In this data analysis, I will try to find the best starting eleven for the 2019/20 season of the EFL League One. The statistics and data are from Wyscout’s database. The formation that I will use for this team will be Coventry City’s 3-4-2-1, because of their promotion to EFL Championship as the winning team of League One. The players that played below 2000 minutes have not been considered for this data analysis.
For the position of the goalkeeper, the indicators that we considered for this analysis is divided into defensive and offensive. The defensive indicators were the goals that they conceded, goals per 90 minutes, total shots against them, shots per 90 minutes, and their exits and claims per 90 minutes. The offensive indicators were related to when they had the ball in control: passes and forward passes per 90 minutes, and the accuracy of them, and long passes per 90 minutes, and how accurate they were.
The three goalkeepers that have been considered for the position are Tomas Holy, Jon McLaughlin, who joined Rangers this summer, and Marko Marosi. Among them, McLaughlin was chosen for the position: he conceded 27 goals, while Marosi conceded 30, and Holy 17. What made the difference was the goals that were conceded per 90 minutes: 0.79 per 90 minutes, while his competitors, Marosi and Holy, had 0.82 and 0.75 respectively. Until now, it seems that Holy is the best goalkeeper. The reason why Holy was not chosen was that he conceded a similar amount of goals per 90 minutes compared to the other two, but with fewer shots in total: Holy had 61 shots, while McLaughlin and Marosi had 105 and 108, respectively. McLaughlin had more exits and more claims per 90 minutes, compared with his competitors.
McLaughlin did not complete more passes than his competitors, but he did it with greater accuracy than them, which is an important factor if we consider that the goalkeeper starts the offensive part of the game with the pass forwards. McLaughlin was making 18.57 passes per 90 minutes (Marosi and Holy were passing 22.65 and 21.54, respectively), of which 12.33 were forward passes, with a 76.25% accuracy. McLaughlin had a greater percentage accuracy in the long balls, too. Holy was the one with the long balls, as he was making 14.05 passes per 90 minutes. Next was McLaughlin, with 9.46, and last was Marosi with 8.37. McLaughlin had 69.67% accuracy, while Holy and Marosi had 63.64% and 57% respectively.
For two out of the three players that would play in the defensive line, the indicators that were considered were not only defensive (defensive and aerial duels), but indicators such as passes, forward passes, passing accuracy, and progressive passes were also considered. For the third centre back, we have mostly considered defensive indicators, as it is important a solid defender was there to cover the other two.
Michael Rose, Rob Dickie and Eoghan O’Connell were the three players that were compared for the right centre back’s position. Among them, Rose was the one that made the difference because of his ability to pass forward: Rose was completing 27.34 passes per 90 minutes, with 73.18% accuracy. Moreover, he was making 15.18 progressive passes per 90, with 71.43% accuracy. His competitors, Dickie and O’Connell, had 23.5 and 18.33 forward passes, with 78.47% and 71.82% respectively. Additionally, Dickie had 10.72 progressive passes per 90 minutes, with 72.09% accuracy, while O’Connell had 8.72, with 66.06% accuracy.
The main responsibility for a centre back is to defend. Therefore, when considering defensive duties, Rose was competing in more defensive duels per 90 minutes (5.47, of which he won 64.25%). As far as the aerial duels goes, Dickie was the one with the most per 90 minutes: 7.65, with a 65.47% winning rate, while Rose had 6.9, with a winning rate of 63.27%, and O’Connell had 6.24, with a winning rate of 63.43%.
Dominic Hyam, John Mousinho, and Eoghan O’Connell were the three players that were compared for the position of the left centre back. Mousinho was the player that made the difference, as he was the player that the numbers show can pass forward, but also defend efficiently. Mousinho was passing forward 22.42 times per 90 minutes, while Hyam and O’Connell made 21.57 and 18.33 respectively (75.64%, 79.08%, and 71.82% were the accuracy of forward passes respectively for these three players). Furthermore, Mousinho was making 10.18 progressive passes per 90 minutes, with 69.87% accuracy, while Hyam and O’Connell were completing 8.88 and 8.72, with 69.87% and 66.06% accuracy respectively.
As far as the defensive indicators went, Mousinho was the one with the best winning rate at defensive duels. He had a 73.44% winning rate, with 4.7 defensive duels per 90 minutes. Hyam and O’Connell were competing in 4.38 and 4.94 defensive duels per 90 minutes, with a 69.23% and 69.43% winning rate respectively. Mousinho was the second best at aerial duels (6.9 per 90 minutes, with a 58.51% winning rate), behind Hyam (7.65 per 90 minutes, with a 58.59% winning rate).
