Central defensive profiles

Prompted a bit by Sébastien Chapuis (@SeBlueLion / @SeBlueLion_EN on Twitter), I have started to look at creating some kind of profile for central defenders. Séb’s argument (I say it’s his argument, as I don’t totally agree with it) is that you need to sort CBs by their types/team tactics before you start to compare them because systems can be so different. In the same way that you wouldn’t play try and use Javier Hernandez and Andy Carroll as like-for-like replacements for each other, the same is true for defenders.

The quick notes that I jotted down had:

  • high/low defensive line
  • stopper/sweeper
  • ball-player or play-builder/not

If there are any other traits/types of central defender that you think could/should be included, please let me know. Obviously, a player will have elements of several of these eg a sweeper in a high line defense who isn’t a play-building passer.

I started to look at the stats that I had available for the 2014/15 Premier League season, as these are the centre-backs I know best and so I’m more able to know whether the stats/conclusions to be drawn from them seem ‘right’. I started with the stopper/sweeper aspect, as it seemed like it would be the easiest with what I already had available, which is mainly individually defensive minded.

I figured that a sweeper is most likely to have more ball recoveries (although there are issues with this stat in its current form, as it also includes some defensive actions already counted in, say, the tackles stat, and it also requires the team to complete two passes to count as a recovery, possibly helping individuals on better teams). I got the percentage of a player’s (dominance adjusted) tackles attempts and interceptions out of their tackle attempts, interceptions, and ball recoveries. I then multiplied this by the combined number of tackle attempts and interceptions. This, I think, has twin pincers of ‘doing more’ and composition of what they’re doing, if that makes sense.

I then, as another quick thing to look at, got the percentage of tackle attempts vs interceptions a CB made, so you can have (very simply) proactive and tackler/proactive and intercepter/not proactive and tackler/not proactive and intercepter. These are examples of early prototype ‘results’ (the style ‘inspired’ (nicked) from Dustin Ward (@SaturdayOnCouch)). Interception-focussed is minus and red, tackle-focussed is positive and blue, the + or – is from 0.5, so 52% of Phil Jones’ tackle attempts/interceptions are interceptions. “Proactive’ no” is the sweeper/stopper criteria, with a higher number indicating a more proactive approach (a stopper, probably), and a lower number a less proactive approach (a sweeper, probably).

Defensive Profile TestA drawback of these is that they only show what the players did that season, not what they *could* do. For example, Lovren could have the potential to be an interception-minded player who keeps back and restrains himself from being very proactive, but we can’t tell that from this.

What we can see is that Phil Jones is fairly even in how he chooses to defend, but is very proactive in doing so, while John Terry is reasonably tackle-orientated and, for whatever reason, isn’t as proactive. Mertesacker looks similarly sweeper-ish, but is more interception-orientated.

I also put together some players with kind of similar profiles.

Defensive Profile Test Like PlayersThe names and presentation can be improved but you see the idea. I need to look at these across leagues too. If you’ve got any thoughts, ideas about what other aspects could be included in CB profiles, or how to go about doing ones already mentioned feel free to comment below or get me on Twitter @ETNAR_uk

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One thought on “Central defensive profiles

  1. Pingback: Central defensive profiles: an update | Every Team Needs A Ron

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