Nicosia club APOEL have had an odd season so far. Champions League disqualification followed by Europa League participation. Subpar domestic displays followed by resilience and determination in European games. Four different managers (including interim manager Hadjiloukas) in the span of a calendar year.
APOEL now find themselves in fifth place with three games in hand. Fierce rivals Omonoia lead the table having played three games more than their hometown enemies.
However, when looking at the two Nicosia clubs, one thing appears to stand out: Omonoia have conceded just one more goal than APOEL despite the latter having played three fewer games.
“Omonoia have conceded just one more goal than APOEL despite the latter having played three fewer games.”
With that in mind, we decided to take a look at the data and rank APOEL’s defensively-minded players one by one. For contextual accuracy, we decided to include only players with at least 5 appearances and a minimum of 420 minutes played.
However, we didn’t just take into account center backs and full backs, but rather any player who spends any significant portion of the game both in the traditional defensive areas of the pitch, as well as in the deeper areas of midfield.
This was done because the defensive structure of a team doesn’t stop at the four or five (four-man defense and five-man defense) players directly in front of the goalkeeper.
The above criteria left us with the following players: Lucas Souza, Mihajlović, Giorgos Merkis, Nikolas Ioannou, Matić, Savić, Vouros, Alef, and Joãozinho.
Successful Defensive Actions Per 90 Minutes
In terms of total successful defensive actions per 90 minutes, Alef leads the table with 9.12, followed by Vouros (8.87), Souza (7.69), Ioannou (6.56) and Merkis (6.02).
Defensive Duels: Per 90 vs Success Percentage
In terms of overall defensive duels, we compared duels completed per 90 minutes and the percentage of successful defensive duels overall.
Souza has by far the most defensive duels per 90 (10.51), followed by Alef (7.6) and Joãozinho (7.13).
Meanwhile, in terms of defensive duel success percentage, the top three performers here are Alef (72.73%), Mihajlović (69.23%) and Giorgos Merkis (64.1%).
In terms of defending high balls and other aerial situations, we focused on aerial duels per 90 minutes and compared them with the percentage of aerial duels won.
Savić, Merkis, Alef, Lucas Souza, and Ioannou all stand out here, with 4.89, 4.86, 4.84, 4.77 and 4.45 aerial duels per 90 respectively.
Meanwhile, in terms of the percentage of aerial duels won, Joãozinho is head and shoulders (no pun intended) above the rest with 81.82%. Giorgos Merkis is the closest one with 69.05%.
In terms of tackling we focused on three key metrics: Tackles per 90, Tackle Success Percentage, and Tackles per 30 Opposition Possessions (opp.30).
Alef leads the tackles per 90 minutes table with 0.97, followed by Vouros with 0.67.
Nikolas Ioannou and Mihajlović have 100% tackle success but that’s on a very low figure of attempted tackles. In more realistic terms, Alef and Vouros again lead the table with 42.86% and 40% success rates respectively.
The pair find themselves leading the third metric as well, with 1.54 and 1.04 tackles per 30 opposition possessions respectively.
Defensive positioning and reading of the game
In terms of positioning and player ability to read the game, we considered two interception metrics: Interceptions per 90 minutes and Interceptions per 30 Opposition Possessions.
Vouros, Lucas Souza, Alef and Merkis lead both tables here. Vouros’ 6.18 interceptions per 90 minutes and 9.65 interceptions per opp.30 put him clear at the top.
Mistimed challenges and Aggression
For our final category, we naturally focused on fouls and yellow cards. Specifically, we looked at fouls per 90 minutes, as well as yellow cards per 90, indicating the probability of being cautioned.
Lucas Souza has the highest fouls per 90 figure with 4.67, followed by Ioannou’s 2.11. Merkis has the lowest figure with 0.93, with Matic having the second-lowest fouls per 90 with 1.18.
In terms of yellow cards per 90, Ioannou and Vouros top the table with 0.47 and 0.4 respectively. Mihajlović and Joãozinho both zero, while Alef and Matic have 0.14 and 0.24 respectively.
What’s interesting to observe here are the numbers of Lucas Souza for both metrics. While he ranks far higher than most in terms of fouls per 90 minutes, he ranks almost exactly in the middle for yellow cards per 90.
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