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Raphinha vs Allan Saint-Maximin 2021/22 - tactical analysis

Raphinha vs Allan Saint-Maximin 2021/22 scout report: Both are wanted but which is better?

This season, Raphinha and Saint-Maximin have been outstanding once more. Leeds United are indebted to the Brazilian winger as he is their top goalscorer in the Premier League with nine goals. Likewise, Saint-Maximin is their second top goalscorer with five goals, only one behind Callum Wilson. Both players had transfer links to other clubs. Raphinha is linked to Barcelona, with Deco seemingly the orchestrator. Similarly, Liverpool and Chelsea were interested in Saint-Maximin. But, who is better? Is Saint-Maximin just a fancy dribbler? Is Raphinha just a pressing machine? This tactical analysis will look at match events and data to determine which player is better.

Raphinha – pressing master

Leeds United are a high pressing side. This Premier League season, Leeds have the third-highest PPDA (Pressures per Defensive Action), only behind Liverpool and Manchester City. Even going back to the 2020/21 league season, Leeds United had the second-highest PPDA. Plus, three out of the top five players for defensive duels came from Leeds; Luke Ayling, Stuart Dallas and Kalvin Phillips.

But is Raphinha a crucial part of the intense pressing system? Looking at the raw data, we see Raphinha’s part of Leeds’ system may be underrated.

Raphinha’s 564 duels are fantastic. However, he only wins 41.8% of these duels, leaving him with 236 successful duels. Raphinha’s successful duels are lower than Dallas’ 327. But, the Northern-Irish man has played over 1,000 minutes more than Raphinha. On a per 90 basis, Raphinha is involved in 20.2 duels which are 8.6% more than Dallas. Raphinha also completes 2.8 recoveries in the opposition half with a 59.7% success rate per 90 minutes.

A great example of Raphinha fitting into Leeds’ intense system was when The Whites played Norwich. First, Raphinha recognises Adam Forshaw is triggering the press. Then, Stuart Dallas follows suit. Raphinha closes down the Norwich player effectively. The successful press can be attributed to three movements. The first movement was Adam Forshaw’s. Forshaw closes down Pierre Lees-Melou, which stops him from passing to his right-winger. Next, Dallas’ movement creates a moment of panic for Kenny McLean, which causes McLean to spend more time on the ball than he should. Finally, Raphinha’s fast spring to help close down Mclean seals the deal.

Not only does Raphinha win the ball back, but he also passes the ball perfectly for Patrick Bamford. Bamford should have done the better with the subsequent shot. Nevertheless, Raphinha is a great presser and fits nicely into Leeds’ system.

Saint-Maximin – defensive powerhouse?

Saint-Maximin has applied his trade for Newcastle United for the past three seasons. Which time he has spent most of his time playing under Steve Bruce, and Newcastle United did not press intensely under Bruce. The data helps show this as Newcastle were the lowest in terms of PPDA during the 2019/20 and 2020/21 Premier League seasons and the second-lowest this season.

However, Saint-Maximin has been an effective presser this season. The French winger has accumulated 697 defensive duels, which is 27.86 per 90 minutes, and these numbers are significantly more than Raphinha’s.

But Newcastle United do not require a high amount of possession. This season, the Magpies have the second-lowest possession, with 41%, which is only more than Burnley. Leeds United have 52% possession. Their team’s possession is essential to look at when comparing duels. If your team, like Newcastle, have less possession of the ball, their players will have more chances of being involved in a duel.

Despite Newcastle’s lower possession, Saint-Maximin has only completed 38 interceptions this season. That is still a significant number considering his position on the team. But, Raphina makes 38 interceptions look weak. Raphinha has completed 99 interceptions this Premier League season. That is more than double the output of Saint-Maximin.

Saint-Maximin does complete more recoveries in the opposition half (1.8) than Raphinha (1.6) per 90 minutes. The French man attempts fewer recoveries in the opposition half than Raphinha, but his success rate of 71.4% is much higher than Raphinha’s.

Who is better defensively?

Overall, looking at the data, Raphinha has to take the crown. Every Leeds’ players’ numbers, defensively, are skewed because of the amount of possession compared to Newcastle. Raphinha is simply a great presser. However, Saint-Maximin is still a great harasser of the opposition, and he would quickly see himself fitting into Leeds’ system or other high-pressing sides. Also, Saint-Maximin has a higher success rate of pressing than Raphinha. Still, Raphinha has to cover longer distances than Saint-Maximin due to Bielsa’s system (which he played in until February).

