Finding the best full-backs from Danish Superliga – data analysis
In our second data analysis piece on Danish Superliga, we will be looking out for the best full-backs currently playing in Superliga using data. Full-backs have come a long way in redefining their traits in the modern game. Gone are the days where they had a very limited task to do only defending. Modern managers are hugely dependent on their full-backs for the team’s successful tactics and their roles have also evolved where some of them play as a midfielder by inverting into the midfield during possession.
In our analysis, we will be considering both the attacking as well as defensive attributes. We will be looking at players who have registered at least 800 minutes of football in the 2021-22 league season. Also, only proper full-backs 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.
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, full-backs will show both defensive as well as offensive capabilities. In order to account for the profile of the FBs 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 FBs in Superliga with this regard.
Looking at the graph, we see the following players are performing in huge volumes with respect to these metrics.
Emil Holm – The 21-year old young right-back from SønderjyskE. The youngster has been a very consistent performer for his team despite them struggling this season and are in contention to get relegated. He has averaged 5.38 successful attacking actions per game along with 13.23 successful defensive actions per game, both of which are highest from the full-backs in the league showing that he is equally balanced in his approach to both phases of the game. Despite recording or contesting in high volume, he still has a 46.9% duel win rate which is a very good measure.
Eric Kahl – The 20-year old young left-back from AGF. He is also the other full-back apart from Holm to the average balanced amount of the actions in both attacking and defensive phases. He has recorded 3.78 successful attacking actions and 10.23 defensive actions per game along with a duel win% of 43.65%.
The other full-backs who are just above the median in one of the categories while being good in the other are:-
Rasmus Carstensen – The 21-year old full-back who can also play in the wings has done well in the attacking area while being decent in the defensive phase. He has averaged 3.94 successful attacking actions and 9.28 successful defensive actions per game along with a duel success of 50.94%.
Mikkel Kallesøe – The 24-year old right-back for Randers FC. He has averaged 2.79 successful attacking actions and 11.76 successful defensive actions per game this season with a duel win % of 50.62%.
There are few who are very particular or extreme in the sense that they are very offensive-minded or defensive-minded which also depends on the way their team plays too:-
Kevin Mensah – The 30-year old full-back from Brondby IF. He averages 4.4 successful. attacking actions per game while recording less than average 7.88 defensive actions per game. His duel wins % is also pretty average, 49.67%, when compared to the number of duels he contests in.
Oliver Lund – The 31-year old full-back from AGF. The veteran is a very defensive-minded full-back by trade as he records just 1.91 successful attacking actions per game whereas 13.1 defensive actions at a very good rate of 56.1%.
The next thing we look at is how the players perform in the defensive aspect of the game. We compare the full-backs with respect to their defensive duels and interceptions stats that they have recorded per game over the course of this season. Despite the modern-day full-back required to be very good on the ball, their share in contributing to the defence can never be undermined and is equally very important for a full-back.
The best performers in this category are:-
Oliver Lund – He has recorded 10.19 defensive duels per game with a success rate of 56.44% which is among the best in the league for a full-back. He also shows a good ability to intercept the ball and read the game where he records 7.53 interceptions on average per game. Due to his age, he excels in the category where experience plays a key role.
Emil Holm – The youngster has averaged 9.03 interceptions per game and has contested 9.24 defensive duels per game. Both of them are very good numbers for someone of his age and he has shown a good ability to read the game at a very early stage of his career.
Frans Putros – 28-year old full-back from Viborg. He is among the few players who are in the top percentile in both the metrics where he has recorded 8.51 defensive duels per game and 6.75 interceptions per game.
Marc Dal Hende – 31-year old left-back from SønderjyskE. Another experienced campaigner has done well in both metrics by averaging 7.51 defensive duels per game and 6.58 interceptions per game.
FBs 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. Also, there are some teams that depend on their full-backs to play out from the back. The likes of Liverpool and Manchester City use their full-backs to great effect to seamlessly build play out from the back.
Marc Dal Hende – The veteran has averaged 6.84 passes into the final third with an accuracy of 56.31% and 0.66 smart passes per game that has significantly improved his’s sides chance of moving the ball up the pitch.
