3F Superliga 2019/20: The U23 All-Stars – data analysis
There are typical leagues where players can develop freely as they get more minutes and clubs have a stronger preference towards their own academy products. The Eredivisie and the Belgian Jupiler League are leagues of this kind but we can add Denmark and the 3F Superliga. Over the last couple of seasons, the Danish league grew into its unique status and the quality of football has also risen.
To prove this statement, we decided to create a team out of under 23 talents. The twist is that only Danish players are eligible to be selected to show how the future of Denmark lies in the hands of the youngsters playing at home. This means that great players like Mohamed Kudus from Nordsjaelland or Jón Dagur Thorsteinsson from Aarhus won’t feature in this data analysis. However, in the article, you will see the incredible depth at almost every position and the quality that these players show.
The 3F Superliga is different in its structure from the other leagues. After 26 rounds of the regular season, the 14 teams continue either in the relegation playoff or the championship playoff depending on their previous positions. In this analysis, we focus on the statistics of the regular season. The players must be under 23 years of age while they had to spend at least 600 minutes on the field.
Every position will have a shortlist of players and based on various statistics, we will create the young team of the year. We cannot limit our research only to the best eleven, therefore we will add substitutes, players who were close this year to feature in the first team.
- Oliver Christensen, 21, Odense
- Oscar Hedvall, 21, Silkeborg
The selection is relatively small with Christensen and Hedvall only matching the previous criteria. Christensen massively impressed during the season as Odense conceded only 30 goals in the regular season. Hedvall was an early casualty of Silkeborg’s bad season start, he was relegated on the bench after the first eight games as a starter.
Christensen held his expected conceded goals tight to the actuals goals over the season. He ranks third in both metrics which makes him a reliable goalkeeper. Hedvall, on the other end of the spectrum, conceded 2.5 goals per game and despite the high figure, he kept it below his expected stats.
The whole Odense defence functioned well as Christensen faced only 3.67 shots per game and he also kept nine clean sheets in the campaign (joint second in the league). Hedvall never conceded less than two goals but his defence did not help him out as he had to prepare for 6.46 shots per game.
Oliver Christensen: The U21 international faces a bright future ahead. The top goalkeeper in the league, Jesper Hansen is already 35 so it wouldn’t be surprising if Christensen demanded a place in the national team soon behind Kasper Schmeichel and Frederik Ronnow.
Currently, no players behind could occupy the second keeper position on the roster. Besides Hedvall, Nordsjaelland’s Peter Vindahl Jensen could be in for a couple of appearances next or Oliver Ottesen could be Jensen’s long-term successor at Midtjylland. Kasper Kristensen in Aarhus won’t get a first-team chance soon but in another team, he could also get his opportunity.
- Victor Nelsson, 21, FC Copenhagen
- Rasmus Nicolaisen, 23, Midtjylland
- Frederik Winther, 19, Lyngby
- Marco Lund, 23, Odense
- Mathias Ross, 19, Aalborg
- Anton Skipper, 20, Bröndby
- Sebastian Hausner, 20, Aarhus
- Anders Hagelskjær, 23, Silkeborg
- Jeppe Gertsen, 23, Silkeborg
- Frederik Ibsen, 20, Silkeborg
- Kevin Tshiembe, 23, Lyngby
A great group of youngsters with Silkeborg delegating three centre-backs in the shortlist of 11. Victor Nelsson has great potential and could be on the move soon in Europe but behind him, there were no clear candidates for the best young defender title.
The possession-adjusted interceptions with the percentage of defensive and aerial duels won indicate more or less the overall defensive work by centre-backs. Nicolaisen appears in the top end in every metric with Nelsson and Hausner following.
We also examined the progression of these players relative to their overall passes. Along with Skipper, Winther, Lund and again Nicolaisen rank high in progressive passes per 90. The Midtjylland defender’s progressive ratio is the highest as he produces 10.6 progressive passes from only 48 passes.
Creating the metric ‘dangerous pass ratio’ helped us determine how these centre-backs contribute to the attacking movement of their teams. The inclusion of deep completions passes to the penalty area and final third passes per 90 divided by the forward passes per 90 shows that Hausner and Nicolaisen lead the group once again. The success rate of the penalty area and final third passes are indicated by the colour.
Victor Nelsson: He could become a generational talent for Denmark. The fact that he played every minute in the heart of Staale Solbakken’s defence shows great maturity and he can show his talent in the Europa League.
Sebastian Hausner: It was a tight race between him and Nicolaisen but Hausner gets our vote based on this season. He featured in 11 games (913 minutes) and contributed to AGF surprise run for the third place. He was part of the second-best defence in Denmark and could be a first-teamer soon since both central defenders in Aarhus have one year left from their contracts.
Rasmus Nicolaisen: Even though Midtjylland have the best CB pair in the league, Nicolaisen cannot complain. He got 695 minutes of action this season and he still has time to improve. He is a reliable defender and he will have a place at Midtjylland and in our team as well.
Frederik Winther: Undoubtedly the best young prospect among the defenders. Only 19 years of age, it would be interesting to see whether he stays at Lyngby or follow the pattern of internal transfers to one of the bigger clubs.
