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Finding the best full-backs from the Eliteserien - data analysis

Finding the best full-backs from the Eliteserien – data analysis

In our third data analysis piece on the Eliteserien, we will be looking out for the best full-backs currently playing in the league using data. Full-backs have come a long way in redefining their traits in the modern game. Gone are the days when they had a very limited task to only defend. Modern managers are hugely dependent on their full-backs and their roles have also evolved where some of them play as a midfielder by inverting inside during possession.

In our analysis, we will be considering both the attacking as well as defensive attributes. We will be looking at players who registered at least 700 minutes of football in the 2022 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. Let’s dive deep into the analysis.

Player profiling

The most important thing for any player or position in football is to identify their best-suited abilities. Different players playing in the same position will have differing 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 in their attacking and defensive actions. We can see the plot in the image below that compares the FBs in the Allsvenskan in this regard.

Finding the best full-backs from the Eliteserien – data analysis statistics

Aleksander Melgalvis – The 33-year-old right-back from HamKam has averaged 3.27 successful attacking actions per game and 10.77 successful defensive actions per game. He also wins his duels at a very good rate 0f 46.58%.

Kristoffer Haugen – The 28-year-old left-back from Molde has averaged 3.71 successful attacking actions per game and 9.88 successful defensive actions per game. He also wins his duels at a very good rate 0f 52.29%.

Martin Linnes – The 31-year-old right-back from Molde has recorded 3.93 successful attacking actions per game and 9.36 successful defensive actions per game. He also wins his duels at a very good rate 0f 53.68%.

Eirik Wichne – The 25-year-old right-back from Sarpsborg has recorded 2.72 successful attacking actions per game and 12.82 successful defensive actions per game. He also wins his duels at a very good rate 0f 50.81%.

Adrian Pereira – The 23-year-old left-back from Rosenborg has averaged 4.84 successful attacking actions per game and 8.93 successful defensive actions per game. He also wins his duels at a very good rate 0f 48.9%.

Defensive ability

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 interception stats that they have recorded per game over the course of this season. Despite the modern-day full-back being required to be very good on the ball, their share in contributing to the defence can never be undermined and is equally important for the position.

Finding the best full-backs from the Eliteserien – data analysis statistics

Eirik Wichne – The 25-year-old has averaged a league-high 7.54 PAdj interceptions per game and a league-high 5.8 defensive duels won per game in the league this season.

Lars-Christopher Vilsvik – The 33-year-old from Strømsgodset has recorded 6.95 PAdj interceptions per game and 5.27 defensive duels won per game in the league this season.

Sondre Bjørshol – The 28-year-old from Viking has recorded 6.56 PAdj interceptions per game and 5.35 defensive duels won per game in the league this season.

Ian Smeulers – The 22-year-old from Sandefjord has recorded 7.72 PAdj interceptions per game and 4.12 defensive duels won per game in the league this season.

Lars Ranger – The 23-year-old from Lillestrøm has recorded 4.56 PAdj interceptions per game and 6.33 defensive duels won per game in the league this season.

Playmaking

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 Bayern MunichLiverpool and Manchester City use their full-backs to great effect to seamlessly build play out from the back.

Finding the best full-backs from the Eliteserien – data analysis statistics

Ian Smeulers – The Sandefjord left-back has recorded 0.36 smart passes per game and 5.5 passes into the final third per game as well. He also completed his passes into the final third with excellent accuracy of 64.2%.

Lars-Christopher Vilsvik – The 33-year-old has averaged 0.54 smart passes per game and 6.36 passes into the final third per game as well. He also completed his passes into the final third with a good accuracy of 60.5%.

Leonard Zuta – The 30-year-old left-back from Valerenga has recorded 0.6 smart passes per game and 6.59 passes into the final third per game as well. He also completed his passes into the final third with an excellent accuracy of 73.6%.

Brice Wembangomo – The 25-year-old left-back from Bodo / Glimt has recorded a league-high 0.85 smart passes per game and 6.6 passes into the final third per game as well. He also completed his passes into the final third with a excellent accuracy of 84.17%.

Espen Ruud – The 38-year-old veteran right-back from Odds has averaged 0.82 smart passes per game and 4.88 passes into the final third per game as well. He also completed his passes into the final third with an excellent accuracy of 74.74%.

