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PCA of Wingers in Europe’s Top 5

Heatmap PCA of Wingers in Europe’s Top Five Leagues - data analysis statistics

In my previous PCA visualization, I looked at the Principal Component Analysis (PCA) of strikers in the Premier League. This PCA visualization showcases the different types of wingers in Europe’s Top Five Leagues (EPL, Serie A, Bundesliga, Ligue 1, and LaLiga).

Before I delve deep into the data analysis, it is good to know what a PCA is. A PCA is a type of analysis where we feed data that measures the style of players and the analysis spews out different groups. It then tells us which statistics most correspond to the group. In our case, the PCA generated four distinct groups and told us what assortment of metrics correspond to each distinct group.

Colours that are green and darker indicate a positive correlation meaning that that type of winger usually records strong statistics in that metric. Colours that are red and darker indicate a negative correlation meaning that that type of winger usually performs poorly in that metric. As an example, We see that for the “Crossing Winger”, the metric “Crosses per 90” is lit dark green. This means that Crossing Winger usually performs strongly in crosses per 90 minutes.

With basic interpretation and guidelines out of the way, let’s take a look at the PCA and actually analyse.

The easiest category to analyse is the “Creative Winger” and we’ll start from there. This type of winger shows strong associations in the metrics like through passes per 90, smart passes per 90, deep completions per 90, and short/medium passes per 90. This means that this winger makes through passes, passes that put his teammates within 20 meters of the opponent goal, and short passes. Wingers that fit this mould are Neymar of PSG, Coutinho of Bayern Munich, Ángel Di María of PSG and Riyad Mahrez of Manchester City according to the data. These players perform strongly in the metrics that are lit up in the section and do it very well.

Next up we’ll look at the “Dribbler Winger”. According to the metrics that are lit up, this winger loves to dribble, make a bunch of offensive duels, and progressive runs. In addition to that, the winger is somewhat good at attacking metrics such as through passes. Wingers that most correspond to this style are Raheem Sterling of Manchester City, Eden Hazard of Chelsea, Wilfried Zaha of Crystal Palace, and Allan Saint-Maximin of Newcastle. These wingers are exceptionally talented at getting past by their man and complement this with good to above-average creativity.

An important note for PCA is that wingers are not defined by one style. For example, Neymar is associated with a “Creative Winger” but also the “Dribbler Winger”. In fact, this is very common for wingers to have more than one styles. The purpose of the PCA is supposed to give us a quantitative way of looking at styles in a player. For a more defensive team which prioritizes swift counter-attacks, they’d look to this PCA and figure those wingers who are primarily a “Dribbler Winger” are their scope. As such, PCA allows us to narrow scope and become better at defining styles.