The Austrian Second Division has nurtured some rising stars in international football. Current RB Salzburg players like Patson Daka, recently rumoured for a move to Manchester United, and Dominik Szoboszlai, rumoured to clubs from Ligue 1 and Serie A, both spent time in the second tier of Austrian football. While many future stars populate the rosters of the Austrian Second Division, the focus today will be on the forwards. In this data analysis, we will use statistics to find the forwards in the second tier of Austria ready for a move to a bigger club in Austria or Europe.
For this analysis, we will look at five different categories of each forward’s game before coming up with a shortlist of the best overall performers. These categories will be:
- Defence – How do players perform in defensive situations?
- Dribbling – How successful and prolific are players at progressing the ball through dribbling?
- Threat near the goal – How often do the players get involved in the box and how often do they shoot?
- Finishing – How often do the players convert those shots to goals?
- Creativity – How do the players create chances through passing?
Next, we should make sure each player in the analysis has registered enough minutes this year to display consistency. Therefore, we will only consider data for players who have played at least 900 minutes during the previous season.
We will start with defence. While most forwards may not be playing defensive roles often, pressing competency is a skill valued by higher clubs. In the chart below, defensive duels per 90 are charted against successful defensive actions per 90, with the size of each point correlating to the success rate on defensive duels. These statistics help measure the general defensive ability of these forwards.
The standout performer in defensive duels per 90 is Slobodan Mihajlovic of Grazer AK at 8.29 with a success rate in those duels of 41.18%. He also ranks highly in successful defensive actions per 90 at 6.14. The two players who beat Mihajlovic in successive defensive actions per 90 are Vorwarts Steyr teammates Okan Yilmaz and Josip Martinovic, registering 6.45 and 6.15 successful defensive actions per 90, respectively. Each of these players achieved above-average in defensive duels per 90, although Yilmaz stood out at 6.19.
Adolphe Belem from relegated side Floridsdorfer ranked third in defensive duels per 90 and fourth in successful defensive actions per 90. He made 6.16 defensive duels at a 45.83% success rate. One final player who scored above-average in either category was Atsushi Zaizen of Wacker Innsbruck, managing 4.88 duels per 90 at a 52.13% success rate and 4.78 successful defensive actions per 90. Each of these forwards stood out in the previous season for their defensive contributions.
Players like Neymar and Messi romanticise dribbling sometimes, but it does not take much for a player to create space by dribbling. Creativity while carrying the ball is a vital skill in forwards, a dangerous weapon when wielded well. In this chart, dribbles per 90 are charted against progressive runs per 90, with the size of each point relating to the success rate of the dribbles.
The clear standout here is Karim Adeyemi from RB Salzburg’s developmental club Liefering. Although he spent time in the Austrian Bundesliga, Adeyemi still attempted an absurd 10.05 dribbles per 90 along with 2.67 progressive runs per 90. He completed these dribbles at a fantastic 47.48% rate.
The second-ranked player in either category was Lukas Fridrikas of Dornbirn. The 22-year-old recorded 7.45 dribbles per 90, of which he completed about half, to go along with 2.1 progressive runs per 90. Zaizen ranks highly again, this time tallying 5.46 dribbles and 1.87 progressive runs per 90. Two players like him are Marco Sahanek from Floridsdorfer and Csaba Bukta of Liefering. They both totalled around six dribbles and 1.8 progressive runs per 90. These are just a few of the strong dribblers from the Austrian Second Division.
Danger in the box
The most important part of the field for a forward is the penalty area. Getting more touches in the box generally leads to more goals. Similarly, the ability to generate shots is an important variable in the equation for forwards. The following graph compares touches in the box per 90 to shots per 90.
There is once again a clear leader in both categories. Brazilian Ronivaldo from Wacker Innsbruck shot 4.37 times per 90 with 6.02 touches in the box per 90. Jefte Betancor from league-winning side Ried ranked second in shots per 90 at 3.75 with an above-average 4.49 touches in the box per 90. Fabian Schubert from Blau-Weiss Linz managed similar statistics: 3.66 shots and 4.29 touches in the box per 90. Adeyemi got 4.84 touches in the box per 90, but only notched a below-average 2.31 shots per 90. Two more players to point out are Daniel Maderner from Amstetten and Oliver Markoutz from Austria Klagenfurt. Both rated above average in shots and touches in the box per 90.
Shooting by itself is not enough – forwards must turn their shots into goals at an efficient rate. One way of measuring this is by comparing a player’s xG to their actual goal tally. Outperforming xG can be an indicator of above-average finishing. These two stats are charted below with goal conversion rate adjusting the size of the points.
Ronivaldo shows up again here as the leader. The league’s top scorer outperformed his xG per 90, with 0.92 goals compared to 0.83 xG. Ercan Kara from Horn came second in either category with 0.76 goals and 0.6 xG per 90. Markoutz and Chukwubuike Adamu of Liefering registered similar numbers to Kara, with the latter outperforming his xG by a margin of 0.19. Betancor comes slightly behind this trio with 0.65 goals per 90 from 0.53 xG at a lower conversion rate of 16.88%. Adeyemi stands out not for his xG per 90 but for his goals and conversion rate. With 0.65 goals per 90, he outperformed his xG total by 0.27 with a lethal 28.13% conversion rate.
The final category we will look at is creativity. To measure this, we will use xA along with passes into the penalty area per 90. Each of these statistics will provide a snapshot of the goal creating abilities these forwards have through passing.
Three players stand apart in terms of creative prowess: Betancor, Sahanek, and Bukta. They all achieve 0.29 xA per 90 and 2.4 passes to the penalty area per 90 or higher. Adeyemi comes fourth with 0.21 xA per 90 to pair with an above-average 2.1 passes to the penalty area. Ronivaldo made more passes to the penalty than Adeyemi with 2.15 but slightly less xA with 0.19. Marco Hausjell leads the pack with 2.76 passes to the penalty area per 90, but those passes only allotted an xA per 90 of 0.12. Markoutz and Zaizen make notable contributions to the penalty area, the former with an above-average 0.16 xA while the latter lags.
The first player on the shortlist is Jefte Betancor. The Ried striker shot well during the 2019/2020 season, but his best attribute was his creativity. His defence is the worst in the group, but his dribbling is slightly better than Ronivaldo. Betancor has played at a variety of clubs in both his native Spain and in Austria, including half a season in the Austrian Bundesliga with Mattersburg. If he stays with promoted side Ried, we will get to see how he fares against higher competition next season.
The next player on the shortlist is Karim Adeyemi. He performed the best in the dribbling and creativity categories compared to other players in the Austrian Second Division. His defensive acumen has some room for improvement, but as a forward, that is not too much of an issue. Adeyemi joined RB Salzburg during the winter transfer window this past season, and he will probably fight for regular playing minutes in the Austrian Bundesliga and Champions League.
The final player is Ronivaldo. He was prolific in front of goal, showing out in all the shooting categories. His creativity was also stellar, much better than his dribbling statistics. Like Adeyemi, he does not get involved on the defensive end often. The 31-year-old has played in the Austrian Bundesliga before, and his performances from last season may be evidence he is ready for a return to higher competition.