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The first ten games are always a good indicator of where we are as a team after a long off season, with heightened importance as I’ve not experienced this period of time before at the club. The board would like us to reach the quarter finals of the CPL – better known as just making the end of season playoffs – but, honestly, I think we have more than to just settle for that.

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I think we’ve made a really strong start to the season and our third place is absolutely justified.

We made a really hot start to the season, with the only 100% record after three games and that without a goal conceded, too.  Goals, even back then, were mainly from the midfield as now ex-midfielder Paprocki netted twice in a hammering of York. Since then, we’ve struggled a little – Valour were comfortably dispatched but the run of four without a win has seen teams overtake us at the top.  The loss at home to Pacific hurt somewhat – 1.96xG created without a really strong chance and nearly 70% of the ball – something that often happens when we lack that cutting edge. That being said, the positives from that – conceding twice from three shots on target – were dissipated in the tepid 0.51xG we created against Cavalry, succumbing to their 1.83xG and intense pressure for the majority of the game.

There is still, however, a lot of time left. I’m feeling happy that we’re in a decent position here…

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With an enforced salary cap, there needs to be a much tighter grip on where that money goes. Granted, I don’t actually control who comes in in any real detail, although, going forward, may have – at least – a one in three chance if my idea takes off, but I can control who I move on using the Unwanted List. Additionally, I don’t control the contracts that are offered at signing and the contracts that are renewed but, in this scenario, my job is to ensure that I’m getting the most I can for my money. We’re not a rich team, by any stretch of the imagination, but we are financially stable given these constraints, which does give me scope to be clever in the movements, maybe bringing in players before we sell.

With just seven weeks of the season gone, the base wage totals are fairly straightforward – their weekly wage multiplied by seven. From that, I can calculate their costs across a number of metrics, with, obviously, some having more importance to me than others. From the scoring perspective, I’m finding great value in Bruno Marques, who, as one of the cheapest weekly wages, is also the joint top scorer for us. On the other hand, Daniel Jepson has really struggled in front of goal, netting just once – five games ago – and has underperformed his xG. This was a common feature as he went through an eleven hour goal drought last year and something that I really need to take into account as the season goes on. The biggest concern here is the parity between Marques – the right winger – and Fjellheim – the left winger. The former has earned 14% of the wage of the Norwegian but has provided significantly more from a slightly more defensive midfield role. I am pleased with the outputs of defender Osborn, particularly as his three goals have come from open play and he is excelling in his Libero role.

That continues for Osborn onto the creating metrics as his $500 per key pass is among the cheapest (even if I’ve coloured the data incorrectly). Again, this creative area is somewhere that Marques is excelling in, along with right back Edgar Ortiz. Nicholas Hutchinson – the true non-creative player in this team – isn’t providing anything in this area and, that is fine but I d need to look at the likes of Hashemi and Zamarripa, two players often used as late, creative substitutes, who just haven’t convinced me based on the wages they’re taking home.

Progressively, Danny Green and, once again, Bruno Marques are impressing, which is great, given their relatively advanced position. However, both with support duties mean that they are looking for the space to dribble into. There is also nice parity between the first choice defenders in terms of their costings, with no real standouts anywhere in team apart from Winn – who has been used largely as a striker, and Hashemi – who has just, honestly, not impressed.

Danny Green and Hans Fjellheim lead the value for money metrics in terms of ball retention statistics, which, for the latter, is great given his higher basic wage, showing my intention to continue to press relatively high and cut off passing lanes. Whilst Barnes continues to learn how to play as a DM, I’ll forgive the lack of parity between his and Heath’s outputs here, as, whilst the latter has taken home a third more, he has produced more value for money in each of those metrics, and, actually, most metris overall.

