Quarantine made me watch not common leagues
With this quarantine without new soccer games and a lot of free time, I started doing my favorite hobby, surf through Wyscout in different leagues looking for interesting young players. In this case, I was looking at the A-League (I have ESPN+ subscription and they have A-league on demand).
I believe in data scout as a filter to video or live scouting. Everything has to be measure in the right context. For example, If a player is a leader in passes per 90 (like one in this post) it does not mean that he is a good passer. If all the passes are backward, that is not helping the team, but if a player makes a lot of passes and has good accuracy, it might worth the effort to watch. The same with dribbles, imagine a skillful player with great stats in dribbles, but after every dribble, he loses the ball with a horrific cross, awful pass or the ball end up in the last row of the stand behind the goal. Also, the stats depend on the position, it is not the same as the expected goal for a striker than for center back. It’s not just 1 stat, it’s not just watching the stats, I need to watch the context.
The idea was to make a brief scouting report but instead is more like a small thought, on each of the players I watched.
With that in mind, I dug into Wyscout A-League data and found this 3 players from Wellington Phoenix, I watched some games and took some notes about the players I highlighted with the stats.
Liberato Cacace: Left full-back, 19 years. He played in all the youth national teams with New Zeland, including the last U-20 world cup in Poland where he played 3 games, the same he played two years earlier in the U-17 world cup, and already made his debut with the New Zeland national team. He has over 4,000 minutes with the first team and he is not even 20. 2nd on most dribbles per 90 between fullbacks, and with a percentage of success in dribbles of 57% is really good for a left-back. 66.4% of wins in defensive duels, leader between lateral defenders.
He is an energetic full-back. Every time the wider midfielder goes to the center, he makes runs forward, appearing behind the defenders as a surprise attacker, in that position he crosses (usually to the target man), or if he has the right angle, tries to score (3 times this season). He knows who to use his body to waited for the contact and received the foul. During the build-up, his location is the right one, wide and not really high, waiting for the space to make the run. With the ball on his feet, he is able to dribble into the wider area but also he can cut to the middle. Defensively speaking, he is good at the 1vs1 duels, good body orientation, fast when he has to chase down a player and go back to his positions during the transitions.
He is still too young but he can handle the opponent pressure and make good decisions. He can get quicker making the decisions (especially if moves to a European league) and get smarter. His technique is not outstanding but is enough for the A-League. He could be the future left-back of the New Zeland national team.
Reno Piscopo: Born (May 1998) and raised in Melbourne but with Italian father. He signed with Inter Milan when he was 13 and moved there for the next six years. He made it to Italian U-15, 16 and 17 national teams. He played 2 seasons in Serie C with Renate before singing with Wellington in the A-League in 2019. He is 3rd in xA per 90 minutes. 11th in through passes per 90. 13th in key passes. 10th in smart passes per 90. And those are in the general tables, not only the wingers but between all the players in the league.
Piscopo is a skillful player and he has self-confidence. Probably more than he should. His percentage of successful dribbles is 42, compare with his teammate Cacace that is defender, is 57%, even when their dribbles per 90 his almost the same (Piscopo 5.57 and Cacace 5.59). He makes bad decisions when he tries to dribble between 2 or 3 defenders, of course, he wins some of them, but he could be more useful passing the ball instead of trying a Messi kind of play. And passing and assisting his one of his strengths as we can see with his stats in smart passes and xA. He has a good vision and technique to assist.
He is an inverted winger, that´s why he cut to the center all the time, leaving the band to the fullback to attack (Cacace). It is not a surprise that he does not cross very often, he is more a snipper, trying to score from outside of the box after a quick cut to the middle. Even without the ball, he moves to the middle, trying to be like a number 10, receiving between the pressure lines and the space between the fullback and center-back. He also needs to improve his attack on the ball, he gets anticipated very often because he sits and waits for the ball to get him instead of move forward to the ball. In the next couple of years, he can improve and he might go back to a European league.