29 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:

  • Mehmet Topal (35) – Istanbul Basaksehir
  • Souza (32) – Besiktas
  • Tolga Cigerci (29)- Istanbul Basaksehir
  • Ozan Tufan (26) – Fenerbahce
  • Amir Hadžiahmetović (24) – Konyaspor

Now I hear you thinking, three of those player are pretty old to be scouted for a semi-long term. Yes, that’s 100% correct and that’s why these two players should also be taken into consideration:

  • Assane Diouse (23) – Ankaragücü (on loan from St. Etienne)
  • Oghenekaro Etebo (25) – Galatasary (on loan from Stoke City)

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


Data: Wyscout
Visuals: Tableau Public


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