One to watch:
Frederik Alves: Unfortunately, Silkeborg will continue in the second division but we can expect to see Alves in the 3F Superliga next year. Despite his team conceded a league-high 55 goals, he can expect teams to be interested in his services.
- Nikolas Dyhr, 19, Midtjylland, left-back
- Alexander Munksgaard, 22, Aarhus, right-back
- Daniel Anyembe, 21, Esbjerg, right-back
- Mads Thychosen, 22, Nordsjaelland, right-back
- Stefan Gartenmann, 23, SönderjyskE, right-back
- Alexander Bah, 22, SönderjyskE, right-back
- Rasmus Carstensen, 20, Silkeborg, right-back
Nikolas Dyhr represents the left full-backs in the list, therefore, the decision is narrowed down to right-backs. The different style of play could hinder our research so we aimed to find the most balanced back for our young team.
To differ from the usual approach, we examined the recoveries and paid attention to the counterpressing recoveries as well. Gartenmann could be defined as the most defensive full-back but Bah’s and Munksgaard’s defensive work shouldn’t go unnoticed as well.
In this chart, we have the usual crossing chart with the additional expected assists from crosses only. This is a great way to determine the chances created from crosses as we can see Anyembe racked up 2.95 xA from much fewer crosses than Munksgaard or Thychosen.
Finally, we used the dangerous pass ratio with deep completed crosses added to the equation. Here Thychosen leads the group but even with another metric, the numbers don’t reach 1 which means these players didn’t contribute greatly to the attack.
Alexander Munksgaard: It was either him or Thychosen. The 22-year-old switched from Midtjylland and found his place at Aarhus. He helped to stabilize the defence. Going forward, he has limitations but AGF balanced their tactics well with him. He could become a great player in Denmark.
Nikolas Dyhr: We haven’t seen much from the abilities of the 19-year-old. He played 1300 minutes behind Midtjylland’s first-choice left-back, Paulinho. As the team relies on crosses into the box, he has to become better to be a potential starter.
Mads Thychosen: Nordsjaelland’s new right-back climbed through the international ladders from U16 to U21 so it is only fair to suppose that he will make it into the national team sooner or later. At the club, he is involved in a great rebuild so if he can cement his place in the starting eleven, he will be there for a long time.
One to watch:
Alexander Bah: He is a dynamic full-back/winger hybrid who worked well in SönderjyskE’s system this year. It would be interesting to see him in a bigger team and where he would be used there.
- Magnus Kofod Andersen, 21, Nordsjaelland
- Jens Stage, 23, FC Copenhagen
- Jacob Christensen, 19, Nordsjaelland
- Jacob Lungi Sørensen, 22, Esbjerg
- Morten Frendrup, 19, Bröndby
- Magnus Christensen, 22, Aalborg
- Mads Emil Madsen, 22, Silkeborg
- Anders Dreyer, 22, Midtjylland
- Jens Thomasen, 23, Odensen
- Rezan Corlu, 22, Lyngby (on loan)
- Anis Ben Slimane, 19, Bröndby
- Frederik Lauenborg, 23, Randers
- Moses Opondo, 22, Odense
- Mads Kaalund, 23, Silkeborg
Some great names appear in the shortlist but which three can take control of the midfield with the best complementary attributes?
First, we take a look at the overall success in attack and defence. It is worth to notice that the only player above the league average in both metrics is Lungi Sörensen. Corlu leads in successful attacking actions while Frendrup in the defence.
In terms of progressive metrics, we factored in both the runs and passes and ended up Madsen up front. The most balanced player is Kaalund based on these terms while Corlu and Dreyer are head-to-head in progressive runs.
Rezan Corlu is the first to have a dangerous pass ratio above 1 in the analysis. Attacking-minded players appear in the front but for example, in the case of Andersen or Stage, this number just shows how versatile they are.
Finally, we saw previously the overall successful defensive actions and how Frendrup and Lungi Sörensen dominated there. As we follow them through the defensive aspects among all central midfielders in the league, they are the most valuable young defensive midfielders. Therefore, they will be the double pivot and the core of our team.
Jacob Lungi Sörensen: With Esbjerg battling relegation, he should have plenty of interested teams based on his 2019/20 performance. He does a fair share of the defensive work as well as helping out the team in attack. In a bigger team, he would be defensive midfielder but at Esbjerg he had to do it all.
Morten Frendrup: The 19-year old rangy defensive midfielder was outstanding this year and continues to impress in the playoffs. There is nothing extremely special in his game but he commits superbly to his defensive job and being only 19, it means he will improve in the future.
Rezan Corlu: Whoever watched the 3F Superliga this year cannot be surprised by his addition. After coming back from a short adventure at AS Roma, he was loaned out to Lyngby where he lit up the pitch. His 6 goals and 7 assists kept the club above water, considering their overall tally of 31 goals.
Magnus Kofod Andersen: In the analysis, we haven’t talked much about him but he has a bright future ahead of him. His season wasn’t spectacular but he could go further than the previously mentioned trio. At 21, he is the captain of Nordsjaelland, a natural leader and a gifted playmaker.
