Stathursday: Red Devils opponents Cullen and Koffi

Every Thursday, we zoom in on some interesting statistics provided by our data partner StatsPerform in the 'Stathursday' section. This week we take a closer look at the performances of Irish midfielder Josh Cullen and Burkina Faso goalkeeper Hervé Koffi. Both Pro League players will play the Red Devils in friendlies in the coming days with their national team.

Not only Hans Vanaken, Yari Verschaeren and Dante Vanzeir will be representing the Jupiler Pro League in the friendlies against Ireland (Saturday in Dublin) and Burkina Faso (Tuesday in Brussels). Midfielder Josh Cullen of RSC Anderlecht was included in the Irish national selection. And goalkeeper Hervé Koffi of Sporting Charleroi is in Burkina Faso's first eleven. Both 25-year-olds have collected 12 and 43 caps, respectively, for their national side.

Josh Cullen has collected most playing minutes in the Jupiler Pro League this season as an outfield player. This hard-working Irishman is always one of the first on Vincent Kompany's team sheet. Our partner StatsPerform's data shows why. In the first place, he has a great engine. On average the Anderlecht midfielder covers 11.9 kilometres a match. Apart from Casper Nielsen (R. Union SG) no other player does better. In comparison, Radja Nainggolan (R. Antwerp FC) runs about 9.4 kilometres per match. 

The Red Devil facing Cullen in midfield will be given little space or time. The Irishman combines his running ability with a combative spirit, precision and great positional play. In the Jupiler Pro League, he averages 4.56 duels per game - good for thirtieth place in the statistics. In the air, Cullen also wins more than half of his aerial duels. Not bad for a footballer of 1m75.

High passing precision

Cullen makes effective tackles, taking the ball off his opponent in 68.18% of cases. That gives him an average of 1.8 interceptions* per match. His ball recovery* (209) this season shows his excellent positional play and the pressure he puts on his opponent. Cullen ranks eleventh of all players in the Jupiler Pro League in this statistic. The Red Devils will have to be aware of this tenacious Irishman.

Chasing the ball a lot, receiving the ball regularly and keeping it in the team: that is Cullen's credo. He has a successful pass percentage of 87.9. Only seven footballers do better. His passing accuracy on the opponent's half is still 83.7 percent, which puts him in seventh place in StatsPerform's data rankings.

*An interception is awarded to a player who intentionally intercepts a pass. When a player wins back the ball by picking up a loose ball or receiving a pass to his feet. 

Three days after the trip to Dublin, the Red Devils face Burkina Faso - semi-finalists at the most recent Africa Cup - in Anderlecht. If the Belgian team wants to win, they will have to get past Hervé Koffi. It won't be easy, because Sporting Charleroi's goalkeeper is one of the best in the Jupiler Pro League. The 25-year old Burkino Faso keeper has made 91 saves already this season, putting him in the top 5. 

His save percentage is even better. The Carolo's goalkeeper keeps 74.4 percent of any goal attempts out of his nets. Only Davy Roef (KAA Gent/92.6%) - who played only 7 games - and Jean Butez (R. Antwerp FC/78.2%) have better figures. 

Koffi stops 69.2% of any goal attempts in the 18-yard box. Again, only Roef (58.7%) and Butez (71.9%) do better. If he finds himself under constant pressure against Belgium on Tuesday night, he'll know how to handle it.

Even if the Red Devils were to get a penalty against Burkina Faso, Koffi has the composure to stop it. The Sporting Charleroi goalkeeper has stopped two of four penalties this season. Only the faultless Hendrik Van Crombrugge (2 in 2) does better. Koffi is a typical line keeper, who rarely leaves the penalty area. This happened only four times this season, but each time it gave his team possession.

Koffi was unavailable for eight matches this season and that had a direct impact on the team's performance. Sporting Charleroi won half of its matches with the Burkina Faso goalie. Without Koffi, the winning percentage drops to 25%. The average number of points this season goes up from 1.1 to 1.8 when he's in goal. That's strong Koffi.

This article was created with the insights delivered by StatsPerform. 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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