Finding the box-to-box with data

We are looking for players who fit the box-to-box profile to understand how to choose specific metrics that outline a specific profile.


Is that recognizable box-to-box style still present from the early 2000s, when the double pivot of the 4-2-3-1 was the most commonly used system? It is likely that this specific role has been gradually fading, but not necessarily in favor of something concrete and demanded by the game. Now, midfielders, in addition to being good in defensive and offensive areas, aerial duels, or finishing, do more things and are not clearly seen with that label. We can think of Jude Bellingham, who would undoubtedly be the partner of a central midfielder in a 4-2-3-1 formation of a 2005 team.

Certainly, a great example of this would be Federico Valverde, a paradigmatic box-to-box player, who also does more things but is undoubtedly decisive in recovering balls, carrying the ball, and shooting when approaching the box. Finding such a profile may not be easy, but if one has a specific role in mind among those emerging in football, it can be molded through the selection of metrics and their volume and accuracy in each of them.

For this, it is important to decide which parameters seem most relevant to identify a specific profile. If we are clear that we are looking for a dynamic midfielder who is successful in defensive duels and generates shots and ball progressions in the opponent’s half as key aspects, we can add and complement with different metrics until obtaining a more specific profile. For example, we choose metrics and volumes that ensure they are above average in each of them:

Yes, not all midfielders with these characteristics and volumes are box-to-box, and those who do not excel in some of them also remain as such. However, the data enables a flexible framework of analysis and decision-making that brings us closer to the profile. Using these metrics, we have found, for example, two cases where you probably agree with the label. Roberto Gagliardini and Christian Norgaard represent something quite similar to the dynamic midfielder we might have in mind, and they perform notably different tasks between a defensive and a more offensive phase.

Heat maps are an interesting graphical support tool to contextualize and consolidate the sought-after profiles. In addition to Gagliardini or Norgaard, we find Adrien Rabiot and Baptiste Santamaría. Do they seem similar as players? The truth is that they don’t. The first fits much more with the classic box-to-box profile, while the second is a high-paced player but more creative in passing.

Getting used to using data to profile players, refining metrics, finding similarities to go to the video with prior work done is much more useful. This search has been conducted with a part of everything we have at our disposal, indicating that data works and can be of extraordinary value in the hands of great professionals with extensive football and data knowledge.

Founded in 2017 as a consultancy, Driblab has driven innovation through data in all aspects of professional football. Thanks to a transversal model, its database collects and models statistics in all directions. From converting matches and videos into bespoke data for training academies to developing cutting-edge technology, helping clubs, federations and representative agencies in talent scouting and transfer markets. Driblab’s smart data is used by clubs all over the world, with success stories such as Dinamo Zagreb, Real Betis and Girondins Bordeaux among others. Here you can find out more about how we work and what we offer.

Autor: Alejandro Arroyo
For Parameterized Search we also recommend you:

Parameterized search: tracking a defensive specialist

We use specific metrics to find defensive specialists with different market values.

Newcastle United’s not so secret weapon

There is no team in Europe with such a superior set-piece advantage.

‘Parameterized search’: U21 goal-scoring midfielders in the Netherlands and Belgium

We are looking for midfielders in the Netherlands and Belgium through a very specific parametric search.

Parameterised search: finding a box-to-box in second tiers divisions

We use all our metrics and tools to find box-to-box players in European second tiers.

Parameterized search: identifying the advanced playmakers

With our parametric search, we look for players with the ability to play as a playmaker, being more of a specific figure than a position.

Parametrisierte Suche: Identifizierung von Box-to-Box-Mittelfeldspielern (German)

Wir nutzen fortschrittliche Daten, um dieses besondere Profil eines Mittelfeldspielers zu erkennen, der sowohl am Ball als auch im Spiel nach vorne Gewicht hat und sogar in der Lage ist, in Abschlussposition zu gehen.

Parameterized search: Identifying box-to-box midfielders

We use advanced data to detect this peculiar profile of midfielder, who combines weight on and off the ball and is even capable of getting into finishing zones

Would it be possible to replace André Silva?

In view of the possible transfer of the Portuguese striker, we use advanced metrics to find players who could replace him the next season at Eintracht Frankfurt.

Seeking a replacement for Memphis Depay

With the Dutch attacker’s contract about to expire at O. Lyon, we carried out a parametric search to study possible replacements.

Looking for an U25 replacement for Sergio Busquets

We analyze the performance of the Barcelona central-midfielder and carry out a parameterized search in order to find a younger substitute


Información corporativa

Somos una empresa con sede en Madrid fundada en 2017 por Salvador Carmona y Cristian Coré Ramiro. Desde nuestros inicios nuestro trabajo se ha centrado en el análisis estadístico de datos para ayudar a los clubes en la planificación deportiva. Somos una consultora big data que ofrece servicios personalizados para cada cliente y defiende un modelo de gestión mixto y una comunicación constante para acompañar el día a día de las instituciones. Nuestro punto fuerte es la más amplia cobertura disponible en número de torneos profesionales y juveniles. Para más detalles, póngase en contacto con nosotros.

Colaboramos con:


Hemos aparecido en: