Gojko Cimirot 2019/20 – data analysis
Gojko Cimirot is a defensive midfielder playing for Standard Liege in the Belgian First Division A. Cimirot, originally from Bosnia and Herzegovina, has been highlighted as an exciting, young, defensive midfield player in a recent data analysis piece by Toni Bilandzic. The data analysis piece analysed all central and defensive midfield players within the Belgian First Division A, a context which has produced Premier League players such as Sander Berge, Youri Tielemans and Leander Dendonker in recent years. It was suggested to perform a data analysis on Cimirot, to identify his strengths and weaknesses via statistics in offensive and defensive moments, as well as the tactics which suit his game. This data analysis will hopefully shed more light on the player in the aforementioned areas, identify where he could improve and speculate on whether he could apply his talents higher up the league in Belgium, or within Europe’s top five leagues in the form of the Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, Ligue 1 or Serie A.
The Bosnian midfielder is 27 years old, based on generic theory, this suggests he is in or approaching his prime years, where the physical, technical, tactical and psychological components of his play are in optimal balance. The player stands at 5ft 10in, suggesting that he is average height and neither a diminutive, agile midfielder nor a tall, strong physical presence.
In the 2019/20 season, Standard Liège mainly utilised a 1-4-3-3 or a 1-4-2-3-1 formation. Due to this, Cimirot could potentially be used in the central defensive midfield position or a left or right central midfield role in a 1-4-3-3. Alternatively, he could be used in a left or right defensive midfield role if a 1-4-2-3-1 is used. All of these positions hold different responsibilities and change the dynamic of the player in an individual sense and a tactical team sense. For example, in a 1-4-3-3, the central defensive midfielder may be the only midfielder who is asked to sit, screen the back four and act as a playmaking link between defence and midfield units.
In a left or right central role in a 1-4-3-3, the players are likely to be more balanced in terms of defence and attack, with more license to go forward and operate in wider areas, given the lack of wide midfielders. Alternatively, in a 1-4-2-3-1, the two deepest midfielders are commonly referred to as a double pivot, where one player may have a more defensive role, whilst the other more attacking. Or, they can operate in dynamic roles, with both adapting their style of play and positioning based on the actions of their teammate. For these reasons, it is useful to analyse in which position Cimirot is most often used, given this will inform further analysis, comparisons and interpretations. Given Standard Liège’s Europa League participation, all data utilised for analysis and comparison will come from performances in the Belgian First Division A only, this will reduce the influence of European competition on Cimirot’s data, given his data will be compared to players who did not feature in the Europa League.
The chart highlights that Cimirot is naturally, or at least most often picked, in a defensive midfield role. His role is predominantly central, but he also played a lot of his minutes in a left defensive midfield position within a double pivot, with right defensive midfield duties also earning him some minutes. Overall, he played 2006 minutes in a defensive role and just 599 minutes in more offensive, or more balanced central midfield roles in the form of left and right central midfield. For this reason, the context of the piece, data analysis and comparisons between other players will hold a defensive midfield viewpoint. Overall, there were 26 players in the Belgium First Division A who played over 1000 minutes and whom Wyscout identifies defensive midfield as being their main position.
Whilst we know that Cimirot is naturally, or at least heavily utilised in a defensive midfield position, it is worth covering all aspects of play to understand the impact he has on the team in an attacking sense in comparison to other defensive midfielders in the league.
|Player||xG per 90||xA per 90||Free Kicks per 90||Direct Free Kicks per 90||Corners per 90|
|J. De Sart||0.1||0.16||2.73||0.72||3.11|
|H. Van der Bruggen||0.05||0.08||0||0||0.12|
|É. Álvarez Balanta||0.02||0.01||0||0||0|
The table above is sorted by xA, given the deep nature of the analysed players, the low xG numbers and the influence of set-pieces on xA. We can see that Cimirot contributes 0.05 xG and 0.05 xA per 90, meaning he has little influence on team output in a direct sense. Cimirot is ranked in 10th for xA, suggesting that while he has little influence, he does still contribute more than most of the sample. Cimirot, however, does not take free-kicks and rarely takes corners. The leaders in xA on the table are all frequent set-piece takers, with the top three players averaging an assist every four to six matches, compared to Cimirot who averages an assist every 20 matches. For this reason, Cimirot’s offensive output and lack of set-pieces suggest that any team interested in the player would not be getting a player to significantly add to offensive output or a set-piece specialist.
