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Data Analysis: Four players who are similar to Sevilla’s Jules Kounde

This is the fifth part in a series of articles looking at the use of data profiles in identifying potential recruitment targets within football.

You can read part one here, part two here, part three here and part four here.

This time we will look at the profile of the French central defender Jules Kounde and identify four other central defenders with similar profiles to the Frenchman.

Using data and, more specifically, data profiles as a part of the recruitment process is a very useful means of cutting through a lot of the noise that represents the sheer number of football players that there are in the world. Being able to use data and dashboards to quickly visualise the areas in which players may be similar or not can allow us to streamline our process in order to quickly sift through the thousands of players that a club may have available to them. For a club like Chelsea, who naturally shop at the top end of the market, this process is still important as they look to recruit a player for a position with specific skill sets.

As a part of Total Football Analysis we offer clubs, players and agencies a consultancy service and a large part of that is built around the use of data and video scouting to provide shortlists of players that fit a specific profile. To do this we make use of a tool that we know as xGold. This has been custom-built in-house to streamline the use of data in the identification of talented players.

In order to create the shortlist of four players for this article, I will be using xGold to look for players who are similar to Jules Kounde and who are 23 or under with at least 400 minutes in the 2020/21 season.

Before we look in more detail at the players that xGold has suggested that we shortlist we first have to understand what Kounde’s data profile looks like.

The visualisations within this series are dashboards that I have build using Tableau and with data from Wyscout. The bar charts on the left of the dashboard are percentile bars. These are based on comparisons with all other players in their position within their dataset and with at least 400 minutes in the 2020/21 season. It possible goes without saying but the longer the bar the better the performance. To the right of that we have the raw per 90 data and then the players’ heatmap.

Immediately we start to see that Jules Kounde has a very balanced profile with strengths in all three areas that we identify on the dashboard. Attacking, passing and progression and defensive. Kounde is an extremely progressive player for a central defender with excellent outputs in terms of his ball-carrying with 1.84 progressive runs per 90. He also progresses the ball well with his vertical passing game with 9.91 progressive passes per 90 and 7.47 passes to the final third per 90. His defensive metrics are reasonable but his low output for defensive duels per 90 (4.93) are likely down to a combination of team style and his positional sense, he does, however, have a high completion rate in terms of these duels with 72.41%

Kounde is an intriguing prospect as a central defender. The regular knock on his prospects as a central defender is that he is undersized for the position. He is listed at 178cm or 5’11” and as a central defender, there are some who think that this would mean that he was unable to compete effectively in the air. That does not, however, take into account his physicality and ability to not only read the flight of the ball but to time his jump well enough to meet the ball. Indeed, if there was one word that I was to use to explain Kounde’s style of play in the defensive phase it would be explosive. In possession, he can be relied upon to be the main ball progressor but also to step into midfield as the situation requires. It comes as no surprise that a club like Chelsea see Kounde as the ideal defensive reinforcement for a coach like Thomas Tuchel who is so flexible and adaptive in terms of his tactical style.

Now comes the fun part as we look at which players xGold believes are similar to Jules Kounde.

#1 Roman Evgenjev, 22-years-old, Dinamo Moscow and Russia

In terms of player profiles, the Russian international defender Roman Evgenjev is the closest match that I came across. The 22-year-old is a product of the youth academy system at Dinamo Moscow and he has been going from strength to strength over the last two seasons.  He has, at the time of writing, been capped once at full international level but I would expect him to be involved more regularly going forward. Last season he played 2483 minutes in the Russian Premier League. He is listed at 193cm | 6’3″ and plays predominantly as a right-sided central defender, although as you can see from his heatmap above he also spent time as the left-sided central defender.

He is well balanced in terms of outputs across the three areas that are covered in the profiles with 1.96 progressive dribbles per 90 showing that he can carry the ball out of the defence effectively. He also averages 9.65 progressive passes per 90 and 7.29 passes to the final third per 90 as he displays that he is comfortable and confident when playing the ball out from the back and moving into dangerous positions. Defensively Evgenjev also averages impressive outputs with 7.25 defensive duels per 90 with a success rate of 61% and 6.38 aerial duels per 90 with a success rate of 62.50%.

