Last week, I wrote about the player radars, how they worked, how they can be used and how you can make your own. Since writing that article, I have gained some new insights and I wanted to share these insights with a case study as the example. Starting off with the most important one of all, the initial site I shared was incomplete but someone was kind enough to point me towards a site that offers templates for forwards/attacking midfielders, central midfielders, full-backs and central defenders. You can find this site right here.
Our case study will be focussed around Jon Díez, my star forward and basically the guy carrying my current Bilbao team. This is Jon.
A world class attacking midfielder and basically irreplaceable in my forward line, both as a goal scorer and as a creative force. His phenomenal statistics look like this when transferred to a player radar.
It also shows you the problem I am facing. A player of these immense qualities is difficult to replace when he is injured or suspended and he can also be targetted by opposing defenders. If a team manages to shut down Díez, they effectively shut down my offensive line. By comparison, these are his team-mates up front. I am not going to include player radars for these guys because I have been rotating them upfront and their stats would be skewed because of that.
Jeremy González is 30 years old and while he is definitely capable of holding his own in La Liga, his attributes come nowhere near those of Díez. He is also not getting any younger, which means his physical attributes will suffer as a result in the next few years. He will be fine as a rotational option but he cannot fill the shoes of Díez.
The next player upfront is Jon Kortazar, a similar player to the aforementioned González. 30 years of age, fairly injury-prone, already on the decline regarding his attributes. He is a valuable squad member as a rotational option. The long and exhausting Spanish league campaign paired with a domestic cup tournament and the rigours of European football will guarantee him playing time anyway.
José Juan is another ageing forward and more of a pure forward compared to Díez. Juan scores as proficiently as Díez but lacks the creative ability to replace our star man. His age is also a risk factor. Juan turned 30, which means he has two to three good seasons left in him, maybe even less if he gets injured. We’re not building our squad around this guy, even though he is still a useful player.
Ander González is a talented forward, currently on the fringes of first team football, but ready to step up if one of the old guard of forwards starts declining. His attribute skill-set hints at him being a player similar to José Juan. A fast and tricky forward, someone who can definitely hold his own in terms of scoring goals, but a player who might struggle to contribute in terms of creativity.
That means that I have to start looking for a new recruit upfront. Bilbao’s Basques-only policy is not helpful in this instance, as it severely limits the options I have at my disposal. I ended up creating a player filter with some of the more important attributes I needed, paired with the positional needs and the required Basque nationality.
These are the attributes that should generate a skilful, creative player who can operate in tight spaces, works hard and can spearhead the entire forward line. Using this filter yielded the following results.
Since I am writing this article after concluding the deals, you can pretty much guess which players are coming to San Mamés next season. I’m still going to run you through the drills and mental exercises I undertook to make my decision. Of these seven players, three were immediately cut because of their age. If I am looking for players to drive the team forward for years to come, anyone over 30 is just too old. That left me with four players to choose from.
David Goñi is the youngest of this lot. While I recognise the raw potential this player possesses, he has been playing in the second tier of Spanish football so far and his performances do not indicate him stepping up next season, transforming into a player who can make the difference in big La Liga or European fixtures. Goñi is cut from the shortlist.
Egoitz Ugarte is a player similar to Goñi. A youngster with raw talent but no track record in La Liga beyond a single appearance for Valencia. I decided to sign him as an understudy to Díez because his contract was expiring but I do not expect Ugarte to step to the fore next season, so in a way, Ugarte is also cut from the shortlist.
Juanjo Blasco. An academy graduate who would count towards the home-grown quota. Not that we need it in this particular instance, but for most clubs that would be a definite plus. Blasco is playing in the Greek league for AEK and he has the right age and attribute-set to make this work.
Aitor Larrazabal. A forward/shadow striker, active for Racing Santander in La Liga. He’s fast, agile and scores easily. In terms of assists, he is lacking so far, but that could be because Santander field him as a forward and not as an attacking midfielder.
Blasco and Larrazabal would both suit my needs. I have the money to sign both, but with registration rules in place in terms of squad size, that would not make sense at all. I decided to make player radars for both players.
When we compare the two players, we can immediately see that Blasco would struggle to make an impression with us. He covers a mere 6 kilometres per game and while he contributes in terms of assists, shots and dribbles, this radar would indicate that Blasco is a lazy player, who is waiting up front for the ball to be brought towards him. That’s perfectly alright and most definitely his prerogative as a playmaker, but it’s not the type of player I need for my particular brand of football.
Larrazabal on the other hand seems deadly efficient in terms of goalscoring, but lacking in the creative department. His stats are probably somewhat skewed here because Santander using him as a forward. His attributes indicate he should be able to play the role I want him to play, whereas his performances show a player who works fairly hard upfront and contributes in the tackling and intercepting of the ball.