Was just compiling Serie A data as I was trying to guess a few of the upcoming players in the excellent blog series about fixing Chelsea on John Carrafiell’s blog and found a few players who hadn’t been fully on my radar*. I highly recommend following that blog to see what he comes up with for his Chelsea attacking midfield recommendation list, I’m not sure if these two will be but I think they will be close.
*one was actually part of a half-finished Serie A Prospectus series I was doing that I never got around to highlighting or writing the recap but I knew he stood out bigly
First, what drew my attention. I was just adding Serie A players to the progression/Danger Zone entry chart I looked at in a previous blog.
That’s Kevin de Bruyne way over there on the top right. Shaqiri is the only other midfielder who has more DZ progressions than these two: Rodrigo de Paul at Udinese and Fabian Ruiz at Napoli. To see De Paul from Udinese who only take 12.4 shots per game show up here is quite fascinating. I then looked at yards per ball loss (dispossession, failed pass, failed take on).
Here we see they are losing the ball a bit more than the typical midfielder but that’s actually normal for the high-volume DZ entry guys, even De Bruyne is below that average line. Toni Kroos….is not. I tossed on one of my long-term favorites in Freuler.
Other non-Tableau notes
- Ruiz is 22. De Paul is 24, and WhoScored has him basically splitting time between forward and midfield which certainly will cause some odd stuff with averages like I’m working with.
- If he’s really playing forward, those 0.5 shots per 90 are terrible. Even from midfield it’s not ideal. Ruiz takes 0.9.
- I have my doubts he’s really playing forward but he certainly does play different spots on the field at times. Look at his average
- De Paul is at 2 open-play key passes per game, Ruiz at 2.4.
- Defensive actions: De Paul is at 1.7 per 90, Ruiz at 3.2.
Looking back at the chart notice the coloring of the dot, they carry the ball for more of their yardage than the average Big 4 midfielder.
Ruiz is a recent buy for Napoli, coming over for 30 million euros from Betis this summer. That interests me because while I don’t have progression numbers for last year yet, the old school stat scouting would not have identified Ruiz for much of anything last year, his shots were non-existent in his 3 years there:
and his key passes were minuscule as well
His defensive work was higher for Betis, indicating a shift of roles and bringing to mind one question I’d love to dive into more. How can we project who can add end product? Ruiz went for a big price and has now added serious end product and become an attractive attacking midfield target for basically any club in the world. Not sure many stat people would have said so last year at this time when he was playing.
I suspect that adding ball progression is more difficult than adding key pass end product to someone who can pass the ball forward well and that shot generation isn’t that related to either skill. Of course that was roughly my argument for why Jordan Ibe was a big part of Liverpool’s future. But this is all guesswork and the hard yards of checking back through the historical data is hopefully to come. It’s so fun and interesting to follow/describe current day games, teams, and players that the research often gets put off by me but at some point to more fully understand all these metrics, that will have to be done.
Anyway, Ruiz presumably isn’t for sale after that 30 million euro deal but certainly could be eyed by almost anyone. De Paul is a bit less attractive due to the lower shot total but those progression stats together with his Danger Zone passing and ability to carry the ball make him very attractive to anyone looking for dynamism from their attacking midfield.