Digging Through Data – Ep 2 The Maurauding Left Back

Tempo Tactics

In the previous episode, we searched for a new goalkeeper using the extensive data available in Football Manager. In this piece, we will search for a new left-back, by analysing the data of a series of defenders in the Championship.

First and foremost, it needs to be clear exactly what type of full backs the tactic will use. As mentioned previously, the setup is a relatively simple 4-1-2-3 tiki taka style. Such a formation naturally requires wing backs, players who are as adept in the attacking phases as in defence.

I have been playing FM for many years, and the first attribute that I want to see from my full backs is their crossing ability. So that’s the first thing I will be looking for in this shortlist.

Crosses in the Box

The best stats available to determine crossing ability is to compare players’ success against their crosses made. Doing so pulls up the below plot, which makes it immediately clear that there is no discernible relationship between both variables.

However, looking at the players who have made the most crosses this season, Harry Toffolo and Max Lowe, it is clear that these are the two players which I should be interested in.

Of the two, Toffolo has a marginally improved accuracy rate, which immediately makes him a more attractive prospect, but a couple of other factors come into play here. Firstly, Lowe made more appearances than Toffolo, making it clearer that the Huddersfield left back is even more inclined to whip the ball in the box.

Indeed, Toffolo made 1.19 crosses per game, compared to Lowe’s 1.13. A minute difference, but as this is such a key attribute, it makes Toffolo even more interesting. Lastly, Toffolo’s value in game is only £4.8m, compared to Lowe being £8.5. Interestingly, Lowe’s Derby were relegated, whereas Huddersfield managed to make the playoffs (where they were knocked out).

Toff the Radar

Considering this, difference in value, it makes sense to investigate Toffolo further. Comparing his stats against the average of those shortlisted, it indicates that we have a player who is incredibly proficient in the attacking side of what I need from a full back, and is handy in defence.

The above radar chart shows how he excels in getting in crosses and making assists (his tally of 7 for the season is excellent), and also is unsurpassed in interceptions, which is of course a key job for a full back.

He is above average in tackles and headers won, which is equally promising, although not vital for the role he will play in the team. What is perhaps concerning (although in no way a deal breaker) is his distance covered over 90 minutes.

He is one of the lowest performers in this regard, surprising for a full back who likes to attack so much, but perhaps this is where he can improve as he moves into the Premier League. Indeed a bid of £5m has been made, which should be more than enough to prise him from the Championship side.

In the next episode, we will move onto the other side of the defence, and analyse the potential right backs we can employ.