While there is something of a stigma in terms of Russian players moving to play abroad this does not tend to apply to Chelsea who have accessed the Russian market before. This is, of course, due to the fact that the club is owned by Roman Abramovich.

#2 Takehiro Tomiyasu, 22-years-old, Bologna and Japan

Takehiro Tomiyasu is a 22-year-old Japanese defender who is contracted to Bologna in Serie A. While he has played at right-back for some of the previous seasons he is equally comfortable playing as a central defender where he is most comfortable as part of a back three. He has been linked to the likes of Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham this summer and he appears to be available for transfer. He played an important role for Japan in their impressive display at the Olympics and with 23 senior caps, he is an important part of their national team setup.

Again, his metrics are impressive although his 1.85 progressive runs per 90 come with a caveat given that he played at right-back for some of the season and fullbacks are more likely to have high outputs in these metrics. Again, though we see that there are clear similarities between Tomiyasu and Kounde in terms of ball progression with the Japanese international defender averaging 45.06 passes per 90 with 8.39 progressive passes per 90 and 6.88 passes to the final third per 90. Defensively as well Tomiyasu performs well with an average of 7.32 defensive duels per 90 with a success rate of 62.82% and 5.07 aerial duels per 90 with a success rate of 54.32%.

The versatility of Tomiyasu would make him an interesting alternative to Jules Kounde.

#3 Edmond Tapsoba, 22-years-old, Bayer Leverkusen and Burkino Faso

The next player on our shortlist is the 22-year-old Burkina Faso international Edmond Tapsoba. He is currently contracted to Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga having moved to the club from Vitoria Guimaraes of Portugal in 2020. Tapsoba made an immediate impact at the Bundesliga level and is highly rated. He has, at the time of writing been called up, 16 times for the Burkina Faso national team. He is listed at 194cm| 6’3″ and is predominantly right-footed although he is comfortable playing on the left side of the defensive unit,

Again, his profile is well balanced and he shares some key similarities with Jules Kounde. He averages 1.22 progressive runs per 90 and is comfortable carrying the ball forward when required. He also averages 12.38 progressive passes and 8.99 passes to the final third per 90. Defensively as well Tapsoba is strong with 8.19 defensive duels per 90 with a success rate of 69.14% and 3.42 aerial duels per 90 with a success rate of 63.55%.

#4 Anel Ahmedhodzic, 22-years-old, Malmo and Bosnia Herzegovina

The final player on our shortlist is the 22-year-old Bosnian international defender Anel Ahmedhodzic who is currently contracted to Malmo in the Swedish top-flight. There has been constant speculation linking the defender with a move away to Sweden but given that Malmo have just secured qualification for the group stages of the Champions League is now appears likely that he will stay at the club for the short term. Ahmedhodzic is listed at 192cm | 6’3″ and he is predominantly right-footed.

There are once again some key similarities between his profile and that of Kounde’s. He averages 0.99 progressive dribbles per 90 showing that he can carry the ball effectively forward to provoke the opposition to press. In possession, he is a strong progressive passer and he averages 55.15 passes per 90 with 9.09 progressive passes per 90 and 5.68 passes to the final third per 90. Defensively his outputs are slightly affected by the fact that Malmo are so dominant domestically but he still averages 4.12 defensive duels per 90 with a success rate of 63.79% and 4.76 aerial duels per 90 with a success rate of 70.15%.

Conclusion

With reports emerging at the time of writing that Chelsea are cooling their interest in Jules Kounde it is possible that they will turn their attention elsewhere for the versatile defensive player that they seem to want to add to their squad. While Tapsoba and Tomiyasu are relatively well known and playing in major leagues Evgenjev and Ahmethodzic represent better potential value in the market. The use of data profiling in the recruitment process allows us to present multiple options to the decision-makers at the clubs we work with.

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