In this data analysis piece, we will be looking out for the best central midfielders currently playing in Superliga. Central midfielders have come a long way in redefining their traits in the modern game. Gone are the days where central midfielders had a very limited task to do in their respective teams. The best central midfielders are the most complete ones, is the saying that rings around. Modern managers are hugely dependent on their central midfielders for the team’s successful tactics.
In our analysis, we will be considering both the attacking as well as defensive attributes. Passing is the most important trait for a midfielder so that won’t be missed for sure. We will be looking at players who have registered at least 900 minutes of football in the league this season. Also, only proper central midfielders are taken into consideration i.e. no makeshift options included.
Defensive actions and interceptions
The defensive actions give us a good knowledge of a player’s defensive capability. Coupled with the interceptions per 90 stat, the effective plot between the two metrics can give us how well the player reads the defensive aspect of the game.
The top performers in this category are mostly defensive midfielders which are of no surprise. From the chart, we have shortlisted the following options:-
Jack Ipalibo – 22-year-old midfielder from Strømsgodset. Ipalibo is one of the top performers in the league in the defensive actions and interceptions categories. He has recorded 10.6 successful defensive actions and 9.93 interceptions per game.
Andreas Eines Hopmark – 29-year-old midfielder from Kristiansund. Hopmark has averaged 10.9 actions and 7.04 interceptions per game. He has also won his defending duels at 57.35%.
Patrick Berg – 22-year-old midfielder from Bodo/Glimt. Berg has averaged 10.05 actions and 8.42 interceptions per game.
Joe Bell – 21-year-old midfielder from Viking FK. Bell has averaged 11.2 actions and 6.88 interceptions per game while also winning 61.48% of his defensive duels.
Fredrik Oldrup Jensen – 27-year-old midfielder from Vålerenga. Jensen recorded 9.49 actions and 7.46 interceptions per game.
It’s pretty good to see young players, U-23, outperforming some experienced campaigners in this category.
Defensive and Aerial duels
Defensive duels are an important part of the defensive aspect of the game. Winning a defensive duel is very crucial for any team to start their attack as well as stop the opponent. Along with that we also compare a player’s ability to win aerial duels as most of the long ball from the goalkeepers enter into the middle third and winning the duels in these areas are very crucial to the defending team.
Again there is a good amount of familiar names that we have seen in the previous section. So let’s look into some new options.
Kristoffer Barmen – 27-year-old midfielder from Brann. Barmen has played in different positions in the central midfield for his team and has been a useful asset aerially. He has attempted 10.13 duels aerially but has slightly less defensive duels per game at 5.77. But his duel success rate is pretty decent at 54.7%.
Eirik Schulze – 27-year-old midfielder from Start. Schulze has averaged 7.63 aerial duels and 6.14 defensive duels per game.
Kevin Martin Krygård – 20-year-old from Haugesund. The youngster has had a breakthrough season in which he has primarily been deployed as a DMF. He has recorded 4.5 aerial duels and 8.36 defensive duels in the matches that he has appeared in while winning 53.85% of his duels.
Apart from these new names we also have those we have seen before. Jack Ipalibo has recorded 7.19 defensive duels and 7.62 aerial duels per game this season. Whereas Hopmark has averaged 4.76 aerial duels and 8.52 defensive duels per game this season.
The ability of a midfielder to help his team to build out from the back is very crucial, especially in the initial build-up phase. So we look into the metrics like the forward passes attempted by the midfielders and also the accuracy of his passes. Let’s look into a metric called Forward passes ratio which is the ratio between the forward passes attempted by a player to that of his total passes. This effectively removes the bias against a team having lower possession.
Let’s look into some of the top options from this:-
Tortal Lumanza Lembi – 26-year-old midfielder from Stabæk. His forward pass ratio stands at 41.79, which means he has attempted 42 forward passes for every 100 passes. He records 47.4 passes per 90 with an accuracy of 83.97%.
Lars Olden Larsen – 21-year-old from midfielder Mjøndalen. Though he attempts very few passes (27.21 passes per 90) while playing at the central midfield, His forward pass ratio is very good with a value of 41.05.
Johnny Furdal – 34-year-old from Viking FK. Furdal has recorded 37.6 passes per 90 with 39.83 of them forward. He also boasts a good passing accuracy of 78.96% so far in the league.
Stian Aasmundsen – 30-year-old midfielder from Mjøndalen. Stian records 32.14 passes per 90 with 37% of them being forward. His passing accuracy is also extremely good at 80.87%.
