NOTE: STATISTICS ARE TAKEN FROM WHEN EVERY A-LEAGUE MEN TEAM HAD PLAYED AT LEAST FIVE GAMES (25 JANUARY 2022)
With all A-League Men’s clubs having played five matches, it’s time to take a statistical look at who the best offensive positional performers have been at the time of writing. That is to say, who is the best midfielder? And who is the best forward?
Who is the best midfielder?
The first caveat to measuring the best midfielder is that not all midfielders play the same role. It’s clear from the scattergram that Melbourne Victory’s Rai Marchan and Joshua Brilliante play as defensive midfielders whereas the likes of Connor Pain, Anthony Caceres and Jake Brimmer tend to play further forwards.
With this caveat the graph measures successful defensive actions; that is to say, the combined total of successful tackles, interceptions, and clearances completed by the player. This is compared to successful offensive actions; the combined goals, assists, key passes, and successful dribbles.
Within these measurements will highlight the “most complete” player, contributing both offensively and defensively for their team- while also showing the best players from each sphere of midfield.
So what does the scattergram demonstrate?
The clearest sign is that league leaders Melbourne Victory largely have their midfield to thank for their early season form, with Rai and Brilliante leading the defensive statistics, and Brimmer registering as the second best offensive midfielder in the league.
However, the clear bolter for the midfielders is Sydney FC’s Anthony Caceres. Ranking significantly ahead of second place Brimmer (32) for offensive statistics with 49 successful offensive actions compared while remaining above the average for successful defensive actions with 29.
This ranks as vital as Caceres is the only Sydney FC player of note on the scattergram, suggesting he is the bright spark running Sydney FC across all fronts from midfield. With Sydney sitting just outside of the top six it remains to see if they can add more from midfield to prevent overburdening Caceres and leading to burnout.
The third point of note is the balance of Melbourne City’s midfield. With Aiden O’Neill registering the third most defensive actions (34), Berenguer and Metcalfe also sit above average across both defensive and offensive metrics – Berenguer sitting in the top five offensive midfielders with 25.
With three midfielders performing above average and all taking note is a sign that City’s midfield is well balanced, with all players contributing across all phases of the game. With City sitting third for average possession across the league with 55% shows that for City, the key lies in the strength of their midfield as a unit outperforming most of the league.
And the best forward is?
Like with the midfielders, forwards play a number of roles that may statistically hide them when comparing typical metrics. That said, comparing the assist per 90 minutes and the goals per 90 minutes provides a good, general overview for the typical requirements of the forwards.
Within these metrics statistics are measured from players to have played more than 90 minutes. Given that some, such as D’Agostino or Blackwood, may have performed well across smaller intervals in games the measures can be skewed to favour those with less game time. So while it is impressive performances in short spells, they likely will even out across the season behind the likes of Goodwin, Hooper, and Maclaren.
Under these measurements- the league’s most complete forward thus far is Newcastle Jet Valentino Yuel. Registering 0.88 goals and 0.59 Assists per 90, Yuel is clear ahead of the league on balance of the two metrics. Ranking behind D’Agostino (1.00) and Blackwood (0.91) for goals per 90 and ranking only behind Marcos Rojas (1.05) for assists demonstrates the effectiveness of Yuel while he is on the pitch.
Yuel isn’t solely bearing the burden for the Jets however, with strike partner Beka Mikeltadze ranking in fourth for goals per 90 with 0.80. This couple could prove deadly for the league should their trajectory remain while the Jets make up their games in hand.
The league’s clear creative leader amongst the forwards however, sits with Marco Rojas registering 1.05 assists per 90. What is key to note for Rojas is that he has participated in seven games as of the time of writing, however, is yet to play a full 90, completing just 342 minutes thus far from a possible 630.
With this in mind, it is worth noting that as the season progresses the statistics may level in favour of Western United’s Lachlan Wales – registering 0.48 Assists per 90 from a total of 558 minutes played; an assist every other game.
The final notable player and statistically the second best forward is Melbourne City’s Andrew Nabbout. Nabbout has had a superb start to the season, registering a total of seven goal involvements at 0.56 goals and 0.42 assists per 90.
Nabbout has participated in 644 of a possible 720 minutes for City, showing that he hasn’t made the most of small gametime samples. This incredible, balanced run of form thus far has proven crucial to City’s early showings of form and marks Nabbout out as the one to watch as the league continues.