With football waiting to kick off the last part of the season, at Driblab we want to review the most importants names of 2019/20 season so far. With this post we start a series of publications to point out the new talents that have appeared in the big leagues this year. Each article will focus on one line and this time we start with the defense. The season has left us with a number of surprises and we would like to highlight three names: a left back, a centre-back and a right back.
Bayern’s big bet has found his place
The arrival of Alphonso Davies to an European giant seemed a certainty but Bayern had to bet hard on making the Canadian the most expensive sale in MLS at that time. Davies had been involved as a wing midfielder and winger as well as making some unusual appearances as a full-back, but only for 360 minutes in three years. After a modest contribution in his early months in the Bundesliga this season, he started out as a substitute left back, in fact, until Niko Kovac‘s departure Davies only started in two Bundesliga matches. Since Hans-Dieter Flick took over the team, he has relied on Alphonso Davies as a starter and the player has proved him right: below we compare Davies with the other full-backs and wing-backs in the five best leagues both in terms of the number of recoveries and the influence on open plays that generated expected goals (xG Chain). The big surprise of the season in a position where young talent is unusual.
The new Ligue 1 centre-back to watch
While the big national teams are struggling to ensure generational transition in defense, France has a surplus of centre-backs. If last summer William Saliba was the last young French talent to sign for a big club, this next transfer market looks set to be one for Mohamed Simakan. A player who can play at centre-back as well as at right full-back but, above all, a player who can adapt to defending aerial balls against more direct style such as taking responsabilities in open positions. It is surprising that a 19-year-old player could be so successful in his first twenty games in professional football with such a high level of success especially in one-vs-one actions. We must also point out that with the ball, without being the safest in terms of percentages, he shows vision to create danger from behind. A name that few expected at this level but which is presented as one of the most promising central defenders and an affordable option for the European giants. Here we can see its radar in the minutes he has participated as a centre-back:
The joker in Chelsea’s defensive line
It’s always surprising to see a player capable of taking a place in a big league after a loan in minor leagues. Reece James returned to Chelsea this summer after being selected Wigan’s best player last season where he ended up playing a key role in midfield. This year after a difficult start with injuries and substitutions, the young Englishman has managed to establish himself at right-back after also playing as a centre-back and on the left side. The most surprising thing is to see how he has evolved with possession both in success percentages and influence and his ability to not only be reliable at the back, but also adapt to the role of attacking full-back in a team looking for high percentages of possession. The player is improving his performance of last season at Wigan in both defence and attack without being affected by the change of level. Now that he has settled into the Chelsea line-up, will he be able to make a name for himself in the England squad competing against K. Trippier, T. Alexander-Arnold, K. Walker and A. Wan-Bissaka?