Player Analysis – Daley Blind The Next Big Thing …

…Or Blind Leading the Blind ? (Sorry)

The World Cup, the grandest footballing casino known to man. Here scouts are tasked with finding their employers the next big thing in World football. An exhilarating task for sure, but one riddled with pitfalls. Potential suitors are judged and (over)valued over a maximum of 630 minutes pitch time (if their nation gets to the final) playing alongside a selection of team mates he hardly knows, using a style of play far removed from his club life, devised by a manager he sees a handful of times a year.  In this casino the buy-in cost is extortionate and the odds of picking a winner are extremely high. Oleg Salenko, Stephane Guivarc’h, Denilson, Kleberson – all World Cup Stars, all transfer flops. Perhaps though, this time it will be different.

Brazil 2014 is the first real data driven World Cup. Game, team and player statistics are now widely available. Players’ underlying World Cup numbers can now be analysed alongside their historical data, thus giving some analytical background to World Cup performances and reducing the likelihood of clubs risking big bucks on one trick ponies. And not being one to miss out on a party, we thought we’d have a go.

And what better place to start than with one of the early favourites for a big summer move. Daley Blind has it all, he is from a footballing country, plays for a team that is known for their talent development, he can play several positions, he has nice hair and he set this up:

But can he do it outside of Brazil?

More importantly, how can we tell? The individual statistics that are now readily available on sites like Whoscored and Squawka, stats like Tackles per Game, Pass Success %, Shots on Target %, are all well and good but to use these by themselves is to judge players in a vacuum just as much as watching them play in an International tournament. I feel that it’s more valuable to put a player’s stats in some form of context:

First, for each vital statistic I compared the subject’s number with the average number of the 100 statistically best players for that category in his domestic league and in the Top 6 Leagues in Europe. This way we have a point of reference for a players’ numbers.

Second, we should consider the context of frequency – a player may have a good success rate at completing long ball passes but how often does he make them? So the analysis begins with a look at the player’s 2013/14 season output and his Per Game contribution.

Finally, it’s all about the money, is the player worth his price tag? The analysis concludes with looking at what a club’s money get’s them.

So here it is, hopefully the first of many player analysis infographics – it’s interactive so scroll your mouse over the graphs and charts to get extra information.

Conclusion

Blind’s positional flexibility, whilst a massive asset to his manager, is slightly exasperating for us as it means his stats are somewhat convoluted by playing different roles. That being said, I think we can form a decent picture of the young Dutchman.

1. Be wary of his attacking prowess. Blind has already trebled his number of assists for the dutch season in Brazil. This should send up a massive red flag for any potential suitor looking to use him in a more forward thinking position. Van Gaal is the first to deploy him on the left of midfield (wing back at least), and whilst it’s paying dividends at the moment, Blind has no real history in this position and so his chance creation rate in Brazil should be viewed with a degree of skepticism. This is especially so considering he had a very low attacking contribution per game figure this season.

2. Daley Blind Can’t Cross. Blind’s third most common action last season was to cross the ball…and he was awful at it. Crossing isn’t the most sure fire attacking option at the best of times and if Daley Blind is whipping one in, turning over is almost a given. This is a shame as the number’s suggest that he is a pretty good defender, but the modern leftback has to be able to contribute at both ends of the pitch.

3. His best position is DMC. Whilst Blind isn’t the man to look to for crosses or through balls, he does appear to know how to dictate the pace of the game with his short passes, he knows how to go direct with his long balls and his dribbling success rate shows confidence on the ball. He also contributed heavily to Ajax’s defensive numbers and a potential suitor is more likely to get bang for their buck in terms of defensive contribution rather than attacking.

4. van Gaal might know best. There is probably no better scout than one who watches a player every day over the summer. This is the unique position of the incumbent Manchester United manager, Louis van Gaal. It should therefore come as no surprise that, with negotiations over Luke Shaw’s proposed move to Old Trafford allegedly breaking down, Daley Blind is being linked with a move to Manchester. This would be troubling though, as Blind would be much better used behind United’s back four than on the left side of it and he is definitely too talented to become another failed utility experiment, sorry Phil Jones.

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