Finding the best wingers in the Bundesliga – data analysis
The data analysis series where we look at the most interesting players that play in the Bundesliga continues. In this week’s analysis, the task will be to use data and statistics to find some of the best and most undervalued wingers in Germany’s top division.
Hopefully, we will find players who are showing good potential to succeed in the future given the Bundesliga clubs’ willingness to promote and develop youth players. This data analysis includes wingers who have either played in a variety of attacking and defensive positions and have played a minimum of 800 minutes in the league this season. In the end, this analysis will produce a list of some of the most interesting wingers in the league who have the potential to make a step forward in their career and perhaps don’t get enough recognition.
Progressive runs and passes
The first section of this data analysis consists of the player’s ability to make progressions down the field either with a pass or a run. Wingers are crucial components for a team’s ability to progress the play, with their usual direct style of play forcing the team higher up the pitch.
Progressive runs are a good indicator of whether a winger can carry the ball into more advanced areas. Progressive passes can give us an idea of how often player tries advanced solutions.
The outstanding candidate in this category is Borussia Dortmund’s Achraf Hakimi who boasts a great combination of the number of progressive runs and passes per game. The Real Madrid loanee has 10.17 progressive passes and 3.65 progressive runs per game, which are very high numbers. It should be noted that Hakimi does often play as a wing-back so his progressive passing numbers will be slightly inflated.
This can be seen very clearly in the graph as the majority of the leaders in the progressive passing category are players who are predominantly full-backs or wing-backs. William, Wendell and Nordi Mukiele, the leaders in progressive passing with over 11 passes per game, are players who have featured in attacking roles but are mostly defensive players.
The leader in progressive runs per game is SC Paderborn’s Gerrit Holtmann, who makes 4.52 runs per game. The 25-year-old left-winger has only scored once in 21 appearances for a side that are struggling at the bottom of the table. The loanee from Mainz 05 also lacks in terms of progressive passes as he only completes a lowly 5.05 progressive passes per game.
The graph shows another player that is similar to Hakimi in terms of his progressive output and that player is Filip Kostić. The Serbian international has been a revelation for Eintracht Frankfurt this season and makes 3.52 progressive runs per game which are accompanied with a good tally of 8.15 progressive passes per game.
Wingers such as Moussa Diaby, Kingsley Coman and Karim Bellarabi have great progressive runs per game with over 3.5 per 90 minutes but lack in progressive passes per game.
Dribbling is an important asset for a winger to have since they are usually required to beat an opposition defender to either progress the play, create or score. Wingers with great dribbling will also be able to get out of opposition traps and double teams, which will help the team in since it can give the team an added dimension in their attack.
This chart highlights the distribution of the wingers who are great at dribbling in the Bundesliga, with darker blue dots meaning that the player has a very low dribbling success rate and darker red meaning the opposite.
The leader in this regard is Bayern Munich winger Kingsley Coman, who attempts an impressive tally if 9.73 dribbles per game and completes 58.57% of them. It should be noted that completing above 60% of your attempted dribbles is regarded as elite, which means that the Frenchman is one of the best at dribbling in the league at least.
Two players have similar dribbling numbers to Coman and they are Bellarabi and Matheus Cunha. The latter plays for Hertha Berlin and has been superb this season scoring five goals in just 821 minutes. This tally was achieved by his great dribbling numbers as he attempted 8.78 dribbles per game with a success rate of 57.65. It should be noted that his lack of minutes could inflate his numbers to a higher value. Meanwhile, Bellarabi completed 59% of his 8.55 dribbles per match, making him a dangerous outlet for Bayer Leverkusen.
Holtmann is slightly below the players mentioned above as he attempts 7.54 dribbles per game but his completion rate is slightly below par at 45.88%.
Borussia Mönchengladbach’s Marcus Thuram has similar dribbling numbers to Holtmann. The Frenchman has been spectacular for Marco Rose’s side contributing to a whopping 17 goals in 29 appearances. The 22-year-old attempts 7.43 dribbles per game but like Holtmann, his success rate is quite low at 51.93%.
In this section, we are going to look at the wingers’ ability to create chances for their teammates. Most wingers are judged on their goals and assists but this will help us look into the finer details of their creativity. As with dribbling, being able to create adds another outlet for the team.
To judge a player’s creating abilities, we are looking at their ability to cross and pass into the box for teammates, which in turn will allow them to have a better goalscoring opportunity. The darker blue dots means that a player has a very low crossing accuracy and darker red dots mean the opposite.
Five players immediately stand out in this category, with Kostić leading the way with 6.42 passes into the box and 7.54 crosses per game with good accuracy of 30.49%.
Bellarabi has similar numbers with 6.21 passes into the box and 6.95 crosses per game albeit with a below-average success rate of 23.89%.
