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Players to watch in 2019/20 (pt 2) – Chris Summersell

Ahead of the 2019/20 season, I will be looking at some promising young players that I am expecting to make an impact in their respective leagues this coming season and beyond.

Using a combination of Wyscout data and video, I have discovered some up and coming talents who may be catching admiring glances in the future.

The process is simple, using filters on certain metrics or combination of metrics, I have discovered some players putting up interesting numbers. I then evaluate them using video to discover more about them. It isn’t the most scientific of approaches, but it is hopefully a demonstration of how using reasonably rudimentary data coupled with video analysis can unearth talents who may not be immediately renowned names.

This is not a test to find the outliers, or the wonderkids everyone is expecting to be a star, but a means of finding talent before it arrives on the scene with a £50m plus price tag attached.

In part 2 I will be looking at a pair of 21 year olds who spent 2018/19 out on loan; Wenderson Galeno of Porto, and Orel Mangala of Stuttgart.

Wenderson Galeno, 21, FC Porto

Brazilian winger Galeno spent the whole 2018/19 season on loan at Rio Ave and has since returned to his parent club ahead of the new season.

I analysed Galeno back in January, where his performances had caught the eye and what better time to check in on his progress than now. Subject of transfer speculation recently with Reading rumoured to be looking to sign him, 2019/20 will be a big season for the flying winger.

In 2018/19, Galeno helped Rio Ave to a seventh placed finish in Liga NOS, with the loanee doing a lot of the teams heavy lifting in attack. Weighing in with 5 goals from 4.5 xG, and 4 assists from 6.26 xA his contribution of 10.76 combined xG+xA led the charts for his side.

Galeno is a prolific dribbler, clocking in with 10.19 dribbles per 90 last season, the most of any player in the league with over 1000 minutes. At a 65% success rate, he often surrenders possession, and suggests a player that may need to sharpen his decision making. A positive slant on this is that he is a risk taker, constantly wishing to drive his team forward and providing an almost constant threat to the opposition.

Galeno also led the league in progressive runs, with 3.9 per 90, demonstrating the ability to progress the ball towards the opposition goal more often than most.

With an xA of 0.24 per 90, 6th best in the division with over 1000 minutes, he is already proving that his ball carrying ability can be backed up with creating goalscoring opportunities.

It is perhaps a surprise that his touches in the penalty area per 90 is at a relatively meagre 2.65, and if he was able to harness his dribbling ability to break into the penalty area more often then his creativity and goal threat should increase markedly. If he stays at Porto for 2019/20, then expect this number to rise purely because of the relative strength of the current Champions.

One reason for his lack of penalty area activity could be down to the fact that he absolutely loves to shoot, and with 2.85 shots per 90 he has an extremely high shot volume. Out of all wide players with over 1000 minutes in Liga NOS, Galeno was the second most prolific shooter. What is noticeable however is that he experienced a reasonable drop in shot volume as the league season wore on — this could either suggest that opposition defenders were working him out, or he was choosing his shots more wisely. A look at the data suggests the former, as his xG per shot declined during the season along with the shot volume. This is a challenge for the youngster to overcome as he moves into the new season.

Galeno has a lot of developing to do, but he already has the nuts and bolts of a very dangerous player. We’ve already seen he is an extremely prolific dribbler, and the eye test reveals an extremity direct and skilful player who has tremendously quick feet and a burst of pace that can leave defenders in his wake. It is this invasive style of dribbling that is his most precious commodity – his first thought every time he receives the ball is to head forward with the ball looking to engage defenders. It is a high risk but high reward strategy, and extremely fun to watch.

In order for Galeno to elevate himself and become a threat to the better defenders around the continent his skill set needs a certain level of refinement. In particular, his movement and positioning needs developing in order for him to consistently find more dangerous spaces to receive the ball.

At the moment he uses his dribbling ability to mask some more functional flaws in his game. He will often trust his ability to beat players wherever and however he accepts the ball — this may suffice against lower level Liga NOS defences, but it is not a recipe for success against the very best. He needs to develop his separation techniques on how to lose markers, create space for himself and put defenders on the back foot before he has received the ball. He also has a habit of going looking for the ball, dropping out of the block in the process and receiving in front of two lines of defence. Again, whilst he does have the ability to dribble multiple defenders, if he were to maintain his position on the higher layers of the field and look to receive when he has positional and qualitative superiority over his opponents. At the moment he is using his dribbling ability to rectify his initial positioning and movement. He will be an even bigger threat if his dribbling instead complemented it.