|Player||Successful Dribbles per 90||Progressive Runs per 90||Progressive Runs per 90 Rank|
|É. Álvarez Balanta||1.49||1.05||9|
|J. De Sart||0.86||0.65||18|
|H. Van der Bruggen||0.66||0.25||25|
In terms of ball carrying, the table above is sorted by successful dribbles per 90. Cimirot ranks 16th for successful dribbles per 90. This suggests his style does not involve dribbling in an attempt to carry the ball past an opponent to help Standard Liège to progress. However, when we take a look at the progressive runs per 90, Cimirot is ranked 1st. This suggests that Cimirot is effective when carrying the ball to progress his team up the pitch. Of course, when we combine the progressive run stats with the dribble stats, we know that Cimirot completes most progression without having to directly take on a player, but he does carry the ball, mostly uncontested, for Standard Liège, suggesting that Cimirot comes deep to collect the ball before progressing and passing to more offensive players. Whilst this may be deemed an un-exciting quality, progression is necessary to move closer to the opposition goal. It will be interesting to see Cimirot’s passing stats. If he progresses with the ball and then is effective at playing passes, most specifically forward passes, then his effectiveness at linking defence to attack will increase.
|Player||Successful Passes per 90||Successful Forward Passes per 90||Successful Long Passes per 90||Successful Smart Passes per 90||Successful Final 3rd Passes per 90||Successful Through Passes per 90|
|H. Van der Bruggen||37.29||14.14||3.38||0.45||6.31||0.50|
|É. Álvarez Balanta||37.21||9.77||3.92||0.33||5.30||0.50|
|J. De Sart||32.83||9.80||3.31||0.24||5.43||0.41|
When we take a look at passing, the table is sorted by successful passes per 90, this highlights that Cimirot is ranked 9thfor his successful pass frequency. He is in the top 10, but completes fewer passes that other defensive midfielders in the 2019/20 season. You will notice there are some players who have moved clubs, for example, Berge is now at Sheffield United. But, including Berge is helpful to answer the question of whether Cimirot could cut it in a top-five league, by having Berge and other players as the benchmark for top Belgian league talent.
The Bosnian’s successful passes may be 9th, but on its own that doesn’t mean much. We need to find out what type of passes each player plays to determine their effectiveness in an offensive sense, either playing forward passes, long passes to exploit space, smart passes to penetrate, through passes behind the defence and so on. Cimirot is 6th for successful forward passes, 7th for successful long passes, 11th for successful smart passes, 5th for successful final third passes and 7thfor successful through passes, suggesting that his passes do help the team progress, penetrate lines and give forwards balls to chase behind the defensive line, all of which are positive aspects of Cimirot’s play.
|Player||Deep completions per 90||Progressive passes per 90||Second assists per 90||Third assists per 90|
|H. Van der Bruggen||1.24||10.14||0.16||0.04|
|É. Álvarez Balanta||0.72||8.01||0.11||0|
|J. De Sart||0.89||8.12||0.07||0.03|
When we take a look at metrics which are produced by actions linked to the original passing stats, we can see that Cimirot is ranked 5th for deep completions, a stat which measures the number of passes targeted towards the area 20 metres or less from the opposition’s goal. The midfielder is 10th for progressive passes which is the same metric as progressive runs but measured in the form of a pass. Cimirot is ranked 15th for second assists but 1st for third assists. This relates back to the initial attacking appraisal, where Cimirot’s output was small, with the expectation of a goal and assist every 20 matches. Given he is involved earlier in the build-up, measuring second and third assists gives additional content as to the quality of the passes, some of Cimirot’s second and third assists may have been forward, smart, long or through passes to set the team on an effective attacking sequence.
So what does all of this mean then? Well, Cimirot doesn’t influence output directly in terms of goals or assists and he is not on set pieces. The player doesn’t dribble past opponents but does carry the ball more than other players in the league. In terms of passing, Cimirot is comfortably in the top 10 for passing metrics, highlighting his good passing ability. The Bosnian does not just pass sideways and backwards, he is up there with the best in the league and recent exports such as Berge for performance in offensive passing metrics. Although he does not assist, Cimirot is the best in the league for third assists, meaning there is still lots to be done after his pass, but he helps set the tempo and the attacking sequence which results in goals more often than other defensive midfielders.
Here is a table outlining the overall average rankings based on all rankings in each attacking metric, excluding set pieces, given their selection based criteria.
|Player||Average Attacking Rank||Sample Rank|
|H. Van der Bruggen||7.86||5|
|É. Álvarez Balanta||9.86||10|
|J. De Sart||9.93||11|
Cimirot is ranked 6th out of the sample, further highlighting his impressive performances in an offensive sense.