Cian Bolger, James Wilson, and Harry Souttar were the three players that were compared for the final position in the defensive line. The indicators that were considered related only to the defensive duties, as the other two players we have chosen were for more creative centre backs, while this one should be a more solid out and out defender. Cian Bolger is the man that will be the third defender. All of them have great numbers in defensive and aerial duels: Bolger’s are 6.45 defensive duels per 90 minutes, with an 80.12% winning rate. Wilson and Souttar had 5.94 (with a 79.19% winning rate), and 5.9 (with a 77.43% winning rate) respectively. Bolger had a high winning rate in aerial duels too: 7.89 per 90 minutes, with a 72.25% winning rate. Souttar had a 71.04% winning rate (8.74 aerial duels per 90 minutes), while Wilson had 6.54 aerial duels per 90 minutes, with a 59.6% winning rate. Analysing those numbers even more, we can see that Bolger is maybe not the best among them, but he is the one that provides stability while defending, and has high winning rates, both in defensive and aerial duels.
Liam Kelly, Liam Walsh, who started his career at Everton, and Louis Reed were the three players that were compared for the position of the centre midfielders. For this position, we collected indicators that had to do mainly with the offensive part of the game, but also considered defensive indicators, as it is important for the position that both are covered. Moreover, one of the two central midfielders will be more offensive, while the other one will be more defensive.
Out of those, Liam Walsh made the difference. He had the most forward passes and passes to the final third per 90 minutes: 19.27 (with 68.32% accuracy) and 11.45 (with 70.67% accuracy) respectively. Kelly and Reed in the same categories had 17.15 (60.75% accuracy) and 14.42 (69.28% accuracy) forward passes per 90 minutes respectively. Kelly had 10.06 passes to the final third per 90 minutes, with 63.35% accuracy, while Reed had 7.6, with 71.43% accuracy.
As far as the defensive duties for this position went, Walsh came second, behind Kelly, in aerial duels, with 1.68 per 90 minutes, and a 54.55% winning rate. Kelly had 2.22 aerial duels per 90 minutes, and a 62.90% winning rate on them. As far as the defensive duels goes, Kelly had the least, but he had a good winning rate in them: Kelly had 9.2 defensive duels per 90 minutes (62.26% winning rate), Reed had 7.44 duels per 90 minutes, with a 65.17% winning rate, and Walsh had 6.99 defensive duels per 90 minutes, with a 64.29% winning rate.
The second central midfielder will have more defensive characteristics. The only offensive indicator that is considered is the passes and passing accuracy, as it is important for a midfielder to be accurate with his passes after he regains the ball.
Alex Gorrin, Callum O’Hare, and Thomas O’Connor were the three players that have been compared for this position. Gorrin and O’Hare were winning 6.2 defensive duels per 90 minutes, while O’Connor was winning 5.2. Gorrin had 5.76 aerial duels per 90 minutes, of which he won 51.61% (and 2.97 aerial duels won per 90 minutes), while O’Hare and O’Connor had 4.75, and 4.37 respectively, with a winning rate of 47.22% and 51.24% (2.24 and 2.2) respectively. Moreover, Gorrin intercepted the ball 7.31 times per 90 minutes, while O’Hare intercepted 6.1, and O’Connor 4.27.
As far as the offensive part of the game went, Gorrin had 45.2 passes per 90 minutes, with 84.30% accuracy on them. O’Hare was passing 57.88 times per 90 minutes, with 86% accuracy, and O’Connor had 27.75 passes per 90 minutes, with 65.12% accuracy. The fact that Gorrin could intercept and regain the ball through his aerial and ground duels, and pass with that accuracy, was what made him the best choice for the second central midfield position.
For the wing-backs, we considered a combination of defensive and offensive abilities, as this position demands active participation in the team’s attack and defend. Joe Jacobson, Sam McCallum, and Rhys Norrington-Davies were the three players compared for the position of the left wing-back.
Starting with the defensive responsibilities, Jacobson had 7.07 defensive duels per 90 minutes, with a 57.72% winning rate; McCallum had 8.05 defensive duels per 90 minutes, with a winning rate of 56.94%; and Norrington-Davies had 8.75 defensive duels per 90 minutes, with a 62.7% winning rate. The next defensive indicator that was considered was aerial duels: Jacobson and Norrington-Davies had similar values for aerial duels per 90 minutes: 4.23 and 4.12, with a 57.82% and 53.04% winning rate respectively. McCallum had 5.67 aerial duels per 90 minutes, with a 53.29% winning rate.
The offensive indicators that were considered for the wing-backs were crosses and pass into the final third. Jacobson had 2.5 crosses per 90 minutes, with 0.29 going into the box. McCallum had 3.69 crosses per 90 minutes, with 0.78 going into the box. Norrington-Davies had 5.06 crosses per 90 minutes, with 0.79 going into the box. Jacobson was passing 9.35 times into the final third, with 52.31% accuracy on them. McCallum had 7.27 passes into the final third per 90 minutes, with 51.79% accuracy, whilst Norrington-Davies had 4.37 passes into the final third, with 55.74% accuracy. After this comparison, McCallum will take the position of the left wing-back in this team, because he shows defensive stability, but can also deliver the ball into the box in fewer attempts than his competitors.
