In this scout report, we will look at Nordsjaelland’s young left-back Mathias Rasmussen, who is also capable of operating even as a wing-back as well as a midfielder. He has been crucial to Nordsjaelland’s attacking success this season where he has contributed 3 goals and 2 assists as an attacking full-back.
Rasmussen has been deployed as a left-back in the 4-3-3 system and as a left wing-back in a 3-4-3/3-5-2 system by Flemming Pedersen. In their attacking and fluid style of play, Rasmussen is given the freedom to press higher up the pitch and also is one of their major creative threats. We can see some red areas in the final third in his positioning map.
His experience in playing as a winger and as a left-sided central midfielder has certainly helped Norsdjaelland use him as an attacking full-back or a wing-back. The big white circle indicates that he has mostly played a left-back this season and the small one ahead of that indicates the left wing-back. There are some red spots in the box too as he has also made some darting runs into the box to give Nordsjaelland some attacking edge.
Defending duels and Interceptions
Rasmussen has averaged 6.6 defensive duels per 90 this season. Along with that he also won 62.07% of them. Among some of the best full-backs in the league, he has outnumbered most of them. The chart below shows the duels attempted in the form of bars and duels won represented by lines (dual-axis). Only Bah and Diks have recorded more duels won, but their percentage is lesser than that of Rasmussen’s.
He has even averaged more duels than his teammate and with whom he has been fighting for a left-back spot, C. Antwi. The following image consists of the defending duels he has made this season. The histogram shows that he is in the top half of the table in both duels as well as the duels won % categories.
He has made some high-risk slide tackles at the edge of the penalty area and has won all of them. This shows his ability as a no-nonsense defender. In terms of recoveries, he has also stood out by averaging 9.11 recoveries/90 and 3.49 of them being in counter-pressing situations. This has helped Nordsjaelland to launch quick counter-attacks and score goals.
In the above image, we can see that a player is making a blindside run into space in behind. Rasmussen (circled) has identified that and immediately makes a run to intercept the long ball (red arrow). The danger of a big chance is hence thwarted by the youngster.
The above chart has Rasmussen’s recovery map. We can infer he has a hybrid of positioning, counter-pressing, and interceptions equally spread. 44 recoveries have come in the middle-third, which is one of the most important zones in which a team starts a counter-attack. He has also won 12 of them in the final-third with 8 of them being from counter-pressing, this has helped Nordsjaelland in counter-attacking situations. We can see a lone blue interception mark in the opponent’s box. That is a recovery by Rasmussen which directly led to a goal.
Dribbling and offensive duels
Rasmussen has a great ability to get the ball past his opponents. He has averaged 3.86 dribbles/90 with 2.49 of them being successful (66.67%). The most important thing about his dribbling is that it has directly/indirectly led to goal-scoring chances. In the map below we can see his dribbling map. He has also averaged 6.22 offensive duels/90 with a very good win % of 54.88%.
We can see from the map that 11 of his dribbles have led to a shot and 2 of them resulted in goals. The shots following his dribbles are worth 1.87 xG. This shows his ability to create scoring chances for his team using his pace and skills which is an important attribute for a modern-day full-back like Alphonse Davies of Bayern Munich.
In the image above, Rasmussen receives a ball from his teammate. He notices that an opposition player is charging at him to recover the ball. He immediately adjusts his body orientation to fake the opponent to put it into space. This makes the opponent lose his balance and so Rasmussen dribbles past him.
Nordsjaelland’s tactics allow him to stay high and contribute to the attack if necessary. In the above image, we can see him occupying a huge amount of space and waiting for the ball to come at him. Once he receives the ball he darts into the box, feints his marker and puts in a cross. This eventually led to a shooting chance.
The chart below shows how well he compares with some of the top full-backs in the league. The red bar indicates the total dribbles attempted and the orange ones are the successful dribbles attempted.
Rasmussen is one of the top progressors of the ball in the Danish Superliga. He averages 3.04 progressive runs/90, which is 2nd highest in the league behind Copenhagen’s G. Varela. He also attempts 9.41 progressive passes/90. The chart below can tell us how good he is as he is in the top half.
His progression map is given below. We can see how well he can play the ball into the space behind the opposition’s defence. He also switches flanks by passing the ball to the other flank where the player in that flank is in huge space for them to exploit it.
One of the most important attributes for a modern-day full-back is to deliver good crosses into the box that could create goal-scoring chances. Clubs like Liverpool and Leicester City have good full-backs who deliver these time and time again with consistency. Rasmussen’s experience as a left central midfielder gives him the ability to deliver crosses/cut-backs to his teammates. He delivers 3.54 crosses/90 with an accuracy of 35.42 (1.18 of them accurate).