Bayern Munich winger on loan from Inter Milan Ivan Perišić is also impressive here with 6.4 passes and crosses per game with a cross accuracy of 31.65%.
Two other Bayern players are also great in this category, with Thomas Müller and Coman performing well but in contrasting fashion. The German international has the third-highest passes into the box with 6.38 per game alongside an impressive 4.96 crosses per game that find their target 38.53% of the time. The latter is less pass-heavy with 5.35 passes into the box per game and also has a slightly higher number of crosses per game with 5.98. Coman has a very similar cross accuracy to that of Müller’s with an accuracy of 38.37%.
Following on from looking at wingers’ creation, we are going to investigate their total attacking output. To measure their ability to do that, we are looking at their expected assists and goals per game. Expected assists and goals are a great predictor for how well a player will fare in the future in terms of their attacking output. As a side note, a combined xA and xG value above 0.7 should be regarded as elite output and a value above 0.5 should be looked as great output.
The players highlighted in red have the best combined expected assists and goals per game, with Bayern Munich having three players in the list.
Serge Gnabry nearly contributes to a goal per game, with a combined xA and xG of 0.88 per game, which comes as no surprise given his 23 goal contributions this season. His teammate Thomas Müller continues his renaissance with a superb tally of 0.77 and Philippe Coutinho, on loan from Barcelona, is slightly behind with 0.7 xA and xG per game.
Two players have the same combined xA and xG that Coutinho has and they are Marcus Thuram and RB Leipzig’s Christopher Nkunku who has had an incredible breakout season.
There are several players just behind those five players such as Leon Bailey, Kevin Volland and Jadon Sancho who all have great combined expected assists and goals.
Previously mentioned players such as Bellarabi, Cunha and Kainz all have a combined xA and xG value that is slightly over 0.5 per game meaning they are expected to contribute to a goal every other game at least.
Now, we will evaluate the best players we mentioned in the sections above who are under the radar or show promise. Therefore, the likes of Gnabry, Müller and Sancho will not be included given that they play for big clubs and are regarded as one of the best in their positions. It should be noted that it will be extremely difficult to find players who are complete wingers that are either under the radar or quite young. A player that just misses the cut is Hertha Berlin’s Cunha who is a very promising talent but has played the majority of his minutes as a striker.
Karim Bellarabi – The Bayer Leverkusen speedster has been pretty high in every category making him a very valuable asset. His 5.35 successful defensive actions per game are also good for an attacking player. We have already mentioned his superb proficiency in dribbling and creating abilities and added to his 3.2 shots per game, it makes Bellarabi a near-complete winger. However, at 30-years-old, he will only be a good addition for a top club looking for a back-up winger. Valued around the £10m mark by Transfermarkt, Leverkusen could get a decent sum for his sale but they are best to keep him given his output for them.
Florian Kainz – The Austrian international has been in great form this season with four goals and seven assists in the Bundesliga for FC Köln. His expected assists and goals combined total per game (0.54) shows that the 27-year-old is not outperforming this season and that his output is not a fluke. Compared to Bellarabi, he does lack in most of the statistical categories with very limited progressive runs (1.93) and dribbles (4.25) per game. He makes up for this with very high progressive passes per game and good defensive numbers. This perhaps shows that his role in Köln’s team plays a big factor in his numbers as they are a much more defensive side than Leverkusen. Kainz could be a good signing for a team that are in dire need for a creative winger than a scorer and is just valued at £2m by Transfermarkt.
Filip Kostić – With Frankfurt having many of their superstar attacking talents snapped up by bigger clubs last summer, Kostić has stepped up to be Adi Hütter’s talisman in what has been a disappointing season. The Eagles made his move permanent last summer for a measly £5.4m and his value now has shot up to nearly £30m according to Transfermarkt – a nod to his impressive campaign. The 27-year-old boasts better numbers than Bellarabi in nearly every statistical comparison with superb successful defensive actions (7.27) and progressive passes (8.15) per game. His combined xA and xG of 0.42 per game also is a positive indicator. His crossing is phenomenal as mentioned previously but his creativity could still improve as he only has 1.05 key passes per game. Kostić is worth scouting for top clubs around Europe who are looking for a winger who has great defensive versatility and good attacking output.
So now we have a small shortlist of players that have shown either good potential or great output and they deserve to be scouted further to see where their strengths and weaknesses are on the pitch. As we have seen, the Bundesliga has some great players that are under the radar from the common fan, albeit the Kostić is somewhat well known already. However, Kainz and Bellarabi could be steals if the right teams come in for them, which would allow them to elevate their games.
Check out the last three parts of this series, where we looked at central defenders, full-backs and central midfielders:
Part One: Finding the best centre-backs in the Bundesliga – data analysis
Part Two: Finding the best full-backs in the Bundesliga – data analysis
Part Three: Finding the best central midfielders in the Bundesliga – data analysis