Andreas Bruss – The 22-year old wing-back from Brondby. He records 7.78 passes into the final third with an outstanding accuracy of 64.2%. He also makes 0.58 smart passes per game which are also one of the highest volumes among the full-backs in the league. The reason that he plays as a wing-back also helps him to contribute to his team at advanced regions in the pitch.
Kevin Mensah – He records 6.39 passes into the final third with an accuracy of 68.93% and also makes 0.5 smart passes per game.
Lukas Engel – The 22-year old left-back from Vejle BK. The youngster might not be posting great stats when it comes to the number of final-third passes per game but does very well in breaking lines and playing passes that give great value to his team. He records 0.65 smart passes per game which is among the highest by a full-back in the league.
Full-backs 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. They are expected to be very direct and technically sound on the ball and be comfortable in providing value to the team with their carrying and passing.
Christian Sørensen – The 29-year old left-back from Viborg is a versatile player who has also played in the midfield and higher up the wings for his team. But his main position is at the left-back where he has averaged 13.82 progressive passes per game and 1.85 progressive runs per game.
Jørgen Skjelvik – The 30-year old left-back from Odense is another versatile player like Sørensen who has played in multiple positions. He has averaged 9.58 progressive passes and 2 progressive runs per game with the ball.
Mikkel Kallesøe – The 24-year old has averaged 8.97 progressive passes and 2.35 progressive runs per game and lies in the above-median among the full-backs in the league in terms of both the metrics.
Marc Dal Hende – He has averaged 11.16 progressive passes which are among the highest in the league and also has made 1.86 progressive runs with the ball too. Another player who is pretty balanced here with his progression on the ball.
Players like Carstensen, Holm and Davidsen rank very high in one metric while are less than the league average in the other. The latter has averaged way more progressive passes (11.74 per game) but has very few progressive runs on average. Meanwhile, Holm and Davidsen rank very highly in making progressive runs but do not make the progression with their passing that much.
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 FBs, especially the attacking ones are judged based on their ability to consistently create chances. Full-backs are also expected to provide a width and be among the focal point of creation for their respective teams. Instead of comparing them with respect to their actual assist number that gets inflated due to great finishes we see their expected values and also their ability to make passes into the penalty area.
Christian Sørensen – He has averaged 4.75 passes into the penalty area and has the value of an expected assist of 0.44 per game which is the highest in the league.
Kristoffer Pallesen – The 31-year old veteran from AaB has averaged 4.87 passes into the penalty area and also contributed to shot assists that are worth 0.29 per game. He also makes 1.58 deep crosses to his forwards.
Victor Kristiansen – The 18-year old right-back for Copenhagen has been a consistent starter for them in both Superliga as well the European Conference league. He has already recorded 4 assists in the league this season. He has recorded 3.89 passes into the penalty area and 0.18 xA per game this season.
Eric Kahl – He has recorded 3.78 passes into the penalty area and also 0.17 xA per game this season showing his ability to contribute further up the pitch for his team.
Shortlisting the U-23 options
We have gone through some of the best full-backs in the Danish Superliga where we saw a few young guns and also a few veterans and experienced campaigners. We have calculated the scores for each player based on the metrics that we have discussed above and assigned a value from 0 to 1 to each player. The top-3 young players based on that score are:-
Emil Holm (Right-back, SønderjyskE, 21 years)
Has the highest score among the U-23 full-backs in the league. He has particularly excelled in defensive areas by intercepting and contesting a lot of duels. Also contributes to the attacking side for his team by making progressive runs and also completing a high volume of passes into the final third.
Eric Kahl (Left-back, AGF, 20 years)
Has a very good xA value and seems to be very valuable for his team in the creation area. Also has very good numbers in the defensive area and makes a lot of progressive passes for his team. His development can be made further if he can contribute in the build-up play for his side.
Victor Kristiansen (Right-back, Copenhagen, 18 years)
The youngest of the lot has very good numbers in the final third where he ranks the best in the xA and passes into the penalty area metric. Also does well in making a lot of smart passes and progressive runs for his team. His development could be focussed on improving his ability to read the game and intercept the balls and also in making contributions in the build-up phase for his team.
Danish Superliga possesses some fine full-backs 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. Teams playing in the EPL, La Liga have started to fish some fine players from these regions and some of the players we saw have a huge chance to end up in these big leagues in the future.