Sunday, December 5, 2021

Finding a Back-Up For Kieran Tierney – Using Data and Video Scouting

*This piece was originally posted on my Medium before yesterday’s match and so data used is valid as of 13/01/2021*

Arsenal’s recent turnaround in form of late has corresponded with Kieran Tierney being moved from playing Left Centre-Back, a role he performed admirably in, to a more familiar role as a Left Back for the 23 year-old Scot. This return to a back 4 has coincided with Tierney exploding as a creative threat for the Gunners with the former Celtic man leading the way for Arsenal in terms of Chances Created from Open Play in the 2020/21 season so far.

This has undoubtedly been a major plus for Arsenal, with Tierney proving a great attacking weapon as well as solid defensive presence, with his athleticism and stamina seeing him fly up and down the left wing at will for 90 minutes. But with Arsenal allowing Sead Kolasinac to join Schalke on loan it leaves Tierney with no clear back-up. Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Cedric Soares and Bukayo Saka can all play there, but there is an argument that only Saka can replicate Tierney’s role and that putting the 19 year-old at Left Back for any significant period of time may limit his ability to positively influence Arsenal’s attacking play, to which he has been key all season. This had led to Tierney playing the most minutes of any Arsenal outfield player this season and given the ground he covers every game and his physical style this is not ideal and Mikel Arteta will surely be looking to rest him in lesser competitions, but without a clear back-up option is this too much of a risk?

As a result of this lack of depth I thought it would make sense to look for a potential back-up option for Tierney. Given Arsenal’s budgetary constraints (with the club needing to take out a loan to cover costs associated with the pandemic) and registration problems (Arsenal don’t have enough Homegrown players to meet Premier League or Europa League registration criteria) I have looked to the EFL Championship for targets.

DATA ANALYSIS

Arsenal need a player capable of fulfilling Tierney’s role. To do this they need to identify somebody who can dribble past opponents and get a high volume of good crosses into the box from a multitude of angles. The player also needs to be defensively solid and athletic enough to get up and down the left flank. It would also be beneficial if the player could play LWB or LCB as Arsenal may return to playing a 3–4–3 on occasion.

Data from Wyscout

The above shows Attempted Dribbles per 90 and Attempted Crosses per 90 for all Full Backs (Both Right and Left Backs) with 500 minutes played or more in the EFL Championship this season. Bayern Munich bound Omar Richards and Ryan Giles (on loan from Wolves to Coventry City) lead the way for Left Backs, with Jeremy Ngakia and Djed Spence leading the way for Right Backs. Brentford’s Rico Henry and Derby County’s Lee Buchanan also perform well in both metrics.

Data from Wyscout

The above shows Successful Defensive Actions per 90 and Percentage of Defensive Duels Won for all Full Backs (Both Right and Left Backs) with 500 minutes played or more in the EFL Championship this season. Again Omar Richards and Lee Buchanan excel in both metrics with Arsenal’s Jordi Osei-Tutu (Right Back on loan at Cardiff) also performing well. Adversely Rico Henry completes significantly less Defensive Actions but at a similar rate which is likely as a result of Brentford’s possession advantage over the majority of Championship sides.

My Selection — Lee Buchanan, Derby County

After assessing the performances of a few of the key performers, Rico Henry, Omar Richards, Lee Buchanan and Ryan Giles, and analysing their performances through the use of video scouting, I have decided to choose Lee Buchanan as my ‘recommendation’ for the back-up Left-Back role. With Richards close to joining Bayern and Rico Henry likely to command a large fee (or be promoted), it came down to two players, Lee Buchanan and Ryan Giles.

I went with Buchanan as I feel he is a more similar player to Tierney and a closer athletic match coupled with the fact that a deal to sign Buchanan would be much simpler than one to sign Giles who is on loan at Coventry from Wolves. Buchanan, an England u21 international, has made 20 senior league appearances for Derby since his debut in late 2019. At the age of 19 he has made 24 appearances for Derby in all competitions and has played for England’s u19, u20 and u21 sides.

When researching for this piece I decided to ask ‘Derby County Analysis’ on Twitter (give him a follow!) how much he thought it would take to prize Buchanan away from Pride Park and he said the following:

“In a normal scenario I think Derby would be looking for around 7 million given the high number of appearances he has for his age, the fact he is English and he has played for England u21s. But with the ongoing financial and takeover issues I think if someone bid a cheeky 3–4 million with add ons they could get him.”

