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Finding the best full backs from the Primeira Liga – data analysis statistics

Finding the best full-backs from the Primeira Liga – data analysis

In our second data analysis piece on the Primeira Liga, we will be looking out for the best full-backs currently playing in the league using data. Full-backs have come a long way in redefining their traits in the modern game. Gone are the days when they had a very limited task to do only defending. Modern managers are hugely dependent on their full-backs for the team’s successful tactics and their roles have also evolved where some of them play as a midfielder by inverting into the midfield during possession.

In our analysis, we will be considering both the attacking as well as defensive attributes. We will be looking at players who registered at least 900 minutes of football in the 2021 league season. Also, only proper full-backs are taken into consideration i.e. no makeshift options included.

We will shortlist the best options according to the statistics and data analysis. Let’s dive deep into the analysis.

Player profiling

The most important thing for any player or position in football is to identify their best-suited abilities. Different players playing in the same position will have different abilities both offensively and defensively. Likewise, full-backs will show both defensive as well as offensive capabilities. In order to account for the profile of the FBs that we are looking into we compare them with respect to how well they perform their attacking and defensive actions. We can see the plot in the image below that compares the FBs in Superliga in this regard.

Finding the best full backs from the Primeira Liga – data analysis statistics

Koffi Kouao – The 23-year old right-back from Vizela. He has recorded 3.2 successful attacking actions per game and 10.81 successful defensive actions per game. He also wins his duels at a very good rate 0f 57.89%.

Zé Carlos – The 23-year old right-back who plays for Gil Vicente on loan from Sporting Braga. He has averaged 3.18 successful attacking actions per game and 10.22 successful defensive actions per game. He also wins his duels at a very good rate 0f 57.24%.

Neto Borges – The 25-year old left-back from Tondela. He has recorded 3.06 successful attacking actions per game and 9.76 successful defensive actions per game. He also wins his duels at a very decent rate 0f 54.13%.

Gilberto – The 29-year old right-back from Benfica. He has averaged 4.18 successful attacking actions per game and 9.65 successful defensive actions per game. He wins his defensive duels at a rate 0f 49.7%.

Pedro Porro – The 22-year old right-wing back from Sporting CP. In the league, he has made 7.62 successful attacking actions per 90 and 8.67 successful defensive actions per game. He has also won his duels at an above-average rate of 52%.

Defensive ability

The next thing we look at is how the players perform in the defensive aspect of the game. We compare the full-backs with respect to their defensive duels and interception stats that they have recorded per game over the course of this season. Despite the modern-day full-back being required to be very good on the ball, their share in contributing to the defence can never be undermined and is equally very important for a full-back.

Finding the best full backs from the Primeira Liga – data analysis statistics

Pedro Malheiro – The 21-year old right-back from Boavista. He averaged 7.5 PAdj interceptions per game and 5.61 defensive duels won per game in the league this season. He won duels at the rate of 47%.

Vitor Costa – The 27-year old left-back from Maritimo. He has recorded 7.16 PAdj interceptions per game and 5.33 defensive duels won per game in the league this season. He won duels at the rate of 61%.

Richard Ofori – The 29-year old full-back from Vizela. He has recorded 7.38 PAdj interceptions per game and 4.8 defensive duels won per game in the league this season. He won duels at the rate of 51.45%.

Ricardo Esgaio – The 29-year old right wing-back from Sporting. He has averaged 7 PAdj interceptions per game and 4.8 defensive duels won per game in the league this season. He won duels at the rate of 51.1%.

Joao Ferreira – The 21-year old right-back from Vitoria. He has averaged 9.3 PAdj interceptions per game and 4.74 defensive duels won per game in the league this season. He won duels at the rate of 53%.

Playmaking

FBs are also tasked with moving the ball to the final third and helping the team to ensure that they can go to the final phase of the play. Also, there are some teams that depend on their full-backs to play out from the back. The likes of Bayern MunichLiverpool and Manchester City use their full-backs to great effect to seamlessly build play out from the back.

Finding the best full backs from the Primeira Liga – data analysis statistics

Alex Grimaldo – The 26-year old left-back from Benfica. The Benfica left-back recorded 5.28 passes into the final third with an accuracy of almost 79%, which is among the league’s highest. He also averaged 1.28 smart passes per game in the league this season.

Gilberto – The Benfica right-back has averaged 7 passes into the final third, the highest among full-backs in the league, with an accuracy of almost 64%. He also averaged 1.1 smart passes per game in the league this season.

Pedro Porro – The Sporting right-back has recorded a league-high of 1.85 smart passes per game and 5 passes into the final third per game as well. He also completed his passes into the final third with an accuracy of 54%.

Wendell – The 28-year old left-back from Porto. He has averaged 0.77 smart passes per game and 5.22 passes into the final third per game as well. He also completed his passes into the final third with a very good accuracy of 83.61%, which is the highest in the league for full-backs.

