Stathursday: Five new Jupiler Pro League players to watch

© JIMMY BOLCINA

Every Thursday, we zoom in on some interesting statistics provided by our data partner StatsPerform in the 'Stathursday' section. In this edition, we use data from our partner Stats Perform to look ahead to the start of the Jupiler Pro League. We highlight five transfers to watch in the 2022-2023 season..

Standard de Liège and KAA Gent will kick off the season on Friday at Sclessin, with the top match Club Brugge - KRC Genk as an extra highlight on Sunday. Our clubs have been preparing themselves thoroughly for the new Jupiler Pro League season in. Transfer announcements have been a constant source of joy over the past few weeks. In this 'stathursday', we highlight five of them.

Free-kick specialist for RSC Anderlecht

A new promising striker will try to replace Joshua Zirkzee in Brussels, as the Dutchman has made his return to Germany. RSC Anderlecht have now gambled on Sebastiano Esposito for their offensive output next season. But the 20-year-old Italian is not as inexperienced as you may think, making his professional debut with Inter aged 17 in 2019, and not long after becoming both the Nerazzurri's youngest starter and second-youngest goal scorer in Serie A at 17 years and 172 days on 21 December of that year (surpassing Mario Balotelli in that ranking).

In order to developed himself, he has been loaned out to Serie B sides SPAL and Venezia before heading to Swiss’ side FC Basel last season, where he scored six goals and assisted five more in 23 league appearances, being involved in a goal every 133 minutes. In the Swiss Super League 2021-22, he showed his danger from set pieces with two direct free kick goals (joint-highest tally in the league) as well as providing three assists from set pieces (with only two players doing better). 

He is one of those strikers who, above all, like to have the ball in their feet to create dangerous situations for their opponents. Chances are pretty big that Esposito will have ample opportunity to show his free-kick prowess in the Jupiler Pro League too, as just two players have won more fouls in the final third than the Italian striker (19) in Switzerland last season (Mahou 25, Ngamaleu 20).

Cercle Brugge sign consistent striker from Japan

Cercle Brugge have placed their bets for next season's goal on the 23-year-old Japanese forward Ayase Ueda, who arrives in Belgium after four seasons of Japanese J1 League football for Kashima Antlers, where he continuously proved his talent to score.

Since making his J1 League debut in July 2019 until the official announcement of his transfer at the end of last month, Ayase Ueda scored 38 goals, with only Leandro Damião doing better (43). Over that same period, Ueda did however record a big overperformance based on Opta's Expected Goals model, scoring eight more goals than could have been expected from him (38 goals, 30 xG), an area in which only Leandro Damião outshone him (+9). 

Until he left the J1 League, Ayase Ueda was the only player to score 10+ goals in each of the last three seasons (10 in 2020-21, 14 in 2021-22, 10 in 2022-23). One word can be used to describe Cercle Brugge’s new signing: consistency!

© GVG

Not many world-famous Belgian internationals make their debut in the Belgian top-flight at 33 years old. Toby Alderweireld, however, will do so. The central defender born in Antwerp's suburb Wilrijk started out in the youth academies of local sides Germinal Ekeren en Germinal Beerschot, before kickstarting his career at Dutch giants Ajax and adding Atlético Madrid, Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur to his player passport. This summer, Alderweireld left Qatari side Al-Duhail for a return to his hometown, signing for the ambitious Royal Antwerp FC.

60% tackle succes for Antwerp

The Great Old – Royal Antwerp's nickname – can count on a player that is great, but still not yet that old. Alderweireld played exactly 200 Premier League games, with 174 of those coming for Spurs. Add to that his 121 international games for Belgium, and it's safe to say that Antwerp have signed a very experienced leader in defence.

Antwerp fans will mainly form an opinion on Alderweireld's signing based on his recent performances. For the Belgian centre back, those performances came in last season's Qatar Stars League. In his 20 league games – in which he all started – Alderweireld helped his side keep six clean sheets, won possession over 100 times, recorded 60 clearances, won 60 percent of his tackles, blocked 11 shots and conceded just three fouls in over 1600 minutes. Royal Antwerp will boast a very strong defence this Jupiler Pro League campaign.

Attacking left back for Club Brugge

FC Groningen announced the summer departure of another left back to Belgian champions Club Brugge. At only 19 years old, Bjorn Meijer is a very promising defensive prospect. After being given an extended run into the side at the start of 2022, he finished the year as one of the five outfield players with the most Eredivisie minutes in 2022.

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But Meijer didn’t just spend time on the pitch, he made those minutes count too. Of all Eredivisie players born in 2001 or later, there were only three with more created chances from open play than the Dutchman (12) this year. Part of Meijer’s attacking prowess were his crosses: with 59 crosses from open play, he ranked 7th league-wide in that metric in 2022.

With Meijer being the most expensive Brugge acquisition so far this summer, he will be keen to maintain his upward trajectory.

R. Union SG has another dribbler

Some things are just meant to go together: movies and popcorn, bacon and eggs, Italy and pizza, Simon Adingra and dribbling. It just makes complete sense.

The Ivorian winger joined Brighton & Hove Albion this summer and has been immediately loaned out to Union Saint-Gilloise. Before making his way to Belgium through the Brussels side's partner club Brighton, Simon Adingra played for FC Nordsjælland, a club that also kickstarted the careers of players such as Kamaldeen Sulemana (Rennes) and Mo Kudus (Ajax).

Adingra has clearly outgrown the Danish Superliga, not just by scoring nine goals and assisting three more, but mainly by recording insane dribbling numbers. The Ivorian lead all top-flight players when it comes to take-ons in a number of categories. If he manages to repeat his antics in the Belgian top-flight, he might soon return to the Premier League to show his abilities at the highest levels of European football. 

Fans of the Fantasy Pro League - the game in which you become a manager yourself and have to put together the best team every match day - can also select these five talents for a reasonable price. Below is an overview of their transfer value this season:

This article was created with the insights delivered by Stats Perform. Our exclusive partner collects the most diverse performance data from all the matches in the Jupiler Pro League and 1B Pro League. The agreement with StatsPerform has three goals: technical support for our clubs, better quality reporting on Eleven Sports and stronger communication.

Among other things, our clubs will be able to rely on live tracking data, so trainers can make adjustments based on data during the matches. As for the television and communications part of the partnership, the Pro League and Eleven focus on creating added value for fans. The official data from StatsPerform offers fans a unique insight into the performance of their favorite club or player.

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