Neal Eardley, Lewie Coyle and James Bolton were the three players compared for the right wing-back position. Starting the comparison with the defensive indicators, Eardley had 6.24 defensive duels per 90 minutes, with a 67.09% winning rate. Coyle had 7.14, with a winning rate of 59.54%, and Bolton had 9.46, with a winning rate of 66.52%. As far as the aerial duels went, Eardley had 3.61 per 90 minutes, winning 59.85%. Coyle had 4.17, with a 44.44% winning rate, and Bolton had 6.46 aerial duels per 90 minutes, with a 62.25% winning rate.
As far as the offensive indicators go, Eardley had 3.11 crosses per 90 minutes, with 0.79 crosses into the box. Coyle had 4.06 crosses per 90 minutes, with 0.57 of them going into the box, while Bolton had 2.82 crosses per 90 minutes, with 0.34 going into the box. As far as the passes into the final third look, Eardley was making 9.47 passes per 90 minutes into the final third, with 62.5% accuracy, while Coyle and Bolton were passing 9.73 and 7.32 times per 90 minutes, with 50.14% and 59.06% accuracy respectively. After this comparison, we have chosen Eardley for the position of right wing-back in the team, as he can contribute offensively with greater success (he can pass 6.2 times per 90 minutes into the final third, while the other two players are below 5), and he can perform his defensive responsibilities well too.
For the positions of the right attacking midfielder/right winger, James Henry, Chris Maguire, and Jon Taylor were the three players that we have compared. The contribution to creating chances is a key characteristic of this position.
Henry had 8 assists, with 7.62 expected assists (xA); Maguire had 9 assists, with 10.68 xA; and Taylor had 5, with 3 xA. Moreover, Henry dribbles 3.35 times per 90 minutes, with 50.88% successful (1.7 per 90 minutes); Maguire had 2.2 successful dribbles per 90 minutes (4.29 in total, with 53.23% success rate); Taylor had 2.6 successful dribbles per 90 minutes. As far as the passes into the final third went, Henry was the player with the most passes in that specific area, with 3.6 per 90 minutes (5.78 in total, with 63.96% accuracy), while Maguire and Henry had 2.4 and 0.8 successful passes into the final third respectively. Henry was the player that could deliver the ball into the box with fewer attempts than his competitors (0.98 times per 90 minutes, with 3.93 crosses), while Taylor had 4.61 crosses per 90 minutes, and was delivering the ball 0.86 times into the box. Maguire had 4.05 crosses per 90 minutes, with 0.48 coming into the box. For the above reasons, and the fact that Henry could be more productive in the final third of the field, he will be the right attacking midfielder/right winger of the team.
The same indicators were considered for the position of the left attacking midfielder/left winger. Jorge Grant, Kieran Sadlier, and Jon Taylor again were the three players that were considered for this position. Grant had 8 assists, with 7.14 xA; Sadlier had 6 assists, with 5.16 xA; Taylor had 5, with 3 xA. Grant had 1.5 successful dribbles per 90 minutes (3.19 in total, with a 49.49% success rate), while Sadlier and Taylor had 2.3 and 2.6 successful dribbles per 90 minutes respectively. Grant had 3.1 successful passes into the final third per 90 minutes, while Sadlier and Taylor had 1.62 and 0.8 per 90 minutes. As far as the crosses went, Sadlier was delivering 0.35 crosses per 90 minutes into the box from 1.64 tries per 90 minutes, while Sadlier and Taylor were crossing 2.85 and 4.61 times per 90 minutes respectively, with 0.63 and 0.86 going into the box, again respectively. Grant will be the left-sided attacking midfielder, because of his ability to pass into the final third, and his creativity in the xA area.
Ivan Toney, Ian Henderson, and Armand Gnanduillet were the three strikers that have been compared. Toney finished the season with 24 goals, from 20.58 xG; Henderson scored 15 times, and had an xG of 11.2; and Gnanduillet scored 15 times, with 13.46 xG. Toney scored more goals per 90 minutes: 0.7 goals, with 0.6 xG per 90 minutes, while Henderson and Gnanduillet were scoring 0.48 and 0.56, and 0.36 and 0.5 xG per 90 minutes respectively. Moreover, Toney had the most shots per 90 minutes out of these three, with 3.55 per 90 minutes, whilst Henderson had 1.84, and Gnanduillet had 2.46. Toney will be the striker in the team, as the statistics show that he is a very productive player, and can score more goals than is expected of him.
The best starting eleven based on statistics should be like this: McLaughlin would be the goalkeeper. The three centre backs would be Rose, Mousinho and Bolger. In front of them, as central midfielders, Walsh and Gorrin, with Gorrin having more defensive responsibilities than Walsh. Left and right wing-backs will be McCallum and Coyle respectively. In attacking midfield will be Henry and Grant. At the top end of the team will be Toney.
That would be the best starting eleven of the EFL League One for the past season, based on the stats we have looked at. Many people will remember this season, because of the pandemic and the unexpected problems that were caused in the world and in football, but these are the players that made the difference with their teams during the season.