Looking For Players In Different Leagues: Wingers And Advanced Midfielders

Victor Tsygankov – 20 – Dynamo Kiev

Playing for Dynamo Kiev and having 9 caps with Ukraine, this is another pick that isn’t exactly under the radar, but with some hugely impressive numbers and being just 20-years-old, Tsygankov could represent better value than someone currently playing within the five big leagues.

Playing 2284 minutes for Dynamo last season saw Tsygankov have the 3rd highest total xG + xA in the league with 17.73 – giving him an xG + xA of 0.70 p90. It’s quite nice that this number is balanced too, with an xG of 0.38 p90 and an xA of 0.32 p90.

He has impressive numbers for dribbling and passing, completing 75.8% of his 5.71 attempted dribbles p90 while also attempting 3.31 passes into the box p90. Off the ball, he makes 6.07 recoveries p90, which seems pretty impressive for a young, attacking player.

Moving into 2018/19 sees his numbers take a slight hit, but nothing too alarming given the small number of minutes. His xG is 0.28 p90 and his xA 0.30 p90. His attempted dribbles have gone slightly down, to 5.42 p90, but his accuracy has rose to an impressive 81%. He makes more passes into the box with 4.73 p90 and a similar number of recoveries with 5.94 p90.

From the clips I’ve watched, he also seems like a strong set-piece taker, which is a nice bonus to have. A few clips of his play can be seen below.

Tottenham are apparently interested in him for 18 million euros, according to a quick google search, and for that price it seems as though he could represent great value. He seems to have the numbers and ability to make an immediate impact, while still just being 20-years-old.

Another club that could be an interesting move is Arsenal. Arsenal’s wide options seem to be either aging or would prefer to play centrally. From a few clips below that show some of Tsygankov’s play, you can imagine him running with the ball from deep and linking up with someone like Mesut Ozil around the box, or playing a pass to either an overlapping Hector Bellerin or one of the forwards running in behind.

He’s not a hidden gem or anything, but a talented youngster who could provide better value for money than someone already playing within the top five leagues.

Dani Olmo – 20 – Dinamo Zagreb

Like Tsygankov, Dani Olmo isn’t an obscure selection. He’s spent time on Barcelona’s books, played for Spain U21 and I’ve seen stories of him being linked with Liverpool on my Twitter timeline. With all that being said, he’s still a worthwhile name to look into and has been putting in some decent performances in the Croatian League.

The main thing that stands out for Olmo is his dribbling. His 9.28 attempted dribbles p90 was the 4th most in the Croatian League last season, while he also makes 2.75 progressive runs p90 – the 7th most in the division. I’m not 100% sure what goes into this progressive run metric, but from what I’ve seen it’s much easier for defenders to rack them up as they bring the ball out of defence, so his standing here is pretty impressive.

From watching some clips of him, particularly when playing central, I think it’s easy to see why Liverpool would be interested in him. If Liverpool stick to the 4-2-3-1 shape, Olmo feels like he could be a good rotation option being able to play wide or central. He has the ability to pick up the ball and run from deep, the skill to operate in tight spaces and the ability to pick a pass – while also having the nice added bonus of seeming to be ambidextrous.

What may endear him more to Liverpool is the fact he also seems fairly active when out of possession. Looking at all his Croatian League minutes (3563 in total) he averages 7.68 recoveries p90, which seems a high number for an attacking player. In the Premier League last season Sadio Mane had 3.95 p90, Roberto Firmino 6.23 p90, Mohamed Salah 3.88 p90 and then Shaqiri has managed 5.34 p90 in all competitions in his small time since joining.

Olmo’s 13.69 losses of possession p90 seems pretty high, but as a young player who likes to dribble and play dangerous passes, this also doesn’t seem too surprising.

Moving on to his goal scoring numbers, again using all his Croatian League minutes, he’s averaged an xG of 0.28 p90 and an xA of 0.23 p90, which is pretty healthy. Obviously, he’s playing for a strong side, but when you combine these numbers with all of the above, you seem to have a pretty talented player.

Below are some clips which I chose because I thought they kind of show what you’d expect him to offer to a club like Liverpool should they come in, you see a bit of his work off the ball, his dribbling and his passing.

I feel like a big part of the appeal too is the fact that he has a decent amount of senior minutes under his belt – and the same can be said for quite a few players who I’ve mentioned throughout these pieces. There are other young wingers and #10’s out there, but Olmo would likely be cheaper than a lot of the ones playing in the top five leagues, plus he already has 3563 minutes of senior league football – and whatever he’s played in Europe and the cups.

Viktor Fischer – 24 – FC Copenhagen

After bursting onto the scene with Ajax back in 2012/13 and having a few moves that didn’t work out since, this is admittedly a lazy suggestion. However, as someone who loved that 2012/13 Ajax side, and Fischer in particular, I feel like I have to include him in the hope that a comeback is on the way.

I even remember tweeting out asking who had the higher potential Fischer or Raheem Sterling when Fischer broke into the Ajax side, and more people (including me) said Fischer. Their careers have gone complete different ways since, but I still hope that someone in the top five will take a (I guess another) gamble on Fischer.

In 2017/18 Fischer’s numbers were incredibly strong for Copenhagen. He had an xG of 0.30 p90, an xA of 0.57 p90, 7.56 attempted dribbles p90, 4.09 touches in the box p90 and 3.02 progressive runs p90 (though the more I see of these progressive runs the less I’m sure of them).

Moving into 2018/19 and his xG has taken a boost, while his xA has taken a hit. His xG is now 0.49 p90 and his xA 0.44 p90. Overall, it means he is more productive this season though, being incredibly close to contributing 1 xG + xA p90. His touches in the box (3.64 p90) and dribbles (6.13 p90) are also down, but combining his time in the Danish League and you get a healthy 0.38 xG p90 and 0.52 xA p90. This has come in just 2621 minutes of football back in Denmark, but it’s still an encouraging sign.

He also seems to take set-pieces for Copenhagen, and seems to be a good set-piece taker, though I’m not sure how much of his xA this makes up for.

At 24-years-old he’s still young, but you’d also expect him to kick on now and start to live up to his potential, then given his age and the fact his moves into the top five leagues haven’t gone to plan I feel like clubs would be hesitant to take a chance on him. This is understandable, but if he can have a full season putting up the numbers he has so far then you have to imagine there will be clubs debating going in for him come next summer.

Hany Mukhtar – 23 – Brondby

Mukhtar has been on the books of quite a few good clubs, he came through at Hertha BSC, was bought by Benfica, loaned out to RB Salzburg and loaned out to Brondby, who made the move permanent last summer for ~£1m.

He seems to have really found his home at Brondby, amassing an xG + xA of 27.8 last season. He played a lot of minutes with 3165, but his xG + xA was almost double the next highest under 24-years-old value (Viktor Fischer). His xG and xA was split perfectly, giving him an xG of 0.4 p90 and xA of 0.4 p90.

Combine the good goal contribution with 5.12 dribbles p90, 7.59 recoveries p90 and 5 passes into the box p90 and he starts to look seriously impressive. He under performed both his xG and xA, and weirdly with both of them being by about the same amount. He managed 0.28 goals p90 and 0.26 assists p90, but he also contributed 0.26 secondary assists p90 however, meaning he contributed to 0.8 goals p90.

Like Fischer, he seems to be a set-piece taker too, which is a nice bonus, though I’m not sure what proportion of his xA comes from set-pieces.

I’m not really sure how much Mukhtar would cost, but taking the league and his £3.15m TransferMarkt value into account makes it seem like it’s unlikely to be much (< £10m). I’m not sure on the level that he’s at, but it’s the kind of move I think I’d like lower Premier League sides to try, particularly those with a tight budget – someone like Huddersfield or Newcastle for instance. He’d be a pretty cheap gamble, but a good age and if he can hit it off they’ll make themselves a nice bit of money.

One of the other names who looked impressive from the Danish league data was Mathias Jensen, and given he was snapped up by Celta, you’d imagine Mukhtar would be a similar kind of standard – meaning he should be good enough for a mid-table-ish club in the top five leagues, or even a good Eredivisie side.

Lovro Majer – 20 – Dinamo

Another young Dinamo player, this time it’s new signing Lovro Majer. This may be a bit late, given Dinamo snapped him up for ~£2m in the summer and gave him a 5-year deal, but he could still be a good signing for someone else in a year or two.

He had the third highest total xG + xA in Croatia last season, with an impressive 17.15. A lot of his other numbers are good and he seems pretty well-rounded, although they don’t lead the league. He attempts 8.42 passes to the final third p90, 3.42 passes into the box p90, 8.90 recoveries p90, 4.24 dribbles p90 with a 79.7% success rate and 2.83 progressive runs p90.

Looking at his entire time in the Croatian League, he’s already played 4323 league minutes and has averaged an xG of 0.28 p90 and an xA of 0.30 p90. Like quite a few of these, I believe he takes set-pieces and that may account for some of his xA, but these numbers are still impressive for a young midfielder. Attempting 4.16 dribbles p90 with a 76% success rate also seems strong for a young player.

It’s interesting when comparing his numbers with Ante Coric, a player Dinamo sold to Roma for ~£5m in the summer. In Coric’s time in Croatia he played 4077 minutes, averaging an xG of 0.23 p90 and an xA of 0.29 p90, around the same level as Majer. Coric attempted 4.61 dribbles p90, with a 77% success rate, played 6.56 passes into the final third p90 and 3.77 passes into the box p90.

When you consider that Coric has been playing for a strong Dinamo side – who have won twelve of the last thirteen titles – but Majer has been playing for a more mid-table Lokomotiva Zagreb then this seems like some decent business by Dinamo. Coric still has time and could be a good player, but Dinamo have sold a player they bought for ~£800k and replaced him with a player slightly younger with marginally better numbers while playing for a weaker team – who then has the potential to make them a bit of profit down the line.

I’m unsure just how good Majer is and what kind of teams should be targeting him, but given his age and numbers for a fairly standard team he should be worth following and it wouldn’t be surprising to see big clubs go in for him if he can continue to develop at Dinamo.

Daleho Irandust – 20 – BK Hacken

Playing 3548 Allsvenskan minutes, Irandust’s numbers don’t jump right off the page, but he still looks like he could be an interesting prospect.

In his 3548 minutes he’s averaged an xG of 0.19 p90 and an xA of 0.28 p90, which is pretty respectable for a 20-year-old. He also attempts 3.42 passes into the box p90, 6.10 recoveries p90 and 5.35 dribbles p90 with a 72.5% success rate.

Again, while these numbers are pretty strong, they’re not really the kind that makes you sit up and take notice either. However, when watching some clips of him, I liked what I saw. He seems to be a good, technically gifted player who’s capable of creating and chipping in with a few goals.

One area where he does shine is in through balls. I don’t think the definition is the same as the OPTA definition, but Irandust has played the 6th most through balls p90 in 2018 in the Allsvenskan with the 4th highest accuracy. Looking at some clips of his through balls and it’s not too hard to see why, his passes seem to be nicely weighted and aesthetically pleasing. Some clips of Irandust, mostly some of his through-balls, can be seen below.

I’m not sure on the quality of the Swedish League or what teams should be going in for him, but looking at some other exports of the Allsvenskan it seems the Eredivisie may be a decent next step, or even a Championship or 2.Bundesliga team should no top division clubs show interest.

Conclusion

I quite like the look of all the players mentioned here. From the above, Tsygankov and Olmo feel like the two most likely to join a top club soon, while Majer seems like he’ll be on the radar for a lot of top clubs. Then Mukhtar, Fischer and Irandust feel like they might be decent gambles for clubs at an affordable price, with all three of them looking impressive.

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