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Issue number 148 the Weekly Post presents the best performing defenders of the big-5 league season. According to the exclusive CIES Football Observatory statistical approach, at the top three positions of the centre back table are Mats Hummels (Dortmund), Thiago Silva (Paris St-Germain) and Nicolás Otamendi (Manchester City). Filipe Luís (Atlético Madrid), Philipp Lahm (Bayern) and Dani Alves (Barcelone) head the full back rankings.

The analysis is based on the statistics of players in six areas of the game, weighted according to their importance per position (see table). Two Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are crucial for defenders: rigour and recovery. The former area defines the ability to minimise opponents’ chances through robust duelling. The latter highlights proficient interception work. Only players fielded for at least 60% of minutes are included in the rankings.

According to our approach, the best performing full back over the 2015/16 English Premier League season was Aleksandar Kolarov (Manchester City). The Serbian is the only EPL player in the top 10 positions. Besides Nicolás Otamendi, Mamadou Sakho (Liverpool) is 10th among centre backs. The youngest footballers in the lists are Ricardo Pereira (Nice, on loan from Porto) for full backs (4th) and Samuel Umtiti (Lyon) for centre backs (9th). They are both aged 22.

Issue number 147 of the CIES Football Observatory Weekly Post presents the best performing goalkeepers of the big-5 league season. The ranking notably takes into account the number of goals conceded per match and the percentage of saves. At the top of the table is German world champion Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich), ahead of Jan Oblak (Atlético Madrid) and Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus).

According to our analysis, the best performing English Premier League goalkeeper is Hugo Lloris. Tottenham player only conceded 0.8 goals per match (0.5 for Manuel Neuer) and saved 73.9% of shots (78.8% for Manuel Neuer). The highest percentage of saves overall was recorded for Paris St-Germain goalkeeper Kevin Trapp: 80.6%. He is the only player with a percentage of saves greater than 80%.

The least performing goalkeeper both at Premier League and big-5 league level is Brad Guzan (Aston Villa). The American conceded 2 goals per match on average. His percentage of saves was 59.5%. Throughout the season, he won only the first game played on August 8th 2015 against Bournemouth. After this game, his team drew 5 matches and lost the remaining 22 in which Guzan participated.

In the next three Weekly Posts, we will present the rankings for six outfield positions: centre backs, full backs, defensive midfielders, box-to-box midfielders, attacking midfielders and forwards.

Leicester City’s success during current Premier League season was outstanding. The analysis of the percentage of long balls out of total passes confirms the exceptional feature of Claudio Ranieri’s team. While the percentage of long balls for the best performing teams generally does not exceed 3%, this figure is almost 7% at Leicester. This is the highest level in England and the third in Europe. All the data is available in issue number 146 of the CIES Football Observatory Big-5 Weekly Post.

Only in two big-5 league clubs out of 98, the percentage of long balls compared to total passes is higher than at Leicester: Darmstadt (10.7%) and Ingolstadt (7.8%). The highest figures in the three remaining big-5 leagues were recorded at Eibar (6.6%), Frosinone (6.3%) and Bastia (6.2%). At the opposite end of the spectrum are Paris St-Germain and Bayern Munich (both 1.1%), Barcelona (1.4%), Juventus (1.6%) and Manchester City (2.4%).

The average percentage of long balls for Champions League semi-finalists is 2.1%. At league level, this percentage varies between 3.8% in Italy and 4.6% in Germany. The figures in England and Spain (4.4%) are slightly greater than that observed in France (4.1%). In absolute terms, Deportivo La Coruña had the most recourse to long balls (851, two more than Leicester), while Bayern Munich the least (246).

Issue number 145 of the CIES Football Observatory Big-5 Weekly Post presents the young players active in the five major European leagues eligible for England, Spain, Germany, France and Italy who are more experienced than current full internationals of these nations at the same age. Among them notably are Nathan Redmond (Norwich), Saúl Ñíguez (Atlético Madrid), Johannes Geis (Schalke 04), Samuel Umititi (Olympique Lyonnais) and Stefano Sturaro (Juventus).

While the English national A-team is among the youngest at worldwide level, the number of eligible U23 players in the big-5 leagues with a higher experience capital than that of current Three Lions internationals at the same age is only five. This figure is much greater for the other nations hosting the five biggest European leagues: 30 for France, 22 for Spain, 18 for Italy and 17 for Germany. This finding both reflects the restricted talent pool available to England’s manager Roy Hodgson and the high experience level of current English full internationals.

The full list of the 92 most likely future English, Spanish, German, French and Italian full internationals is available here.

Playing numerous games during the first years of a professional career is an essential condition in order to be able to compete in the top level leagues worldwide. The April edition of the CIES Football Observatory Monthly Report presents the experience capital approach developed to identify players most likely to succeed in their career.

The study reviews U23 players currently present in 31 top division leagues in Europe. Footballers are ranked according to the level of experience gained since the start of their career at adult level. Among players listed, notably are two goalkeepers who were born in 1999: Gianluigi Donnarumma (Milan) and Alban Lafont (Toulouse).

The method of experience capital allows clubs to optimise their approach regarding transfers by considerably reducing the risks inherent in such operations, from both the sporting and economic point of view. For recruiting clubs, there is indeed no better guarantee than recruiting footballers who have had the opportunity to play as often as possible at the highest possible level taking into account their age and talent.

Our research team is at the service of clubs interested in finding out more about the practical modalities of implementing a talent spotting system of this kind.

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