In this data analysis piece, we will be looking out for the best central midfielders currently playing in Superliga. Central midfielders have come a long way in redefining their traits in the modern game. Gone are the days where central midfielders had a very limited task to do in their respective teams. The best central midfielders are the most complete ones, is the saying that rings around. Modern managers are hugely dependent on their central midfielders for the team’s successful tactics.
In our analysis, we will be considering both the attacking as well as defensive attributes. Definitely passing is the most important trait for a midfielder so that won’t be missed for sure. We will be looking at players who have registered at least 900 minutes of football in the league this season. Also, only proper central midfielders are taken into consideration i.e. no makeshift options included.
We will shortlist the best options according to the statistics and data analysis. A brief description of the player and how he helps his team tactically will also be acknowledged. The success of players like Kasper Schmeichel and Christian Eriksen in EPL has definitely made Superliga a hotspot to find players. Let’s dive deep into the analysis.
Defensive actions and Interceptions
The defensive actions give us a good knowledge of a player’s defensive capability. Coupled with the interceptions per 90 stat, the effective plot between the two metrics can give us how well the player reads the defensive aspect of the game.
The score calculated is the area under the graph for each point and then scaling them between 0 and 1. Based on that value we handpick the top 5 players.
N.Poulsen – The 26-year-old midfielder from Aarhus GF has been the top performer according to the effective score. He has averaged 13.29 successful defensive actions and 6.12 interceptions per 90. He has also won 58% of his defensive duels and has an effective score of 1.0.
M.Christensen – The 22-year-old homegrown midfielder from Aalborg BK. He has averaged 12.77 successful defensive actions and 6.06 interceptions per 90. He is the 2nd best with regard to our effective score (0.94), behind Poulsen. But he has comparatively won higher % of his duels (61.74) than Poulsen.
F.Onyeka – The 22-year-old Nigerian midfielder. He averages 12.67 successful def. actions and 5.94 interceptions per 90 this season.
J.Lungi Sørensen – The 22-year-old midfielder has been one of the shining lights in otherwise a poor season for Esbjerg. He averages 12.19 successful def. actions and 6.1 interceptions per 90 this season. He has also won 67% of his duels this season.
M.Frendrup – The 19-year-old midfielder from Brondby is the youngest of the five we have discussed. He averages 12.98 successful def. actions and 5.47 interceptions per 90 this season. Although he has won only 52% of his defensive duels.
In the image below, the effective score of the players based on the two metrics is shown.
Defensive duels are an important part of the defensive aspect of the game. Winning a defensive duel is very crucial for any team to start their attack as well as stop the opponent. Let’s analyse the plot between defensive duels per 90 and duels won %. Again we’ll calculate the effective score by multiplying the two above metrics and scaling them between 0 and 1.
We can see some familiar names here, but we’ll look into some new players that we have not seen.
J.Radošević – The 26-year-old midfielder from Brondby FC. Radošević has been sensational as a box to box midfielder for Brondby this season. He has won 69.38% of his def. duels this season and has also competed in 10.37 of them.
Zeca – The 31-year-old midfielder from København. København’s captain has averaged 9.06 defensive duels this season and has won 64.8% of them.
A.Rømer – The 26-year-old from Randers has played in multiple positions this season (LCMF, RCMF and CDM). He has attempted 8.87 def. duels this season with an accuracy of 59.16%. He has also completed 11.8 defensive actions successfully this season.
J.Thomasen – The 23-year-old midfielder from Odense Boldklub (OB). He has attempted 8.35 def. duels this season with an accuracy of 64.36%.
Apart from these new names, the other high ranking performers in this category are N. Poulsen, who has attempted 10.75 def. duels this season with an accuracy of 57.72%. M. Frendrup, despite having a sub-par accuracy of 52%, has managed 12.42 duels per 90 this season. F. Onyeka has a superb accuracy of 61.69% while also managing 9.33 duels per 90. M. Christensen has also performed similarly to Onyeka winning 61.74% of his 8.93 duels per 90. The effective score with respect to this category is given in the image below.
Effectively the top players according to the defensive metrics discussed in the above sections are in the image below. The score is an aggregate of the two scores mentioned in the above sections.
An important attribute associated with any midfielder is helping his team go forward. The key to this is to act as a link between the attack and defence. In this category, we’ll compare the midfielders based on their forward passing ability. The effective score here is calculated by multiplying the forward passes per 90 and its accuracy. Let’s analyze players from the plot.
Again we have some new names in this category. Let’s pick some new ones.
F.Lesniak – 24-year-old midfielder from Silkeborg. Lesniak plays in the CDM position in Silkeborg’s 4-3-3 formation. He averages 18.43 forward passes per 90 and has an accuracy of 82%.