Ball progression

Full-backs these days are expected to be very expansive on the ball and also help the team to progress 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.

Finding the best full-backs from the Eliteserien – data analysis statistics

Brice Wembangomo – The Bodo / Glimt left-back has recorded 8.3 progressive passes in the league along with 4.89 progressive runs per game this season. He also averaged 1.3 progressive passes for every 10 passes he made in the league.

Vegar Hedenstad  – The 31-year-old right-back from Valerenga has averaged 9.83 progressive passes in the league along with 2.52 progressive runs per game this season. He also averaged 1.8 progressive passes for every 10 passes he made in the league.

Adrian Pereira – The Rosenborg left-back has averaged 10.27 progressive passes in the league along with 2.42 progressive runs per game this season. He also averaged 2.6 progressive passes for every 10 passes he made in the league.

Ian Smeulers – The Sandefjord left-back has recorded 9.9 progressive passes in the league along with 2.02 progressive runs per game this season. He also averaged 2.1 progressive passes for every 10 passes he made in the league.

Espen Ruud – The 38-year-old veteran has averaged 11.36 progressive passes in the league along with 1.08 progressive runs per game this season. He also averaged 2.2 progressive passes for every 10 passes he made in the league.

Chance creation

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.

Finding the best full-backs from the Eliteserien – data analysis statistics

Martin Linnes – The 31-year-old right-back has recorded 1.16 key passes per game with his assists being worth an xA of 0.22 per game. He has also averaged 1.6 shot-assists per game in the league this season.

Kristoffer Haugen – The Molde full-back has averaged 1.06 key passes per game with his assists being worth an xA of 0.22 per game. He has also averaged 1.24 shot-assists per game in the league this season.

Adrian Pereira – The Rosenborg left-back has averaged 0.92 key passes per game with his assists being worth an xA of 0.21 per game. He has also averaged 1.17 shot-assists per game in the league this season.

Vegard Kongsro – The 24-year-old left-back from HamKam has recorded 0.94 key passes per game with his assists being worth an xA of 0.19 per game. He has also averaged 1.6 shot-assists per game in the league this season.

Josef Baccay – The 21-year-old left-back from Odds has averaged 0.61 key passes per game with his assists being worth an xA of 0.18 per game. He has also averaged 1.1 shot-assists per game in the league this season.

Players to watch out for

Based on the data and the statistics we have shortlisted a few options to look out for in the forthcoming season where we expect these full-backs to make bigger strides.

Finding the best full-backs from the Eliteserien – data analysis statistics

Adrian Pereira

The Rosenborg left-back is very good in terms of creating chances for his teammates and is also very good at progressing the ball further up the pitch. He is a very attacking-minded right-back and contributes a lot to his side from an attacking point of view. He can definitely improve his defensive side of the game which is again not bad but can be more actively involved in making and executing actions successfully.

We can see his defensive action map in the above image which shows that he generally attempts fewer actions and there has been a good amount of fouls committed by him as well.

Finding the best full-backs from the Eliteserien – data analysis statistics

Ian Smeulers

The Sandefjord full-back has been one of their standout players this season. He has excelled in various aspects by being good in terms of his defensive ability, progressing the ball and also great at playmaking. If he can improve his ability to create chances for his teammates, he will become much more of a complete full-back.

His defensive map in the above image shows that his intensity while defending is very good and he also looks to attempt a lot of actions beyond the halfway line.

Finding the best full-backs from the Eliteserien – data analysis statistics

Brice Wembangomo

The Bodo / Glimt left-back is very good in terms of playmaking and progressing the ball for his side. His main role in the team is to help his side carry from the second to the third phase in possession.

Although he is solid defensively, his defensive stats do not seem to be a lot which is due to his club’s style of play as they are very attacking and employ a dominant possession football. We can see that he plays more as an inverted full-back for his side as he has made a lot of actions in the interior portions of the pitch as well.

Conclusion

The Eliteserien 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 defensive traits to discuss and list a few of the best-performing players.

A lot of players have been handpicked and have seen themselves playing in multiple top-tier clubs across the Scandinavian regions. We could see that the players we saw and discussed could also follow the same path and be successful at the top level and also amongst the biggest clubs in Europe.