My takeaways from this are as follows:

  • Marques probably deserves to be paid more but, as a youngster, is likely to hit barren spells. If I can review this across the season and it maintains, I may recommend a new deal for him.
  • Fjellheim isn’t justifying his wages in front of goal but is doing just about ok in terms of creating. I do expect him to kick on though.
  • These metrics do a disservice for Hutchinson, who is integral for his bravery and physical presence. That being said, he is an expensive asset, particularly as he’s not even been able to contribute from set pieces. That isn’t necessarily all his fault, though.
  • Sobhan Hashemi isn’t quite justifying his wage, whereas players like Fabio Hughes are.
  • Gunderson is very expensive in terms of dribbles but – for him to be recording dribbles, he’d be going against my instructions. Thankfully, this value for money is redistributed into his progressive passing. There is, though, justification that he could move to a more central, holding midfielder if this continues given his value-for-money ball recovery metrics.
  • Jepson needs to find his scoring boots because his creative side isn’t up to much either this season!

My plan, when re-evaluating later in the season, is to utilise the DoF Unwanted List, as seen below:

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I’m hoping that, using this, I can trim the excess from the squad and then – possibly – use the inverse (the three recommended players when selecting a position or role) to replace them with a one in three from a recommendation. That, at least, will allow me to address areas of the squad that are thin as we’ve started this season without adequate cover in certain areas and it will come back to hurt us later in the season, almost certainly.

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With a thought on slightly targeted recruitment, I’ll be able to double down on statistical analysis of my own players or players that have been produced on the three man list. I saw this tweet and my desire to create scatters and statistical driven assumptions just came back. With that in mind, I wanted to showcase and dig into a current standout within my own team – Alex Osborn.

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Alex is now thirty and, as such, won’t go on forever, meaning that I’ll need to have a replacement sourced for him in the next two to three years in the best case scenario. As I’ve watched him more and more this season, looking at the 235 shape that we make in possession, the more I see him as a key element in our build up play. In the 3-2 win over York United, Osborn played more passses well inside the opponents half than he did inside his own, scoring a goal to round things off. He’s obviously very valuable inside our own penalty area, winning the ball and starting attacks but also as the first pass in any build up but the fact that his heat map shows time spent in progressive areas is a real strength to his game. Having a progressive defender such as Osborn is really key here and I wanted to see just how good he is.

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The graph on the left shows defenders in the CPL who have amassed at least one dribble or progressive pass. Obviously, these metrics are a little less robust as, given we’re just ten games into the season, provide a maximum nine-hundred minute output, which is less than the one-thousand cut off I often use. The graph also shows players who can play as a centre back and, therefore, includes Sergio OliveiraTom ThompsonPrince Itoua and Dino Gavran – all arguably more progressive than Osborn but also all players who have spent the majority of their season – at least – as full backs or wing backs. That would suggest that, indeed, Osborn is the most progressive centre back in the CPL despite not actually being the most suited attribute-wise.

However, to improve him, I’ll need to reach outside of the scouting scope and, given that the majority of transfers have come from Scandinavia, built upon my knowledge (Colombia comes from Palacios, the HoYD, Norway from an U19 coach and Portugal from Bursic), I decided to start my search there. Using Osborn’s outputs as a baseline, looking at at least 0.4 dribbles per 90 and 3.5 progressive passes, I was able to create another scatter diagram. Whilst Osborn now fits into the traditional defender category, he really doesn’t but it does show that there are far more progressive defenders than he. Obviously, I have no knowledge of players like Ekberg but know he’s in the Swedish third tier and, therefore, isn’t likely to be strong enough to improve the squad.

My plans are to get back into this style of player analysis, building reports on the three players suggested in the DoF recommendation, as seen with this example:

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Now, here, two of the three recommendations are in the lower leagues of Spain and, as such, their data can be a little unrealistic but it’s a step I’m looking forward to and will give me some extra incentive to really work through these lists to get to know the three targets and order them in terms of preference. Then, they’ll be added to the list of Transfer Targets and we will go from there. Maybe I’ll get my first target, maybe I won’t…

Author

  • Ben

    Ben has been a long time contributor to the FM community previously on The Dugout and the SI Forums. He is known for his great in-depth tactical analysis and an increasing level of understanding of data led recruitment. His FM saves are always in-depth and he delivers both his knowledge of the game and great storytelling including a talent for squad building, progressing youth players and finding diamonds in the rough. His saves are really popular within the blogging community. He is also the creator of the popular skin “Statman”

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