Bundesliga bargains: What top players could be available for free this summer?
As we move towards the end of the January transfer window, we can begin to look forward to the summer’s window. This data analysis looks to highlight some interesting Bundesliga prospects who will be available for free transfers as their current contracts run out at the end of the current season. This analysis isn’t a scout report, and merely looks to give a brief overview of some of the players available and highlight some areas of strengths by looking at their data and statistics from the current season along with that of those who play in the same position.
This article highlights players to have played at least 300 minutes of Bundesliga football this season. This isn’t a great deal of football, but enough for us to see how these players measure up in context against their peers. Therefore, there are some players who aren’t included due to their lack of football and should be noted as options too. Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting at Bayern Munich and Jeffrey Bruma at Wolfsburg offer experience, whilst Luca Netz of Hertha Berlin and Melayro Bogarde of Hoffenheim offer interesting prospects for the future. There is a lack of exciting options at goalkeeper, so this position has been omitted, and likewise for left-wingers. Marcel Schmelzer of Borussia Dortmund, and Jetro Willems offer potentially interesting options at left-back, but haven’t featured this season themselves and so again are omitted.
David Alaba is due to sign with Real Madrid at the end of this season, and so hasn’t been mentioned either.
For full-backs we will look at defensive duels, both amount per 90 and percentage won. Whilst we will also look at aerial duel win percentage. The aerial duel win percentage is represented by the plot size, and we can see how each player measures up against the other full-backs in the league by looking at their plot sizes too. These plot sizes will be used throughout this analysis.
We will also look at the amount of crosses and dribbles each player attempts per 90, with the plot size representing their progessive runs per 90 too.
Not all of the options at full-back are assessed here, but rather a selection, and one wing-back who normally plays as a winger.
First of all there is Felix Passlack. The Dortmund full-back, who can play comfortably on the left or right was long touted as a future star but his career has struggled to take off. Nevertheless, there is definitely a good player in there, and when called upon he has performed relatively admirably in a shaky Dortmund defence this season. He is an attacking full-back or wing-back who pushes high and has an eye for a through pass. He is comfortable driving forward in possession, whether down the line, or cutting inside, and defensively he has no issue getting stuck in and throwing himself into duels, but as we can see from the defensive graph, he hasn’t won a great deal of these, ranking as one of the weakest players in this department.
Christopher Trimmel is the Union Berlin captain and with them having such an outstanding season it would be a surprise to see him leave in the summer. Still, his contract is running down and at 33, he might be looking for a big pay day before he hangs up his boots. In the defensive phase Trimmel is a solid if unspectacular right-back, but it is in possession where he shines. In deeper areas he is pretty orthodox in often looking for the quick ball in behind for his attacking unit to run onto. He is technically outstanding and this pass can be devastating. Yet his delivery from wide areas, whether in open play or from dead ball situations consistently causes problems for opposition defences. Last season he managed nine assists, and this season he already has six.
Theodor Gebre Selassie is 34 but doesn’t look like slowing down any time soon. He is still a force, bombing up and down the right-flank offering a consistent threat in the attacking phase. He has good feet in tight spaces, but doesn’t have the greatest output of crosses. However, defensively he is solid winning over 60% of his defensive duels, and 50% of his aerial duels. Gebre Selassie has lost a yard of pace, and understandably so, and as such he can be rolled slightly easily, and does have a tendency to leave a dangling leg in 1v1 situations. Despite this, he has been an ever-present in the Bremen side this season, and offers a very experienced option who is a safe if not necessarily inspiring choice at right-back.
Finally, there is Levin Oztunali, who has played at wing-back for Mainz this season, but is a winger by trade. He has unsurprisingly had a very impressive attacking output, which we can see in the attacking graph, putting in a good amount of crosses, but attempting a very high number of dribbles per 90 too. Yet defensively he has been superb> Whilst competing in a slightly below average amount of defensive duels, he has won over 70%, and on top of this has won 66% of his aerial duels, proving that he isn’t just an attacking option. Mainz have struggled this season, and if they do go down, it’s unlikely Oztunali will sign a new contract.
Looking at centre-backs we will look at their ability on the ball by assessing their progressive passes per 90, accurate forward pass percentage, and the plot size showing their average pass length.
Then defensively we look at defensive duels per 90, defensive duel win percentage, and shots blocked per 90, the strength of which is indicated by the plot point size.
And then of course, we must look at their aerial duels per 90 volume, and aerial duel win percentage.
Javi Martinez is predominantly a central-midfielder, but of course throughout his career he has also been used as a centre-back so it seems pertinent to show him in this section as well as the central-midfield section too. He is an outstanding all-round player. Martinez has admittedly barely played at centre-back this season, so his statistics shown here should be taken with a pinch of salt compared with the other defenders in the league, but they are still impressive. If he can stay fit he is a top-level professional who could arguably be a starter for most if not every team pushing for a title in Europe’s top five leagues. He reads the game well off the ball free-ing himself up to receive plenty of possession, and is a very talented ball-player. But he does the dirty work too, working well defensively to win back the ball and work as part of a solid defensive unit. His padj. interceptions statistics are truly outstanding as well. As we can see in the graph above, he is phenomenal in the air too.
Jerome Boateng was perhaps written off a little too soon by some a few years ago, and has had a resurgence in his career – and he’s still only 32. He is incredibly composed in possession, and is a player with a wonderful range of passing. He can play accurate, long switches of play, with either foot, or look for the more searching, line-breaking through pass, either behind the opposition defence or directly into the forwards’ feet. Naturally his positioning and game reading is strong, and while he doesn’t have the pace to recover well over short distances, his speed over longer distances is still good.
