Stathursday: the Stats XI of the regular season

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Every Thursday, we zoom in on some interesting statistics provided by our data partner StatsPerform in the 'Stathursday' section. Just before the start of the Play-offs we take another look at the regular competition. Based on the data of StatsPerform we put together the best eleven over the past 34 matches.

The league title and the division of European tickets are still to be decided in the Champions' and Europe Play-offs, but for 9 of the 18 teams in the Jupiler Pro League, the season is already over. After 34 matches, R. Union Saint-Gilloise finished top of the league, and the team that was promoted last year to the top division and has surprised many a pundit will enter the title race with a small lead. We chose the formation of the Brussels team to play our ideal eleven of the regular season to underline this achievement. Felice Mazzu, winner of the Raymond Goethals Trophy, almost always opts for a 3-5-2 formation.

Anthony Moris is in goal at R. Union SG. The goalkeeper of the Brussels team would certainly merit his selection in the ideal eleven, particularly based on the xGA stats ('expected goals against'). Moris conceded 11 fewer goals than the StatsPerform algorithm predicted. Hervé Koffi (Sporting Charleroi/-7.31) and Davy Roef (KAA Gent/-6.43) follow at a respectable distance in that stat. Still, the data shows Jean Butez has the best stats. 

The R. Antwerp FC goalie conceded 4.76 fewer goals than the stats predicted. In the xGA-stats, Moris does better than the Frenchman, but Butez made most saves (138) in the regular competition and has the highest save percentage after Davy Roef (who played only 9 matches): 78.41% And the so-called 'Sweeper Keeper', a statistic that indicates when a goalkeeper comes out his 18-yard box to win the ball, speaks in favour of Butez. No other goalkeeper was able to win more balls than the French keeper (13). 

In the three-man defence, the stats warrant the selection of Wesley Hoedt (RSC Anderlecht), Emmanuel Agbadou (KAS Eupen) and Brandon Mechele (Club Brugge). The choice for Hoedt, a strong header of the ball, seems obvious. The Dutchman won back the ball 184 times - only three defenders have done better this season - and he's also very strong in the air. In the headed clearances stat (61) there are only five players ahead of the Dutchman. Hoedt also plays an important role in the build-up, because no defender in the Jupiler Pro League played more balls towards the 'final third' in the opponent's half. 

Mechele won his spot in the best eleven thanks to his clever positioning and defensive insights. With the Bruges player in defence few chances are given away. After Yahya Nadrani (RFC Seraing/83) he has most interceptions in the Jupiler Pro League (70). With 2.19 interceptions per match only 6 players do better. Mechele is also above average in terms of successful tackles and aerial duels won.

Emmanuel Agbadou is the most surprising choice in our best eleven. KAS Eupen conceded many goals (61) last season, but that's not down to the Ivorian defender's performance. With 287 ball recoveries, Agbadou is the player who wins back most balls in the Jupiler Pro League. He also has 52 successful tackles to his name. Of all central defenders only Nadrani (56) did better last season.

Michael Ngadeu (KAA Gent) just falls short of our selection, despite his impressive 79% tackle success rate. Nadrani - most interceptions - is also on the bench due to the many goals RFC Seraing conceded.

For the position of central defensive midfielder, we could not ignore Vinicius Souza. The strong Brazilian of KV Mechelen made most tackles (an average of 3.67 per game), he has the highest number of successful tackles (67 out of 99) and with his 244 duels won he’s pipped at the post only by Zinho Gano (SV Zulte Waregem/245). His ball recoveries (8.33 per match on average) also put Vinicius Souza in the top 5. 

Danish Dynamite

Casper Nielsen is Royale Union Saint-Gilloise's first player in our team. The Dane ran most kilometres in the Jupiler Pro League. With an average of 12.47 kilometres per game, he runs 500 metres more than the number two in this ranking, i.e. Josh Cullen (RSC Anderlecht). In total he ran 411 kilometres which is the exact distance between the Joseph Mariën stadium and the European Parliament in Strasbourg. 

Nielsen's running ability allows him to put high pressure on his opponent, which resulted in 214 ball recoveries so far. Only eight midfielders do better. What really sets Nielsen apart from the rest is his attacking intent and efficiency. With 7 goals, Nielsen is a prolific midfield goal scorer. This can be deduced from the positive difference of 4.07 between goals and expected goals. Only six players do better in terms of efficiency. Nielsen also creates 1.36 chances per match. 

Vinicius Souza's duelling power and intelligence and Casper Nielsen's running ability and vision are coupled with Xavier Mercier's creativity and technical ingenuity. With two strong central midfielders as a buffer, OH Leuven's Frenchman can show his attacking prowess. Mercier is the assist champion of the regular league (14) and provided many more scoring opportunities for his team mates. Mercier created 119 chances, or 3.59 per game. Nobody even comes close to him. Second in the stats, Stef Peeters (KAS Eupen) generated 85 chances. Except for Hoedt, nobody played more in the 'final third’ than Mercier.

On the left, we wanted to put Loïc Lapoussin, as he fits Mazzu's system perfectly. However, the Madagascan dribbler of R. Union SG has been running, sprinting and defending extremely well this season. No other player has completed more successful dribbles (78), no other winger has made more tackles (82) and only Agbadou has won more balls (257). Lapoussin works hard, runs up and down the wing constantly and has run 337 kilometres this season. However, he has to give his place in the team to Sergio Gomez.  

The Spaniard has outperformed all left wingers this season. No other player averages more crosses per game (8.35) and runs more kilometres per game at high intensity (1.3km), i.e. at speeds above 21 km/h. With 11 assists and five goals, he’s the most impactful wing back in the Jupiler Pro League.

On the other side of the pitch we have Faïz Selemani who, with 13 goals and five assists, contributed to 42% of KV Kortrijk's goals. Only three players have a higher impact score. His attacking prowess for KV Kortrijk (aka the Kerels) is huge, as other statistics also show. He provides an average of 4.83 crosses per game (eighth place in the rankings) and the Comoros international also produces an average of 1.93 chances per match (fifteenth in the rankings). Selemani often plays on the left at KVK, but in previous years has also proven he can play on the right.

The attacking duo of our ideal eleven consists of top scorer Deniz Undav (R. Union Saint-Gilloise) and Tarik Tissoudali (KAA Gent). The German forward, who likes to drop into pockets of space, hit the target 25 times in 33 games and put it on a plate for a team mate nine times. Undav contributed to 34 of the 78 Brussels goals, good for an impact score of 46.5 percent. Only Michael Frey (R. Antwerp FC/47.3 percent) proved more important for his team. Undav also hit the woodwork five times - the most in the league, and could have scored more in other words. However, the xG statistics prove the German is efficient with his chances, as he scored 4.26 goals more than expected.

The last player to be selected for our ideal eleven is Tarik Tissoudali, who featured earlier in Stathursday. The Moroccan street footballer of KAA Gent has won many hearts with his dribbling skills (44 successful dribbles = seventh in the rankings) and goal-scoring chances (1.59 chances per match on average = thirtieth in the rankings). Tissoudali is also very efficient, because the difference between his xG (13.72) and the actual goals scored (19) is 5.28. Only Nikola Storm (KV Mechelen/9.17) and Jelle Vossen (SV Zulte Waregem) do better. Tissoudali also contributed to 41% of Gent's goals, putting him in the top five of the Belgian league.

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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