Finding the best central midfielders from Danish Superliga – data analysis
In this data analysis piece, we will be looking out for the best central midfielders currently playing in Superliga using statistics. Central midfielders have come a long way in redefining their traits in the modern game. Gone are the days where central midfielders had a very limited task to do in their respective teams. The best central midfielders are the most complete ones, is the saying that rings around. Modern managers are hugely dependent on their central midfielders for the team’s successful tactics.
In our analysis, we will be considering both the attacking as well as defensive attributes. Definitely passing is the most important trait for a midfielder so that won’t be missed for sure. We will be looking at players who have registered at least 800 minutes of football in the 2021-22 league season. Also, only proper central midfielders are taken into consideration i.e. no makeshift options included.
We will shortlist the best options according to the statistics and data analysis. The success of players like Kasper Schmeichel and Christian Eriksen in EPL has definitely made Superliga a hotspot to find players. Let’s dive deep into the analysis.
Profiling the Players
The most important thing for any player or position in football is probably to identify their best-suited abilities. Different players playing in the same position will have different abilities both offensively and defensively. Likewise, a central midfielder will show both defensive as well as offensive capabilities. In order to account for the profile of the CMs 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 CMs in Superliga with this regard.
From the chart, we can see that the players are clustered based on their profile with some of the players doing extremely well in the attacking sense while some of them are good defensively and are just above average offensively.
Anis Ben Slimane – The 20-year old Brondby youngster has been showing very good attacking stats here as he averages 4.05 successful attacking actions per game while also being active and sound defensively where he is just below the 75th percentile for the successful defensive action, averaging 11.67.
Albert Grønbæk – The 20-year old youngster from AGF is another one who does well from an attacking sense and lies closer to the median level with regards to the defensive abilities. He records 10.29 defensive actions per game and 3.68 attacking actions per game.
Evander – 23-year old Brazilian from FC Midtjylland. He has been one of the big creative forces for Midtjylland for the past couple of seasons. From the chart, we can see how inclined he is towards the attacking part of the game than the defensive side. He records 3.51 attacking actions and 8.56 defensive actions successfully per game.
Now let’s see some of the best defensive performers.
Aron Elis Þrándarson – The 26-year old Icelandic from OB seems to be the top defensive performer according to the chart. He records 17.71 successful defensive actions per game and 2.47 attacking actions per game.
Pedro Ferreira – The 23-year old Portuguese midfielder from Aalborg. Like Þrándarson, he is one of the high volume defensive performers where he averages 17.75 defensive actions per game and 1.77 attacking actions per game. Even from an attacking sense, his stats are good given that he is above the median level and performs better than an average midfielder in the league.
The next thing we look at is how the players perform in the defensive aspect of the game. We compare the players with respect to their defensive duels and interceptions stats that they have recorded per game over the course of this season.
The top players performing in this regard are:-
Pedro Ferreira – The Portuguese seem to be a defensive monster as he reappears in our analysis this time recording 11.48 duels per game at a success rate of 59.73%. The best thing about him is he averages a high volume of contests in a very huge number of duels and also wins them at a very good rate. On top of that, he also records 10.98 interceptions per game showing his value in reading the game and his awareness.
Aron Elis Þrándarson – The Icelandic international is also similar to Pedro Ferreira and seem to be very good on the defensive side of the game. He records 10.09 duels per game at an astonishing rate of 61.02%. He also shows good reading ability by averaging 10.17 interceptions per game.
Josip Radošević – The 27-year old has been a mainstay for Brondby ever since his arrival to the Superliga. He has been one of the most consistent defensive performers for the last couple of seasons and seems to be maintaining the same form this season too. He records 11.18 defensive duels at a rate of 58.54%. He also records 7.99 interceptions per game, which might not be very high like Pedro or Þrándarson but is definitely very good.
Nicolai Poulsen – The 28-year old from AGF has been another consistent defensive midfielder in the Superliga for quite a while. Though he has dropped from his previous seasons, he still has been recording good numbers that have put him above the 90th percentile for both the defensive metrics. He records 11.12 duels per game at a success rate of 56.86%. But he does record less interceptions compared to the players discussed above averaging 5.91 per game.
Jeppe Grønning – A veteran and Viborg’s midfield stalwart who led them to the Danish top tier has been one of the best players in their history. He averages 10.68 duels per game at a rate of 55.2 while also making 7.07 interceptions per game.