He is referencing Derby’s current financial plight, with delays in an expected takeover meaning the club has been unable to pay it’s players in full for the month of December. With this financial trouble they may be willing to sell valuable players a lesser cost and thus Buchanan may be an ideal target, as he is young, homegrown, a tactical fit and could be a bargain given Derby’s financial woes.

LEE BUCHANAN

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Scouting Report of Lee Buchanan – Ratings are based on my perception of how he could perform against standard Premier League opposition based on 6 scouted games

Buchanan has fluctuated between playing as a LWB in a 3–4–3 and as a LB in a 4–2–3–1 as Derby have changed their system and manager in an attempt to climb out of relegation danger in the Championship. Buchanan has rotated with experienced Scottish left-back Craig Forsyth who has been dealing with injury problems all season. Let’s look at what Buchanan excels at and what he can improve at.

Athleticism

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Buchanan winning an aerial duel from a long goal kick

While not blessed with blistering pace, Buchanan is a good athlete with a very good engine and exceptional aerial prowess given his height. Buchanan is more than capable of winning aerial duels in both the attacking and defensive phases and this means he is not only useful in open play, but also from set-pieces. Although he stands at just under 6ft Buchanan is well built and tough to push off the ball. This physical prowess will put him in good stead in the Premier League, where physicality is of increasing importance. Buchanan’s athleticism and engine is also reflected in the fact that he has played the full 90 minutes in 12 of his 16 starts this season.

Tactical Awareness and Fit

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Buchanan is very much in the mould of Tierney as a traditional ‘touchline’ full-back who loves to overlap and get to the byline to cross. He provides Derby with a lot of natural width in possession and forces defenders to commit very wide, opening spaces between defenders for runners to exploit as shown above. He would be able to replicate the role of Tierney as Arsenal’s furthest left player in possession without many problems.

Crossing

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As shown in the Data section, Buchanan is capable of putting in a large volume of crosses from the left flank, but what is most impressive to me is the variety of crosses he produces. Although his technique is not always perfect, Buchanan always looks to aim for the space in the box, as evidenced above where he exploits the space behind the Coventry defence and in front of the keeper and only narrowly misses the onrushing Waghorn. Buchanan is comfortable crossing from deep or from the further forward, with his pacey and whipped deliveries being quite reminiscent of Nacho Monreal.

Defensive Positioning

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This is one area in which Buchanan can be caught out occasionally. As he is very confident in his athletic ability, he tends to sit closer to his centre-back and leave space out wide. In this example he fails to get across quickly enough to stop the cross. This could be coached out of him but is perhaps a slightly worrying tendency.

Defending 1v1

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Buchanan is however an excellent 1v1 defender, with the England u21 international patient in his approach. In the above example he ushers the ball wide and pushes the wide player away from the box with the resulting cross easily cleared as his teammates recover.

Overall Buchanan ticks a lot of boxes for Arsenal and could prove to be a bargain option that Arsenal could take advantage of.

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goongot

bellerin needs to be replaced as well.We need a tierney on that side as well.

Eddy F

AMN can do that role. Struggles on the left because, well, he doesn’t have a left foot…

Goldfingered

AMN is not good enough to take Bellerins place or any place in the starting eleven, and he’s 23, so it’s time to sell.

El Mintero

AMN won his first England cap not long ago and is one of our brightest prospects. No way he should be sold. Instead, let’s actually play him regularly in his best position (midfield) for a change and give the lad a chance to establish himself in the team. Shunting him around here there and everywhere is doing him, and the team, no good. Don’t let this become another Gnabry…you know the best young player in Germany we just happened to fuck up and eventually let go for peanuts…

JJAC

What actual basis do we have for the belief that AMN can be an Arsenal calibre player at CM? As far as I can tell he’s never displayed any of the necessary attributes at all.

Lolerinho

He was MOTM on old trafford keeping Pogba out of the game when AW was still pulling the strings. Yes, he played CM in a double pivot. If he can improve his passing he would be top notch. And that is plausible as he is 23.

SLC Gooner

Bellerin has struggled a bit to get back to the form he had before injuries. But he’s certainly at least decent, and Soares and AMN are capable backups, if not spectacular.
Resolving things at RB is nowhere near as high as the left side, GK backup, or a couple other things.

goongot

If we get an lamptey there, our right side gets an attacking boost and we might as well go the liverpool way of attacking wings. We are easy to defend against because everyone cuts our channel at left and middle. Pepe / willian and yesterday even saka suffered bcoz of poor outlets from that wing. We all call out bad players when we see one. Ppl want niles out after yesterday’s game but still no questions are being asked about bellerin. He’s not good enough with his passing or defending. He’s a top 10 fullback and not a top 4… Read more »

boudro

I doubt we could get Lamptey considering he’s about to sign a new deal, but a championship side LB/LWB would be nice and much cheaper. Heck we may already have that in Tutu.