The scores accumulated by these players in this section is given below:-
Modern-day central midfielders are also tasked with the responsibility of creating good chances for their team’s forwards and also helping them towards scoring the goals. The likes of Paul Pogba, Kevin de Bruyne have all been deployed as CM but they play a huge role in creating chances and scoring opportunities. To compare the midfielders, we have taken metrics such as key pass and smart passes attempted by the midfielders.
Ulrik Saltnes – 27-year-old central midfielder from Bodo/Glimt. One of the best creators in the league and vital to Bodo/Glimt’s attacking output this season. Ulrik has recorded 0.65 key passes and 1.55 smart passes per game this season.
Jonathan Linseth – 24-year-old from Sarpsborg. Linseth has recorded 0.65 key passes and 0.97 smart passes per game this season.
John Kitolano – 20-year-old from Molde, on loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers. The youngster has averaged 0.58 key passes and 0.65 smart passes per game this season.
From the players, we have discussed before, Lumanza Lembi has recorded 0.71 key passes and 1.17 smart passes per 90. Krygård has averaged 0.51 key passes and 1.03 smart passes per 90.
Ball progression and Dribbling
Ball progression from the middle third to the final third is a very important aspect for a central midfielder. It’s important for them to make such runs into the box and also find those players to make those runs. Dribbling is another metric which tells how good the player is while they are exposed to press by the opponent and their ability to escape such situations.
The top options here are:-
Anton Janos Salétros – 24-year-old from Rostov. He has recorded 10.52 progressive passes per 90 and 2.18 progressive runs per 90. Along with that, he has attempted 1.71 dribbles per game.
Etzaz Hussain – 27-year-old from Molde. He has recorded 11.33 progressive passes per 90 and 1.76 progressive runs per 90. Along with that, he has attempted 1.22 dribbles per game.
Emil Bohinen – 21-year-old from Stabæk. He has recorded 5.78 progressive passes per 90 and 2.99 progressive runs per 90. Along with that, he has attempted 3.62 dribbles per game, which is one of the highest in the league.
Johnny Furdal – 34-year-old from Viking FK. The experienced campaigner has recorded 8.42 progressive passes and 1.62 progressive runs per 90. He has also managed to attempt 2.05 dribbles per game at a very good rate of 65%.
This category is pretty much important in judging the modern-day central midfielders. Their contributions towards the goal can ease off the burden from the team’s forwards. Let’s analyze the goal contributions of the midfielder by looking at the xG and xA metrics.
There aren’t many midfielders here in the league who are directly involved in contributing to the goal. So let’s pick out the very of them.
Mikkel Maigaard – 24-year-old midfielder from Strømsgodset. The midfielder has recorded 0.33 xG and 0.26 xA per game this season. He has also managed 1.88 touches inside the opposition box this season.
Herolind Shala – 28-year-old midfielder from Vålerenga. He has recorded 0.15 xG and 0.26 xA per game this season. He has also managed 3.44 touches inside the opposition box this season, showing his tendency to go higher up the pitch very often.
Apart from them, Saltness of Bodo/Glimt has averaged 0.27 xG per 90 and 0.23 xA per 90. Schulze averages the highest xG per 90 as he has taken the most number of shots as a midfielder in the league with an xG worth of 0.32 per game and touching the ball inside the box 1.67 times on average. Etzaz Hussain is another midfielder who has a good xG per game at 0.27 while also creating chances worth 0.11 xA every game.
The final list of top-performing midfielders is given below in the image:-
The best performing central midfielder according to the statistics in the league are Lumanza Lembi and Jack Ipalibo. Emil Bohinen is another good young midfielder and probably the best U-21 midfielder in the league. All 3 of them play different positions with Lembi playing as an LCMF in a 3 man midfield, Ipalibo playing as a defensive midfielder while Bohinen playing in the right side at the centre of the park.
The stats suggest each of them have their strengths with Ipalibo being a defensive midfielder excelling in the defensive stats, Lembi being a much more of a deep-lying creative midfielder and Bohinen an all-round box to box player contributing to the attack and defence equally. All these players have the calibre to excel in top league’s like Premier League, La Liga and play for clubs like Juventus, who are in a need of a strong defensive midfielder with the departure of Pjanic. They can look into someone like Lembi who is good at progressing the ball while providing good cover to the defence. Further detailed scout reports of these players would give much more clarity on their strengths and weaknesses.
In this piece, we analysed statistically to find the best central midfielders in the Eliteserien, which has become one of the biggest hotspots for talent these days. The best players were found out to be Tortal Lumanza Lembi, Emil Bohenin and Jack Ipalibo.