Tactical football boff Chris Bland (@blandc_1996) reviews the weekend, picking out a series of themes he believes we can exploit in future weeks.
Weekend Debrief: 3rd February 2020
One area that many have started to look at for gaining value is through individual player statistics. Whether it be passes, tackles, shots or even crosses, bookies are offering markets on most top European games for these metrics, and given the high variance in these numbers on a game-to-game basis, appealing prices can be found.
As with many January signings, understanding how individuals settle into sides, plus the potential for tactical tweaks to incorporate the incoming players, means there’ll be good opportunity to eeke out value in the coming weeks. So how could a handful of these signings affect team’s shapes? And are there are markets to keep an eye on?
Using two key signings as examples, I hope to unearth a few potential value punts in the near future.
First impressions of Bruno Fernandes
Manchester United finally got their man after a protracted transfer saga stretching throughout the whole of January, so how did Bruno Fernandes perform on Saturday, and what does it mean for the Red Devils moving forward?
The Portuguese was initially employed as an attacking midfielder, playing in behind Anthony Martial, the role where United have particularly been lacking in creativity throughout the season in Paul Pogba’s absence.
However, with Wolves starting the game well, coupled with Andreas Pereira struggling to settle in midfield, he began to drop deeper and wider to influence the game, whilst allowing Juan Mata to move centrally.
As the match wore on, Fernandes also showed his defensive work, helping to cover against the breaks from Wolves, picking up a yellow card for a cynical foul, and just how Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will opt to utilise the big-money man is tough to see thus far.
The absence of Nemanja Matic played a huge part in the lack of shape in the United midfield, and his return ahead of their busy fixture list in the coming weeks will only help Fernandes, allowing him more freedom in a role further forward, and he was able to showcase some of his attacking talent as Wolves began to sit deep.
A penchant for long-range efforts
Attempting five shots on goal, it highlighted an area of his games his statistics had hinted at beforehand. The key man at Sporting, he was averaging 3.50 shots per-game, netting eight goals in 17 league appearances, and his willingness to take on shots from all areas of the pitch means it’s no surprise to see these statistics so high.
A tendency to shoot from outside the box, particularly against Wolves’ low block, was unsurprising; the 25-year-old was averaging 2.40 shots from outside the box for Sporting in Liga NOS, and this could be another area to keep an eye on.
Coupled with the lack of creativity in the United midfield, as well as a willingness to make an impression on the side, it will be no surprise to see him rack up a high number of shots in the coming games, and it is worth noting that he was 8/11 (Betfair) for three or more shots ahead of the Wolves encounter.
Position tweak should ensure high shot counts
Fernandes’ eye for goal is evident, so he will be one to keep an eye on in the goalscoring markets, particularly with Matic returning, allowing him more freedom and less defensive responsibility in behind Martial.
Martial’s pace in behind should also help create space for the forward-thinking Portuguese star to get shots away, with teams defending deeper to try and warn against pace. And given the lack of creativity, it could see him willing to take on these opportunities. This should will also impact on United’s shot counts.
Not one to shirk his defensive responsibility, Fernandes was willing to drop deep and cover in what was a United side that looked to press Wolves high to avoid the counter, and if this is a theme that continues, another of the player markets will be interesting to keep an eye on in the coming weeks.
Fernandes unafraid to get stuck-in
Making three tackles, it is a side of his game that can go unnoticed, and he did average 2.30 at Sporting as part of a similar tactic, looking to press high. However, how Matic’s return effects this awaits to be seen, but it will be an interesting market when the bookmakers price it up, particularly in games where United will look to sit and counter, such as Chelsea in the coming weeks.
How the return of Pogba effects the side will also be particularly interesting, and could offer up more freedom and space for the attacker, and could go a long way to reducing the creative problems United have been having throughout the season.
Solskjaer will need to tinker with his side to get the best out of the Portuguese midfielder, and understanding how United’s shape and personnel will affect his numbers, coupled with his own player traits, could mean for some early value in some of these markets in future weeks.
Bergwijn's dream debut
Steven Bergwijn made the dream start to his Tottenham career, netting a fantastic volley to set Jose Mourinho’s side on their way to a victory over 10-man Manchester City. But what should Spurs expect from the Dutch winger in the coming weeks?
It is a tough game to read too much into as to how Mourinho will opt to use the winger moving forward, and understanding how it changes from this game-to-game where he will be expected to operate on the front foot is key, and will offer up some interesting angles once again in the player markets.
Bergwijn was given a large defensive responsibility, as Tottenham conceded possession for large periods, before looking to break through the dribbling talents of Heung-Min Son, Lucas Moura and Bergwijn himself on the break, as well as hitting the space over the top to try and stretch the City defence.
However, given the unique nature of the game, there will be better value in analysing how he will impact matches where Spurs are expected to play on the front foot, and it is the wingers tendency to run at defences and take players on which is particularly of interest.
An ability to take players on
Bergwijn is a winger and enjoys to dribble and take players on, something that was seen from his time at PSV, so when coming up against the deeper defences such as those of Aston Villa or Burnley in the coming weeks, it could offer interesting value in the tackles markets, especially when coupled with Lucas and Son’s similar traits.
The combination of the Spurs attack saw both City full backs make two tackles, whilst City’s high press saw Ilkay Gundogan rack up four as they looked to drive their way out of trouble, as opposed to hit the ball to a target man, and with some similar fixtures against the likes of Leipzig and Chelsea on the horizon, these are areas worth noting.
The statistics behind the Dutchman’s season for PSV also back this up, with Bergwijn attempting 2.50 dribbles per-game, being disposed 1.90 times, and perhaps most worryingly, having 3.80 unsuccessful touches. Up against arguably higher-standard defenders, he could take time to adapt, and although he enjoyed a very promising debut, identifying the full backs and covering midfielders he will be up against in the coming weeks could prove valuable.
Furthermore, the Dutchman’s tricky nature can draw out a number of fouls from oppeonts, and as City saw on Sunday, the card markets could be interest. Much like the threat of Adama Traore at Wolves seeing opposition full backs at much shorter prices, given Spurs’ attacking threat, it’s certainly another to keep a watchful eye on.
Noteworthy position tweaks
Jack Grealish’s position has once again changed with the arrival of Mbwana Samatta, being allowed a free role, and the Aston Villa skipper has been able to move back out to the left flank rather than being used centrally, whilst Borja Baston’s arrival could also allow a similar threat. The aerial threat of both means the volume of crosses Villa attempt may increase, as well as offering up an option to play two up top.
Cedric Soares’ departure from Southampton saw James Ward-Prowse employed as a right back against Liverpool, where he racked up four tackles, and although Kyle Walker-Peters has arrived, Ralph Hasenhuttl could continue with this in the coming weeks. The initial Ward-Prowse lines will be offered as a central midfielder, and so is another one to watch.
Jarrod Bowen’s arrival at West Ham reinforces David Moyes willingness to sit deep and play on the break, and his dribbling and shooting statistics from Hull are particularly noteworthy.
But how he adapts to the step up in league will be particularly interesting, and once again could see the tackles markets on opposition full backs of interest, especially when they’ve been coming up against the likes of Robert Snodgrass in recent weeks instead.
There are plenty of different examples, and these are just a few available, but by understanding how one player can change a team’s shape and tactics can also lead us towards potential value in the coming weeks of these individual player markets.