Jens Stage: The same goes for Stage. It wasn’t his season but can progress in the future. He scored 4 goals and earned his place in the strong Copenhagen squad.
Ones to watch
Mads Emil Madsen: A strong, physical midfielder with great playmaking abilities. He is the captain of Silkeborg and spent almost every minute on the field. He could be a fit in physical leagues with numerous defensive duels.
Anis Ben Slimane: He is an odd one out since he might choose to represent Tunisia based on his double nationality. He came from the Danish third tier and while he played in only 6 games in the regular season, he featured in every match in the playoffs. He could be a long shout but he showed great adaptation to first-league football in his first year.
- Mohammed Daramy, 18, FC Copenhagen
- Mikkel Damsgaard, 19, Nordsjaelland
- Mathias Kristensen, 23, Esbjerg
- Louka Prip, 22, Horsens
- Jeppe Okkels, 20, Silkeborg
- Mikkel Kallesøe, 23, Randers
- Mads Frøkjær-Jensen, 20, Odense
- Nicolai Vallys, 23, Silkeborg
- Kasper Jørgensen, 20, Lyngby
Probably the most obvious selection. Both Daramy and Damsgaard received international praises for their outstanding performance. To decide who can feature as their backups, we used the ternary chart to determine the roles of these players.
Jörgensen played significant minutes at the right-back position so it is not a surprise he appears in the defensive dimension. Prip and Okkels are the ones who can offer value in the attack while players in the middle do their bits in every aspect of the game.
To make the player roles a bit clearer, we added ‘crosses to shots ratio’. This way we can adjust our expectations on their goal contributions. In the xG-xA chart, Daramy shines in the assists category while Damsgaard in the goals.
The most descriptive metrics for wingers are not crosses. Therefore, we aimed to visualize more important categories such as deep completions, progressive passes, dribbles and progressive runs. Progressive passes indicate the average position of the winger with players dropping deep usually have bigger space to launch this kind of passes. Nevertheless, Damsgaard is top three in all but one aspect and Daramy’s low number of progressive passes per 90 is only due to his positioning.
Prip gets between the two top players showing the ability to carry the Horsens offensive threat on his back. As expected, the winger position holds the biggest value for attacking threat.
Mohammed Daramy: The Copenhagen academy player conquered the league in just one season. His versatility to play forward or winger makes him a target across Europe. RB Leipzig were rumoured to be interested in the player as they identified him as the successor of Timo Werner while Liverpool also looked at him during the fall. Copenhagen could be a team that allows him to improve more before departing to Europe.
Mikkel Damsgaard: On the contrary to Daramy, Damsgaard did not wait and signed a new contract with Sampdoria. If nothing else, his transfer fee of 6.5 million euros was an indication of how serious the Italian team was about getting him. He scored 11 goals with an xG of 6.4 while also handing out 4 assists at Nordsjaelland.
Louka Prip: Horsens are also represented in the team of the year and it is well deserved. Prip carried his team on his back which is shown in the different charts. Despite his team scored only 25 goals, he ranks above-average in many metrics as a modern player in a team with traditional 4-4-2 tactics.
Jeppe Okkels: Silkeborg are loaded with talents, it was an unfortunate season where the lack of experience played a big part in their weak performance. It is an interesting fact that Okkels made his debuts in youth national teams always a year younger. Scored 3 goals and assisted 5 in the regular season.
One to watch:
Mads Frøkjær-Jensen: The 20-year-old is not a typical winger. He also played in OB’s three-midfielder setup as a central midfielder. He should get more minutes in the next season.
- Jesper Lindstrøm, 20, Bröndby
- Mikkel Kaufmann, 19, Aalborg – FC Copenhagen
- Emil Riis, 22, Randers
- Gustav Marcussen, 22, Lyngby
Even though the shortlist consists of four names, only Kaufmann and Riis are true forwards in a traditional manner.
Their goal contribution chart represents how Kaufmann was the main man at Aalborg before transferring to Copenhagen. An almost 30% individual contribution is outstanding and it is followed by 25.6% of Riis.
The chart is divided into four sections based on xG per 90 and touches in the box per 90 minutes. Both Kaufmann and Riis are in the highly efficient part.
Finally, the second assists and assists show their ‘service ability’, a great way to indicate their tendency and efficiency in the attacking movement. Lindström also lined up as an attacking midfielder, hence his high numbers.
Mikkel Kaufmann: FC Copenhagen pulled off a great coup with the signing of Kaufmann. Even the 3 million euros price can pay off with the next transfer. So far, his adaptation to the new team wasn’t smooth, he only scored one goal after a great fall with Aalborg (7 goals). He fits well into Solbakken’s system so it is only a matter of time he starts delivering.
Emil Riis: After taking his talents to Derby and VVV Venlo, he returned to his team as a strong forward. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him in a stronger team soon, more likely in Scandinavia.
This team based on statistical data would be a title contender in Denmark without a doubt. The team selection shows that almost every club has at least one (but usually well above one) great young Danish player. Combined with the incredible talents abroad like Jacob Bruun Larsen in the Bundesliga or Andreas Skov Olsen in the Serie A, Denmark has all the right to be excited about the future in football.