Yan Couto – The 19-year old right-back from Sporting Braga. He has averaged 0.69 smart passes per game and 5.74 passes into the final third per game as well. He also completed his passes into the final third with very good accuracy of 70%.

Ze Carlos – The Braga right-back has averaged 0.68 smart passes per game and 6.9 passes into the final third per game as well. He also completed his passes into the final third with very good accuracy of 56.8%.

Ball progression

Full-backs these days are expected to be very expansive on the ball and also help the team to progress over the different thirds of the pitch. They are expected to be very direct and technically sound on the ball and be comfortable in providing value to the team with their carrying and passing.

Finding the best full backs from the Primeira Liga – data analysis statistics

Yan Couto – The 19-year old right-back has averaged 9.4 progressive passes in the league along with 3.3 progressive runs per game last season. He also averaged 1.8 progressive passes for every 10 passes he made in the league.

Gilberto – The Benfica right-back has recorded 10.27 progressive passes in the league along with 2.5 progressive runs per game last season. He also averaged 1.97 progressive passes for every 10 passes he made in the league.

Pedro Porro – The Sporting right-back has recorded 8.4 progressive passes in the league along with 2.5 progressive runs per game last season. He also averaged 2.1 progressive passes for every 10 passes he made in the league.

Ze Carlos – The Braga right-back has recorded 11.15 progressive passes in the league along with 2.2 progressive runs per game last season. He also averaged 1.99 progressive passes for every 10 passes he made in the league.

Alex Grimaldo – The Benfica left-back recorded 8.2 progressive passes in the league along with 2.5 progressive runs per game last season. He also averaged 1.5 progressive passes for every 10 passes he made in the league.

Chance creation

The final phase of play and potentially the most crucial aspect from an attacking sense is the creation of chances for their team’s forwards. This is where a lot of FBs, especially the attacking ones are judged based on their ability to consistently create chances. Fullbacks are also expected to provide a width and be among the focal point of creation for their respective teams. Instead of comparing them with respect to their actual assist number that gets inflated due to great finishes we see their expected values and also their ability to make passes into the penalty area.

Finding the best full backs from the Primeira Liga – data analysis statistics

Pedro Porro – The Sporting right-back has recorded 1.35 key passes per game, the highest in the league among full-backs, with his assists being worth an xA of 0.29 per game, which is also the highest. He has also averaged a league-high 2.2 shot-assists per game in the league this season.

Alex Grimaldo – The Benfica left-back has averaged 0.58 key passes per game with his assists being worth an xA of 0.29 per game. He has also averaged 1.88 shot-assists per game in the league this season.

Nuno Santos – The 27-year old left-back from Sporting. He has recorded 1.25 key passes per game with his assists being worth an xA of 0.25 per game. He has also averaged 1.72 shot-assists per game in the league this season.

Galeno – The 24-year old left wing-back from Porto. He has averaged 0.89 key passes per game with his assists being worth an xA of 0.17 per game. He has also averaged 1.46 shot-assists per game in the league this season.

Players to watch out for

Based on the data and the statistics we have shortlisted a few options to look out for in the forthcoming season where we expect these full-backs to make bigger strides.

Finding the best full backs from the Primeira Liga – data analysis statistics

Pedro Porro

The 22-year old Sporting wing-back has been one of their vital performers for them this season and one of the reasons for their qualification to the Champions League next season. From the figure above, we can see that he has been excelling in most of the creation metrics and has been brilliant in the final third and with possession for his club. His defensive numbers are also good and he has certainly performed well in that regard as well. He can probably look in terms of improving his duelling ability where he can win more duels with better accuracy. Many top clubs in Europe will definitely be looking at him and teams like Chelsea, who are in search of a wing-back, can definitely look to sign this youngster.

Yan Couto

The 19-year old teenager from Sporting Braga. At a very young age, Yan has certainly been one of the best full-backs in the league and arguably the best U-20 full-back. He seems to be excelling in almost all the stats, especially in progressive runs where he is very good at making runs in behind with and without the ball. He is also a very decent creator for someone of his age and does well defensively too. Though he should definitely improve a lot more in both the departments and also should show significant improvement in terms of making more contributions to his team’s build-up in order to be a more complete full-back.

Ze Carlos 

Another young full-back part of Sporting Braga. He spent his time on loan at Gil Vicente this season and would be looking to be a permanent starter for his parent club. He is very good in terms of making defensive contributions for his side and this obviously can be due to him playing in a more defensive team as well. This is also why his attacking stats are not that big but playing in a more expansive team can certainly help him to contribute more in the other phases as well. Next season would be very crucial for him and would give more ideas about his style and strengths.

Conclusion

The Primeira Liga possesses some fine full-backs with most of them being young and with high potential. In this article, we have covered both the attacking as well as the defensive traits to discuss and list a few of the best performing players. A lot of players have been handpicked and have seen themselves playing in multiple top-tier clubs across the Scandinavian regions. We could see that the players we saw and discussed could also follow the same path and be successful at the top level.