Finally there is Aleksandar Dragovic who is having a strong season with a Bayer Leverkusen side that were title contenders until a recent wobble of form. Defensively, Dragovic isn’t a stand out, in fact anything but, however, he is a terrific passer. For this quick Leverkusen side, his pin point accurate through passes or balls over the top can be devastating, whilst his composure on the ball and ability to switch play effectively is so valuable for a pass-first team like Peter Bosz’s side is.
For central midfielders we will look at a couple of different metrics to give us a good overall picture of the available options.
Firstly we will look at defensive contributions, by looking at defensive duels per 90, defensive duel win percentage, and the plot size also gives us an idea of how strong their padj. interceptions value is.
And finally we can assess their ball security, press-resistance and intentions on the ball by looking at their dribbles per 90, progressive runs per 90 and the plot size showing us their successful dribble percentage.
There is an abundance of central-midfielders available, more so in the mold of more defensive minded, or at least more withdrawn midfielders, rather than attacking midfielders.
Yannick Gerhardt, currently playing for Wolfsburg is a well-rounded box-to-box midfielder who can also play at left-back. As a midfielder he can play in a more withdrawn role, or push further up as forward as an attacking midfielder. His versatility certainly makes him an attractive prospect. He isn’t physically impressive, but is a hard worker in the defensive phase and breaks up play well. He is a good passer with an eye for a through pass in the final third and he strikes the ball well from distance. Gerhardt isn’t necessarily a goalscoring midfielder, but he will still chip in with a few goals and assists over a season.
Rani Khedira, brother of Sami, is a regular starter for Augsburg in the middle of the park. He is more of a defensive midfielder, but can also operate as a centre-back if required. He has a good range of passing, and switches play nicely, but his biggest strength definitely lies in his ability to break up play. He wins a great deal of his defensive duels and even though he is often part of a two-man central-midfield partnership for Augsburg, he could work well as the anchor in a three-man midfield too.
Nabil Bentaleb is a player familiar to english football fans thanks to his time with both Tottenham and Newcastle. He now plays in a Schalke side who have been worse than bad this season. Still, he is an experienced midfielder, who has some good qualities and despite Schalke’s season, he is undoubtedly a top flight player. Bentaleb has good feet, and as such he is comfortable playing in tight spaces and is a press resistant midfielder. Bentaleb is a less expansive passer than the others on this list, and is more of a tempo-setting type of midfielder than someone who will look to punch the ball forward. Nevertheless, he will still make the odd pass forward, and switches play well, but regardless of what he does, he makes his decisions on the ball quickly, and crucially has a good reading of what is around him as he does this,makes pass decisions quickly and is a good passer with good vision.
Julian Baumgartlinger is another Bayer Leverkusen player, and at 33 is in the latter stages of his career. Baumgartlinger is a smooth operator in possession with a good range of passing and all-round vision on the ball. Generally though he keeps things simple in possession, and his ability as a passer suits the Bosz game model. Yet it is defensively where he excels. We can see in the defensive graph that Baumgartlinger is one of the best defensive midfielders in the league, with a high number of defensive duels, and yet a way above average defensive duel win percentage. His 6.05 padj. interceptions also makes for good reading too. His ability to read the game and break up play is outstanding and despite his age he can still be a valued asset for a top flight side.
For centre-forwards we look purely at their threat in front of goal. Firstly by looking at their output in terms of both assists and goals.
And then by looking at the volume of shots they are taking on average per 90, as well as their xG per 90, and the amount of touches in the box they are taking per 90. The size of each plot point provides context for whether the amount of touches in the box a player is taking is good in relation to his peers in the league.
There is a lack of options, but nevertheless two players worth mentioning. The first is Nils Peteresen. It’s fair to say he’s a Freiburg legend and we can expect he will sign a contract extension and finish his career at the club. However, Petersen has once again been in pretty prolific form this season, and has found most of his game time coming from the bench. In the last four seasons Petersen has hit double digits in the league, and with seven goals from his 18 games played so far, is likely to repeat this feat once again. Petersen is well-built and can play as a traditional target man. He is composed in front of goal and is a reliable finisher with both feet, whilst he is also outstanding with his head too. At 32 he still has plenty of football left in him, and a newly promoted side in need of a consistent threat in front of goal, who knows the Bundesliga well, could certainly do worse than to try to pry him away from Freiburg.
Our last player we will look at is the Swedish international Robin Quaison. The forward, who can also play on the wing or even as a 10, had a breakout season last year, scoring 13 goals. His form for Mainz led to speculation of a transfer and potentially that has turned his head, and this season has been disappointing for him and Mainz in equal measure. Nevertheless, Quaison is absolutely worth taking a look at on a free transfer for a mid-table club in any of Europe’s top five leagues, or even as a useful squad player for teams slightly further up the table. Quaison has good pace, and decent strength despite not being the tallest. He has a quick shot release and powerful shot, as well as a penchant for dangerous long range efforts. He has excellent awareness and is selfless in possession, and despite a poor season in front of goal, last season he showed he was dangerous from almost anywhere scoring goals from distance, inside the 18-yard-box, or inside the six-yard-box, with a pretty even distribution.
As mentioned in the introduction, this is purely an overview, highlighting the players that are potentially available for nothing in the summer, and whilst it doesn’t go into any depth on these players, we can still see where these players rank against their peers in the league statistically this season. There are undoubtedly some bargains to be found here, and as the value of players continues to inflate almost every season, the free transfer market surely becomes more and more valuable.