Given Cimirot is often the offensive link between the defence and more offensive players, we have appraised the Bosnian in an offensive sense. However, what about his defensive capabilities as a screen in front of the defence as part of a double pivot or sole defensive midfielder?
The defensive data for players in the Belgian league is more concise than the offensive data, and can, therefore, be presented on one table.
|Player||Successful Defensive Actions per 90||Successful Defensive Duels per 90||Successful Aerial Duels per 90||Successful Sliding Tackles per 90||Shots Blocked per 90||Interceptions per 90||Fouls per 90||Yellow Cards per 90|
|É. Álvarez Balanta||14.08||7.73||2.32||0.17||0.33||6.07||2.82||0.44|
|H. Van der Bruggen||11.95||4.78||2.06||0.54||0.41||5.85||1.85||0.21|
|J. De Sart||11.37||5.05||2.49||0.89||0.17||4.88||1.67||0.2|
In the table, the data is sorted by successful defensive actions per 90, given this metric covers all defensive actions and can, therefore, be used to effectively overview the data, before breaking down each metric. In an overall sense, Cimirot struggles in terms of overall defensive actions per 90, ranking 17th out of 26. Now, there is always a dilemma when interpreting total defensive actions and other defensive metrics in a frequency format. This is due to the fact that teams lower down in the league are likely to concede the majority of possession and face more offensive actions to nullify with defensive actions, therefore, increasing their frequency of actions and successful actions. For this reason, it is always worth analysing for a correlation between defensive actions and the team finishing position. The prediction would be that the higher the successful defensive actions per 90, the lower the league position. The scatterplot below presents this analysis.
The scatterplot refutes the suggestion as there is no correlation between the number of successful defensive actions per 90 and the finishing position of the team when analysed in terms of the sample of defensive midfielders. This suggests we can proceed with confidence with our defensive analysis.
As stated, Cimirot ranks 17th for overall successful defensive actions per 90. The Standard Liège player then ranks 6th for successful defensive duels per 90, 25th for successful aerial duels per 90, 25th for successful sliding tackles per 90, 19th for shots blocked per 90, 22nd for interceptions per 90, 12th best for fouls per 90 and 5th best for yellow cards per 90.
Overall, this analysis suggests that, in comparison to other defensive midfielders in the league, Cimirot excels in-ground challenges, but lacks the physicality and timing for aerial duels. He lacks the intelligence to spot and cut out passes as successfully as often as others and rarely utilises sliding tackles, although, the latter may not necessarily be a negative, given his successful rank for defensive duels which includes standing tackles, his middle rank for fouls conceded and his good rank for conceding few yellow cards.
|Player||Average Defensive Rank||Sample Rank|
|H. Van der Bruggen||8.63||3|
|J. De Sart||9.88||6|
|É. Álvarez Balanta||11.00||7|
In a defensive sense, Cimirot ranks 20th overall, suggesting his abilities clearly favour his on the ball actions and offensive ability at carrying and passing the ball, as opposed to out of possession, defensive actions.
An all-round comparison
So, we now know that on the ball in an offensive sense, Cimirot is one of the best defensive midfielders in the league, ranking sixth. In a defensive sense, he performs less favourably in regards to output, ranking 20th out of the 26 player sample. We can combine such rankings for an overall defensive midfielder rating below.
|Player||Average rank||Sample rank|
|H. Van der Bruggen||8.24||1|
|J. De Sart||9.90||4|
|É. Álvarez Balanta||10.43||6|
Cimirot ends up ranked 12th for all defensive midfielders in the Belgium First Divison A. That is by no means a poor rank, given the quality the league currently has on show and the recent exports, Berge being the most recent and high-profile examples. However, there are superior players than Cimirot in his position.
Overall, Cimirot is a good player. He is not the best in the league in either offensive or defensive actions, but overall he is a good player. His qualities lie in his offensive ability, mainly his passing and ball progression. His defensive ability does let him down in comparison to the other defensive midfield players in the league. This analysis suggests the player is more of a deep-lying playmaker, as opposed to a ball-winning midfielder or all-round engine. The player is an important asset for Standard Liège, and at 27, the player should be in or reaching his prime. With a market value of a reported 4.5 million euros, Cimirot would not break the bank to sign, especially if a club needed a deep-lying playmaker, potentially to sit alongside a ball-winning midfielder. However, based on this data analysis, there are better options in an offensive, defensive and overall sense, many of which are younger than Cimirot. For this reason, it is unlikely for the player to earn a move to a top-five league this summer.