Midfielder’s these days are expected to be very expansive on the ball and also help the team to progress the ball over the different thirds of the pitch. CMs these days are also tasked with this and are expected to be very direct and technically sound on the ball like Toni Kroos, Thiago, etc.
The players performing in very top regard in this category are:-
Jeppe Grønning – The Viborg man not only is defensively key, but he is also very vital to his team’s chances in possession as he is their main progressor on the ball. He records 9.57 progressive passes per game while making 0.21 progressive passes for every pass he has attempted. He also has a very good rate of completing the progressive pass with a value of 74.76%.
Jens Thomasen – The 25-year old OB midfielder has been another top progressive midfielder in the league as he averages 9.34 progressive passes per game at the rate of above 62% and 0.19 progressive passes for every pass attempted.
Josip Radošević – Josip averages 9.84 progressive passes per game at a success rate of 71.59. He also makes 0.19 progressive pass per pass which is a very good value and shows his willingness to be direct on the ball.
Aron Elis Þrándarson – Another player who looks to be versatile as he records 8.65 progressive passes per game with a success rate of 54.76 and also has a progressive pass ratio of 0.19.
Ball Carrying Abilities
The ability to carry the ball has always been very crucial to every player and has been seen as an important trait for a very long time. So CMs having a very good ability to carry the ball are very valuable and play a similar impact to those who play progressive passes.
The top performers in this category are:-
Louka Prip – The 24-year old Danish midfielder from AaB is the top performer in this category which we can see from the graph above. He records 4.85 dribbles per game and 2.38 progressive runs per game. He also completes dribbles at a very good rate of 56.86%.
Lasso Coulibaly – The 19-year old teenager has been an exciting young prospect for Nordsjaelland this season where he has caught the eye of a lot of people by playing exciting football. He has recorded 3.88 dribbles per game (41% success rate) and 1.89 progressive runs being very direct and fast at a very young age.
Justin Lonwijk – The 21-year old midfielder from Viborg. The Dutch youngster has recorded 3.52 dribbles per game completing exactly 50% of it and also has recorded 2.15 progressive runs per game.
Evander – The Brazilian has averaged 3.51 dribbles per game, winning 47% of his dribbles while also recording 1.96 progressive runs per game.
Anis Ben Slimane – The youngster seems to be very good at dribbling as he records 4.73 dribbles per game, one of the highest among midfielders in the Superliga, also completing it at a very good rate of 55%. Though he doesn’t make a lot of progressive runs he averages above the median making 1.16 such runs per game.
Albert Grønbæk – The youngster averages 5.04 dribbles per game and is successfully at an astonishing rate of 56.25%. He seems to be the best dribbler among the midfielders who have played over 800 minutes in the league this season.
CMs 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.
The top performers in this category are:-
Evander – The Brazilian records 8.66 passes into the final third at the rate of 59.5% and 1.55 smart passes (passes that break lines).
Mohamed Diomande – The 19-year old teenager from Nordsjaelland has been another exciting prospect from the league as he records 6.42 passes into the final third and completes them 73% of the time. He also records 1.82 smart passes per game too.
Anis Ben Slimane – He records 4.92 passes into the final third and completes 50.98% of them. He also averages 2.03 smart passes per game.
Mark Brink – The 23-year old midfielder from Silkeborg has recorded a very high amount of passes into the final third where he averages 10 such passes and completes 75.2% of them. He also records 0.58 smart passes per game.
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 CMs, especially the attacking ones are judged based on their ability to consistently create chances.
Evander – Like said before, the Brazilian is one of the best attacking-midfielders in the Scandinavian regions as he records 0.82 key passes, 0.18 xA and 2.06 shot assists per game.
Iver Fossum – The 25-year old midfielder from AaB is another top CAM for his side as he consistently creates chances for his teammates. He averages 0.62 key passes, 0.21 XA and 1.47 shot assists per game this season.
Patrick Olsen – The 27-year old midfielder from AGF records the highest xA per game (0.26) and also the highest number of shot assists, 2.31, in the league this season. Though he plays comparatively very few key passes, he seems to be much more impactful inside the penalty areas as he plays passes into more danger zones for his teammates.
Vito Hammershøy-Mistrati – The 29-year-old Randers’ man has played 0.46 key passes this season and 1.75 shot assists per game where they have been worth 0.2 xA on average.
Danish Superliga possesses some fine midfielders 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. Multiple big European clubs have been signing fishing players from the Superliga these days and the likes of Manchester United, Barcelona, Chelsea, etc who are all looking for central midfielders could certainly find a lot of hidden gems from this league.