Play-making numbers

To reiterate a previous point. Newcastle’s tactics have meant they have a much lower possession than Leeds’, so Saint-Maximin will have fewer chances to perform play-making actions than Raphinha.

Raphinha is a fantastic dribbler of the ball. The Brazilian winger is wild, having attempted the 10th-most dribbles in the Premier League this season. His direct play works well for Leeds United’s system, which requires a high intensity on and off the ball.

However, his success rate does not put him into the top 30 in the Premier League, with only 50.6%. This is less than the likes of former-Spurs winger Aaron Lennon (60.9%) or Everton youngster Anthony Gordon.

Saint-Maximin wipes the floor with Raphinha and most players in the Premier League. With 11.9 attempted dribbles per 90 minutes, Saint-Maximin is second in the Premier League this season. More impressively, Saint-Maximin completes 56.1% of his dribbles. This wouldn’t put in the top 30 in the Premier League this season, but only one player, Adama Traore, has more attempted dribbles than Saint-Maximin. Newcastle are highly reliant on Saint-Maximin to progress the ball, especially under Bruce. When it comes to passes, Raphinha plays 31.4 passes per 90 minutes. This is 53.5% more than Saint-Maximin’s 20.46. Then again, Saint-Maximin completes 73.4% of his passes; Raphinha only completes 68.7%.

Raphinha likes to pass the ball long. The Brazilian does so every 3.86 times per 90 minutes. Sometimes Raphinha’s eagerness to launch the attack can be bad for Leeds. For example, against Leicester City, Leeds were struggling to move the ball quickly and create chances. Leeds win a free-kick, and Raphinha drops very deep to get on the ball. Then, he plays the ball forward straight to a Leicester City defender.

The data helps back this up as Raphinha only completes 41.7% of his long passes this season.

Saint-Maximin does not play as many long balls, only 0.9 times per 90 minutes. This is because Saint-Maximin prioritises dribbling to progress the ball. It could be argued that Saint-Maximin is a better long passer. This is because Saint-Maximin completes 52.5% of his long passes. This shows that Saint-Maximin chooses his time to play long passes better than Raphinha.

Saint-Maximin crosses the ball more times (2.7) than Raphinha (2.3) per 90 minutes. The French man even has a better crossing rate with a 29.4% success rate than Raphinha’s 27.8%.

Raphinha also losses the ball 13.8 times a game which is 3.4 more than Saint-Maximin. They lose the ball at a similar rate in their half, with Raphinha doing so 22.3% of the time and Saint-Maximin evert 21.2%.

But, Raphinha has produced the same amount of assists in less time this season than Saint-Maximin, with both players assisting three times.

Who is the better playmaker?

To put it simply, Raphinha is a fantastic player. However, this season, Saint-Maximin has been the better play-maker. He has much more influence on Newcastle United than Raphinha has on Leeds United in this aspect. The dribbles alone showed how much Newcastle need Saint-Maximin.

We also have to consider Newcastle’s much lower possession than Leeds United. Saint-Maximin takes the crown here pretty comfortably.

Finishing – who wins overall?

With each player taking one crown each, whatever happens, in front of the goal will decide who will win.

First, Raphinha has scored eight goals this season, and Saint-Maximin has only scored five. This gives Raphinha a significant advantage in this category as goals win games. However, Raphinha has matched his goals to xG, but Saint-Maximin has slightly over-performed in this metric. Saint-Maximin has an xG of 4.7, so it’s only a tiny over-performance in front of the goal.

Raphinha takes the most shots out of the two. Raphinha has attempted 72 shots, with only 20 being on target. On the other hand, Saint-Maximin has attempted 49 shots and matches Raphinha’s shots on target with 20.

If I had to pick based on this season, it would be Saint-Maximin. Again, Newcastle United relies heavily on Saint-Maximin’s capabilities near the opposition goal. Plus, Saint-Maximin has slightly over-performed in front of goal.

Conclusion

These two players are some of the best players outside the traditional top six teams. It would be hard to find a Leeds fan who would swap Raphinha for someone else, Like the French winger. They are two beloved heroes of their clubs over the past couple of years, and I would love to them play elsewhere to show off their true talents.

However, if we decide who is better, Saint-Maximin edges it out this season. He has been electric for Newcastle and their only significant attacking threat when Callum Wilson is injured.

I don’t have enough positive words to write about Raphinha. He’s fast, a great dribbler, someone who can finish relatively well, and he has been superb at Leeds.