L.Vigen Christensen – 25-year-old midfielder from Brondby. Vigen too plays a CDM for Brondby. He averages a league-high 20.72 forward passes per 90 for a central midfielder. He also has an accuracy of 72.69% going with it.
J.Christensen – 18-year-old midfielder from Nordsjælland. The youngster has put in consistent performances in the matches he has featured. He averages 18.63 forward passes per 90 with an accuracy of 76.23%.
M.Madsen – 22-year-old midfielder from Silkeborg. The recently appointed captain has been one of the few consistent performers for Silkeborg apart from ex-teammate R.Schwartz. He has averaged 17.23 forward passes per 90 with an accuracy of 75.5%.
Apart from them, another top performer in this category about whom we have discussed before is Zeca. He averages 17.59 forward passes with an accuracy of 78%. The effective score table for this category is in the below image.
The updated table based on adding this category to the ones discussed before is given below. The top players according to the aggregation are:
Key passes and smart passes
We need to find midfielders who can spread the ball around the field with the ability to find gaps in between opponent’s players. Smart and key passes will help us define who stands out in this category.
Let’s first look at some new options.
Evander – 21-year-old midfielder from Midtjylland. He has 2.06 smart passes per 90 and 0.51 key passes per 90. He has been key to Midtjylland’s stability in the midfield forming a formidable partnership with F. Onyeka. His passes have been crucial in his team unlocking defences.
M.Kaalund – 23-year-old midfielder from Silkeborg. He has averaged 1.33 smart passes and 0.55 key passes per 90. Although he has featured less in a poor Silkeborg’s team, he has shown flashes of his capabilities in his appearances.
J.Drachmann – 32-year-old veteran midfielder from Odense Boldklub (OB). As a captain, he has been leading his team well with some assured performances. He has averaged 1.33 smart passes and 0.33 key passes per 90.
Apart from them, we have some familiar names like Vigen Christensen, who has been the leading performer in this category. He has averaged 2 smart passes and 0.61 key passes per 90. Also, M. Madsen has been key to Silkeborg’s attack by unlocking defences. He has averaged 1.63 smart passes and 0.46 key passes per 90.
The table consisting of the top performers in this category is given in the above image. The score is calculated by multiplying the two metrics and scaling them from 0 to 1. The overall updated aggregated score and list of top players after including this category is given below.
Passing is an important attribute for any midfielder. Even a back-pass can sometimes help a team to control games and maintain tempo. Passing accuracy will help us in determining the top players in this category.
In terms of the top picks, we have a lot of familiar names. Zeca seems to be the top pick in this category with 66.1 passes and an accuracy of 89.62%. He has also completed 78% of his forward passes. F. Lesniak has averaged 61.4 passes with a whopping accuracy of 91.76%. On top of that, he has averaged at least 18 forward passes per 90. Vigen Christensen has averaged 62.23 passes per 90 with an accuracy of 82.66%. He too has a good share of his passes going forward with at least 20.7 of them per 90. This shows his willingness to move the attack forward and help his team. J. Christensen, despite being an 18-year-old, has done exceedingly well for his age. He has averaged 56.19 passes per 90 with an accuracy of 86.69%. He also averages 18.63 forward passes per 90 showing extreme composure in possession. The new entrant that we are gonna discuss here is
R.Falk- 28-year-old midfielder from København. He has attempted 58.68 passes per 90 with an astounding accuracy of 92.53% (highest in the league). But he seems to be a little more conservative than the ones discussed above. He attempted just 12.58 forward passes per 90.
The above image consists of the top performers in this category. The score calculated in this section is then added to our aggregated score. The top players of our aggregated score are in the following image. We can see that Zeca’s passing ability has seen him leapfrog Vigen to go top.
In this section, we’ll analyze the list of midfielders we have based on their dribbling ability and tendency to move the ball forward.
Let’s look into some new names.
M.Opondo – 22-year-old from OB has averaged 4.8 dribbles per 90 with an accuracy of 55.56%.
M.Greve – 25-year-old from Randers. He averaged 4.42 dribbles per 90 with an accuracy of 45.95% while also making 1.91 progressive runs. A box-to-box midfielder for his team.
Apart from the two discussed above, we have some familiar names performing well in this category too. R. Falk has averaged 4.44 dribbles per 90 with a success rate of 62.35%. He also won almost 48% of his offensive duels. M. Madsen averages 3.87 dribbles per 90 with a success rate of 64.71% which is comparatively better than Falk. Evander averages 3.96 dribbles per 90 though with a meagre success rate of 50%. There are also players like Zeca who have attempted fewer dribbles (2.75) but have higher accuracy (68.12). The table for dribbling ability is in the following image.