Goontang

Lampeter isn’t going to come cheap and we have 3 right backs already. I’m pretty sure we are covered in that position without having to spend money on a 4th option….

Goontang

Don’t know why people give Bellerin such a hard time. He’s having a decent season and he’s one of our own. Yes he can’t throw a ball, but he’s been performing well and is finally getting a decent run away from the treatment table. Let’s not forget the guys only 25 and has his best years ahead not behind

Prakhar

Nice to see this article featured here. These names need to be brought into fan conversation.

Daveo

Well done prakhar for sharing it earlier and great article Dan.

Johnny 4 Hats

Captain Corrigan is flying without a licence.

CarlosLA

Why not Reiss Nelson? Has shown very little promise up top if we are honest, but he seems fast enough, good dribble and clearly the team thinks he can make crosses given all the dead ball opportunities he’s been given.

Sam

Because he is not a LB?

Hurensohn

He’s replying to a post about Bellerin.

Sac Lac & Craic

Ok… he’s not a right back either.

Gabigol

If you can say reiss Nelson you may as well say Willock, who has played left more than Reiss in the prem

CarlosLA

Wow, rather shocking lack of imagination and football knowledge from the down voters.

Many top fullbacks are converted wingers. Bellerin, Evra, Jordi Alba, David Alaba etc etc. The list goes on: TAA, Dani Alves (greatest fullback of the past generation)… and on and on.

Many of them get converted b/c despite having great speed and technical ability, they cannot produce enough goals. Hello, Reiss.

Down-vote away…

Roof_attack

great article. I’m hoping the arsenal scouting set up is as competent as this guy!

Tomaury Bischfeld

What’s left of it

Francesc

Ryan Bertrand – one of the most underrated players in the PL

PeteyB

Probably beyond our current budget

Goldfingered

Brilliant piece. So now now when we know who Arsenal won’t sign who will we sign?

My money is on Marcos Alonso.

Daveo

Slow clap… Well played sir!!

Scott P

He’ll be begging Arteta to play him at LW in order to get as far away from Bellerin as he can.

SarcasmB0t

What, doesn’t Kia have any left back clients?
We don’t need this fancy “scouting” shit.

Man

If only the planets could align and Tony Dorigo was on Kia’s books.

Ealing

We don’t have the money to have a great back up player to our main player in any role. In some positions our back up players have become the main players because the main players were so inept (Saka and ESR for Willian and Pepe). Now if Willian and Pepe were good enough to be the main player with ESR and Saka as goo as they are now, we’d be laughing

Cygans Parting

Thank you for this. It was very insightful and to be honest although I watch a lot of football I hadn’t really noticed this young man. Sounds like Bayern Munich have done some good homework on Omar Richards!!! Our analytics team need to be good now that Edu has disbanded our scouting network.
I think young English talent is going to be even more expensive now that we’re not in the E.U. makes it all the more of a problem that we’ll likely lose Folarin Balogun and Possibly Lido Taylor-Hart for nothing at the end of the season….

Cygans Parting

Kido Taylor-Hart bloody auto correct

Mark

Next time we miss Tierney for a match I’d prefer to see Saka in that role. He did admirably playing there last year and can bring many of the same attacking traits that Tierney does, nobody else on the roster can do that. We can bring Pepe in at right wing to replace Saka there. Much better than having a side of the field that we can’t attack on.

Sam

Saka is our second best LB! And he is good enough to be our back up LB. However he is so good on the wing that using him at LB is just a complete waste. Also if we want to rest Tierney chances are we’ll want to rest Saka too!

Rufusstan

You have to factor Gabi into the whole situation. He is close to full fitness and when ready adds another option to and already overloaded left flank. Tierney, Saka, Martinelli and Aubameyang should all be starters.

Lord Bendnter

That’s all and well but what’s his Fifa 21 career mode potential?

Kostas

How many followers does he count?

Tapps

Excellent and well-reasoned piece. I’ll be keeping an eye out for him to see what I feel.

Paul Roberts

Is that you Mikel?

David C

The Athletic reporting that Tierney might be ready for Monday. Scan showed no tear in muscle.

John C

What we can’t do is play 2 right footed players on the left hand side because both drift in. A solution at least in the short term is to put a left footer on the wing

Comedian

Read this article on the medium site yesterday. Like seeing it getting a space here. Would not mind seeing more of same.

