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Radar Love: Box-to-Box Midfielders

By Ted Knutson | February 16, 2014 | Football

For some unknown reason – perhaps because I saw he was still under contract at Arsenal – I found myself looking at Abou Diaby stats earlier this week. Arsenal fans look upon his last contract with a great deal of regret, but I discovered that the data I had access to contained his last good season before the perma-crock hit, and it’s really quite impressive.


There are three peaks here that in combination are extremely unusual, and they are the Int, Tackles, and Dribbling totals. It’s a weird mix, because defensive mids generally don’t dribble the ball out that often, and certainly not at a per 90 rate that would imply the guy is a forward or a winger. Diaby’s rate of dispossession presumably frustrated Wenger to no end, but if he were to cut back on that just a touch, Diaby would have been  a worldie. Unfortunately, two particularly brutal injuries in his career broke his body, and at this point, who knows if he’ll ever play professionally again.

Now I mentioned above that the high defensive actions plus high dribbles is unusual. You might expect it a bit more in fullbacks who are obviously going to be involved with the defense, but also push into an attacking role on transition.

Not so fast, my friend!

In fact, out of aaaaall the thousands of player seasons we have access to over the last 4.5 years, the two other guys to post numbers like this were both CMs.


This guy was possibly Dortmund’s most important player last season. It’s hard to measure the contributions of Gotze, Lewandowski, Reus, etc, but I watched a number of BVB games last year, and they just didn’t function as well without Gundo in the team.

This chart is masterful. A high usage rate plus frequent dribbles are always going to create issues with being dispossessed, but Gundo was more careful with the ball than Diaby was, and he did everything else well too. I hope he can get healthy and stay healthy, because he’s incredible.


This is another tremendous season of production, and a big reason why I was recommending Badelj as a quality purchase for a number of upper-tier Premier League teams last summer. His defensive work is treeeemendous (more than 8 actions per game), but again you see the huge transitional impact here, whether it’s from spraying accurate long balls to flank attackers, or from dribbling through the midfield to help get the ball forward.

His numbers haven’t been as good this season, but I’m inclined to write that off on the fact that Hamburg are a white hot mess more than anything else. This type of production is extremely rare and valuable and I still think Badelj would make a good buy for a Premier League team this summer.

Anyway, short and sweet today. I just wanted a place to host these radars, and also to point out a fairly unusual midfielder profile that I stumbled across while wondering what could have been.

This was supposed to be a quick piece, which is why I didn't spend a ton of extra time posting different data, formatting, etc. However, because someone requested it in the comments, here is the quick and dirty stats set I was looking at to build these (unformatted and ugly).



Article by Ted Knutson