Despite some obvious shortcomings in his positional game, as well as being little more than a hologram in the defensive phase (this may be systemic as Rio Ave’s biggest offensive threat), Galeno is a supremely talented player with high potential.

The links to Reading seem very much based on him playing under Reading coach José Manuel Gomes, and in truth a move to the Royals would be significantly underselling his potential. He may be tempted to remain at Porto and challenge for his place in the team, particularly with the departure of Yacine Brahimi this summer. The LW slot was not vacant for long however, with the club moving for Japanese wide player Shoya Nakajima. If Galeno stays put, he will have to fight for the shirt, yet the prize of Champions League football may tempt him to stay. For a young player however, minutes on the pitch are an important currency, and he should be targeting regular game time wherever he is. Galeno has exceptional potential, and now is the time for him to be wise in order for him to realise that potential.

Orel Mangala, 21, Stuttgart

The 21 year old Belgian spent the 2018/19 campaign in the 2.Bundesliga at Hamburg on loan from VFB Stuttgart, where he accumulated 2585 minutes in a central midfield role.

In this instance it is worth first considering the eye-test before we examine the data. This is because Mangala is simply a delightful player to watch — he just looks and feels like a good player.

At 5’8 (178cm) & 12 stone (178 kg) Mangala is certainly not the most physically imposing player, but it is because of this he has developed a style of play that has maximised the low centre of gravity he possesses. It is also because of this that he may require more time and patience to develop his all round skillset before testing it against the very best.

His most obvious strength is his ability to evade pressure through his dribbling and close control of the ball. This is made possible by his perception and awareness of the space around him, where he has an uncanny knack of wriggling out of pressure situations. Despite physicality not being his main asset, he does possess excellent lower body strength that enables him to protect the ball well by getting his body in between the ball and his opponent, keeping it on the safe side. Perhaps one of his best assets is his ability to bounce off opponents and spin away from them whilst maintaining possession.

Press resistance is such an invaluable trait in the modern central midfielder, and faced with ever more constrictive pressing schemes, the ability to use individual possession to find solutions in retaining and progressing the ball is something that can add zeroes onto transfer fees.

Just watching him you can see a slick and silky player, comfortable with the ball at his feet and who will consistently look to get on the ball and play. If nothing else, he is a really lovely player to watch.

The stats do however point to a player that excels in carrying the ball, and carrying it forward. In 2018/19 this ability showed up very well in the 2.Bundesliga data. For players with more than 2000 minutes, Mangala shows up as one of the most prolific central midfield dribblers with a high volume of 4.49 per 90 as well as progressive runs of 2.02 per 90. Of all players who attempted more than 3 or more dribbles per 90 from central midfield, Mangala’s success rate of 75% again marked him out as one of the league’s most progressive ball carriers.

The data does not suggest Mangala is the most ambitious and progressive passer of the ball, and this matches up with the eye-test, which reveals a player content in recycling the ball around the pitch efficiently. Averaging 53 passes a game at 87% accuracy, this marks him out at the top end of the division, but this tells us little more than he passes more, and gives the ball away less when passing than a majority of players in the league.

More progressive passing metrics however suggest a player that does not use passing to progress the ball as much as his dribbling, with 6.2 progressive passed per 90. At 8.1 passes to the final third per 90, this is higher than average for the 2.Bundesliga, this may reflect a player who is able to progress the ball into the final third before offloading the ball to more creative players. There are some passing similarities in this regard to that of Tottenham’s Harry Winks.

Orel Mangala has a big season ahead of him, where he will return to Stuttgart from a productive loan at Hamburg. It is going to be intriguing whether he can translate his ability to control games through economical passing and progressive dribbling into the higher level of competition.

Mangala is the type of player who requires the correct system to thrive in, where he needs to be able to fulfil a quite focused skillset in the centre of midfield. He is not an all rounder, but a player who can offer a balance and control in possession, as well as being able to carry the ball forward into advanced areas. If he is able to continue his development and refine the skills he has, a good season could put him on the shopping list of some big clubs in the future.

Future possibilities

Both of these featured players are those who have fairly focused skillsets which could potentially led them to stardom. There are also areas in which both players need to refine their game, and in more challenging environments. For Galeno, if he remains at Porto the tell of his talents will be if he impresses in the Champions League, whereas Mangala requires to put in consistent Bundesliga performances.

Whilst both would represent a risk of sorts, these could be potentially be smart signings for lower-to-midtable Premier League sides who could reap the benefits of their developmental years as they mature towards their peak. It will be very interesting to check in on both players progress as the season progresses.

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