We all stumble on clips on youtube and consider ourselves as video scout…till the real scout walks in.

sbLOOCAS

Interesting article. But it does make me think why is Omar Richards going to Bayern and not Arsenal? Why didn’t we spot him earlier. He’d have plenty of match time as Tierney won’t play every week. As for AMN, his versatility and elite speed have been his main assets – makes sense keeping him until he decides otherwise.

Alex

Sweet article. Loved the read!

Goonerink

i think the crosses stat could be over factored in your choice, what if the team they are playing for doesn’t have a big lump up front?

I would like to see a comparison piece on Buchanan vs Osei-Tutu

Mohit

Should do a similar article for GK

Sam

I’ve just done some research as well. Been looking through the players with the same agents as some of our recent signings! What about Diogo Silvestre. I’d never heard of him before but he is a 31 year old Brazillian FREE agent and he has the same agent as David Luiz. I mean I don’t know anything else about him other than he’s a left back but what else do we need to know! We should definitely give him a 3 year deal!

Mentalista

A Brazilian left back, named Silvestre? Just give him the no. 10 shirt and we’ll be fine.

OzGooner

This player screams of Arteta’s ‘specificity’ in like for like talent in positions. Great article.

Santori

…reality is we don’t have the money. We will continue with AMN. As I mentioned before last summer, it would have been foolish to had let Bellerin go in the belief AMN or Cedric were the real article (in the latter’s case if he was durable enough) Ditto left side when and Kolasinac (now on loan), well not much between them but for age. Money we have spent/squandered in recent transfer windows now coming back to haunt us as inexperience of Edu and inability to sell players on will continue to put pressure on our transfer kitty. Lets not forget… Read more »

Santori

This is the general stupidity of many pundits. They will run articles like Arsenal need to buy Grealish for 90m or Arsenal need to buy 7 players. They don’t live in reality. Reality is Edu is in over his head, he is reliant now on Super Agents like Zahavi and Stats. Stats can and often is misleading. Pepe Stats look great but over one season. Saliba ‘s stats look great but over 19 matches for St Ettiene and at 19yrs not taking in other factors. This is where Arsenal have gone down the wrong path foolishly relying on Edu and… Read more »

GreystoneRam

Derby fan with a soft spot for the Arsenal here. Lee’s a big talent but also still pretty raw for a defender. This is his breakthrough season but he’s still being rotated for the left-back slot with one of our veterans (Craig Forsyth) at this point. As mentioned in the article, his defensive positioning still needs considerable work, he’s been done on the back post on a few occasions this year but is showing signs of improvement in this area. I believe in the youth teams he often played at centre-back and he is very good in the air for… Read more »

Gabigol

What an excellent analysis. Sign him up

Medium Mozart

What I’d love to know is why we keep making such massive financial investments in areas where we’re strongest at academy level – Pepe / Saka and Nelson, Willian / Willock and Smith Rowe, Cedric / Maitland-Niles and Osei-Tutu, even, though to a lesser degree, Aubameyang / Martinelli and Balogun – yet find ourselves with literally one specialist LB and one experienced (competent) GK currently at the club, with little chance of strengthening either position anytime soon due to a lack of funds…

Rich

Try and tax Omar Richards, see if he’d rather a move to North London, rather than Munich.

If not have a go for Zinchenko, really good player, can also cover centre mid.

SG_Gooner

Arsenal FC needs to sign you Dom.

DefaultGray

Really interesting read, nice to hear about some realistic targets instead of the papers’ constant suggestions. Be very pleased to see more articles like this in the future.

Jimbo1

I watched Ryan Giles when he was on loan at Shrewsbury. A fantastic player with tremendous pace and great crosser of the ball. Probably a future England player. Still young so might be willing to be an understudy for a while.

cheekyjc

Great piece!

Looking purely at the stats though, why not a consideration of Ngakia? Any insight on him?

cheekyjc

Realised he’s a right back, my bad!

steve

Makes sense, all our youth back-ups in offensive positions are outperforming their senior counterparts at the moment lets continue the trend and get some youngsters in to compete for the defensive positions as well. Outside of the obvious dream candidates like Sporting’s Nuno Mendes (who i think Liverpool are in for) I personally would be looking at Thierry Small from Everton who’s contract terminates this season. To compliment him on the right i have no idea why we didn’t pick up Dennis Gyamfi from Leicester City when he was out of contract in the last window. Both young English players… Read more »

Ozzie

Kieran Gibbs.

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