In terms of ball progression, we decide it based on both the progressive passes and runs per 90. Vigen Christensen seems to dominate this category by having high values for both the metrics. He has averaged 3.13 progressive runs and 10.71 passes per 90. Evander is the next best in this area averaging 2.23 runs and 7.66 passes per 90. Let’s see a new inclusion to our analysis:-
M.Hebo Rasmussen – 24-year-old from Lyngby. He has averaged 1.73 runs and 8.19 progressive passes per 90.
There are players who have got a higher value for progressive runs but less value for the passes. Also, there are players who have higher passes but fewer runs. Players like R. Falk and M. Greve fall under the former category with their passes way below the average (6.89). Though they have attempted more runs, 2.19 and 1.91, respectively. Players like J. Radosevic and J. Christensen, fall under the latter category with progressive runs below the average value (1.06). The top players according to their progression of the ball are in the image below.
The updated standings after including both dribbling and ball progression attributes are given in the image below.
This category is pretty much important in judging the modern-day central midfielders. Their contributions towards the goal can ease off the burden from the team’s forwards. Let’s analyze the goal contributions of the midfielder by looking at the xG and xA metrics.
Evander dominates this category with raking the highest xG (0.34) and xA (0.22) values per 90. He has tallied 7 goals and 7 assists. Let’s look at some new inclusions.
B.Blume – 28-year-old midfielder from Aarhus GF. He has an xG per 90 of 0.14 and xA per 90 of 0.14. He has scored 4 goals and assisted a further 3.
I.Fossum – 23-year-old midfielder from Aalborg BK. He has an xG per 90 of 0.14 and xA per 90 of 0.13. He has scored 1 goal and assisted a further 2.
M.Albæk – 30-year-old from SønderjyskE. He has an xG per 90 of 0.11. He has scored 2 goals since he arrived from FC Kaiserslautern on a free transfer.
Some players have either taken more goal-scoring chances or have assisted more. Players like Vigen have created a good amount of goal scoring chances with an xA of 0.22 per 90. But he has a below-average xG value of 0.46 per 90. Players like J. Stage have assisted very little while taking good goal scoring chances.
The top players according to this category are given in the image below. We can see the difference in the scores between Evander and other players following him. He has had total domination over this category.
After aggregating the scores from each category we have finally arrived at our final table. The table is given in the image below.
After adding the goal contribution category to our aggregate our final table looks like this in the image above. Vigen has been the best performing central midfielder this season followed by Zeca and Evander. His radar chart is in the image below. His attacking and passing attributes are top-notch despite having very low defensive values.
But a thing to note is that Vigen has played just over a 1000 minutes of football this season. Though our initial consideration is to analyze only those having played over 900 minutes, we feel Vigen has played a little less when compared to the likes of Evander, etc. So apart from him, we pick Zeca and Evander to be the top central midfielders in the league. Let’s look at their radar charts.
As we can see from the radar chart, Zeca outperforms Evander in the defensive area whereas Evander takes the glory when it comes to attacking. Zeca’s market value according to Transfermarkt is 1.4 million euros. Evander is valued a little higher at 4.5 million euros due to his age and potential. Someone like Evander can soon find himself playing for top clubs considering that he is just 21. His abilities can suit many top European teams especially the ones who are in the market for midfielders like Barcelona.
The likes of N. Poulsen appeared in the initial sections of our analysis which were defence related. Players like Poulsen, Onyeka, and Radošević, who are defensive midfielders by trade, do not find a top place since we have used a couple of more attacking metrics. They should be given some honourable mention for their respective roles.
The market value of N. Poulsen is 650,000 euros. Radošević is another viable option in the same position. Though he is rated a little bit more than Poulsen at 1.4 million euros. The highest-rated among the three is Onyeka at 2.7 million euros. This isn’t surprising since he had just turned 22 recently and that he has been playing a key role for the league leaders. This set of players can be a good alternative for a team like Arsenal, who are in the market for a defensive midfielder if their pursuit for T. Partey falls through.
Danish Superliga possesses some fine midfielders with most of them being young and with high potential. In this article, we have covered both the attacking as well as the defensive traits to handpick a few players. The likes of Evander, Onyeka, and Madsen, youngsters with high potential, can soon find themselves playing for major European clubs and follow the path of a certain Dane Christian Eriksen.
Further detailed scouting of these players can prove to help in finding if they fit into the plans of major teams. From the data analysis, we can conclude that Evander and Zeca to be the best central midfielders in Superliga.