Most of them are high crosses that he has delivered but he has also put into come cut-backs using his pace and dribbling ability to charge into the box. His crosses have yielded an xA of 1.11 from which he has pocketed only 1. We can see an example of one of his cut-backs, which led to a shot.
In the chart below, we can see that he is in present in the top-right quadrant, which consists of players averaging crosses/90 and accuracy above the league average for the full-backs. Some players have better accuracy and have attempted much more crosses than Rasmussen, but it should be noted that most of his crosses are into the goalie area, which is closest to the goal.
Apart from crosses Rasmussen is also good in retaining possession and helps his team in keeping them. He averages 42.8 passes per 90 which are just above his teammate Antwi at 42.4. Not only that, but he also averages a good amount of key passes and smart passes among the full-backs in the league. He records 0.72 key passes/90 and 0.59 smart passes/90: this is a very good ratio for someone who is a full-back. Compared with other full-backs in the leagues, we can see that he has a higher smart pass as well as key passes than most of them. The size of the bubble is directly proportional to the number of smart passes.
In the image below, we can see that after receiving the ball he dribbles into the box. There he beats a defender by dummying and finds one of his teammates at the edge of the penalty area coming into the box having huge space. He immediately plays a pass with his weaker right foot to create a goal-scoring chance.
His experience in playing as a midfielder gives him the vision to find teammates in spaces. An example of that is given below. He finds a defender stepping forward to press him. On the other hand, he also sees his teammate making a run into the space behind the defender. He immediately puts a pass into that space and makes an underlapping run.
Another example of his vision given below. 2 defenders go after him to recover the ball. He notices his teammate is free of markers behind as the defenders went after Rasmussen. Immediately he plays a backheel pass to him to continue the attack.
Rasmussen has scored 3 goals and has assisted a further 2 goals from 17 appearances this season. His expected goals stand at 0.08 per 90 and xA at 0.14 per 90: this is a great return for a full-back. We can see how he fares in those 2 metrics when compared with the other full-backs from Superliga.
He averages 0.99 shots/90 (14th best among the full-backs) with an xG/shot of 0.09. In the above example, we can see him passing the ball to his teammate in the first image (white arrow). Immediately then he makes a run into the box and escapes his marker. Following that he receives a lob pass from the same teammate and goes on to score a goal (second image).
He has also been deployed to be in the box during set-pieces. In the example above we can see him inside the box during a corner. He is being closely marked by the opposition defender, but he escapes his marker with some intelligent runs and scores a goal from the set-piece. In another example below, we can see him standing close to the edge of the box without any marker. A cross into the box was deflected. Since he has no marker he reaches to the ball and scores another goal. His presence in the box is similar to Marcos Alonso of Chelsea, who is also known to make runs into the box as a left-back.
As discussed before, he has also created some high-quality chances for his teammates. Most of his shot assists have not resulted in goals due to his teammates’ poor finishing. He has roughly averaged 1.21 shot assists/90 this season, which is a great record for a full-back. An example of one of his assists is given below. The scorer is not present in the image but the location of his shot is indicated by the tip of the arrow.
Due to his pace and technique, he is also a great threat during counter-attacking situations. We can see his actions during counter-attacks in the map below. He has taken a shot, won dribbles and has played accurate passes in such situations. His xGchain (contribution to goals apart from assists and goal) during counter-attacks situations is at 0.13 per 90 while only five full-backs have higher value of xGchain than him in such situations.
Finding the full-backs similar to him
We did a clustering analysis to find the full-backs similar to Rasmussen in Europe’s top-5 leagues. We considered stats like crosses, dribbles, ball progressions, xA, interceptions, and defensive duels. From the analysis, we got he belongs to an elite category of full-backs which includes the likes of Alphonse Davies, Ben Chilwell, Dani Carvajal, and Alex Sandro of Juventus. This is a very good category of full-backs who are amongst the best in their respective leagues. At first, we compared the dribbling abilities of these full-backs. We found that Rasmussen has better accuracy than all but Sandro. However, Sandro has attempted much fewer dribbles than Rasmussen.
The only defender in that list comparable to Rasmussen in terms of a number of dribbles attempted/90 is Davies. The orange segment in the pie chart is the number of unsuccessful dribbles/90 and the yellow is the successful ones. Comparing his passing stats, we can see that Rasmussen has made more key passes/90 than all of them while only Sandro and Carvajal have completed more smart passes/90 than him.
Even his defensive stats are pretty good as he averages more successful defensive actions than the likes of Sandro, Chilwell and Davies while also managing to win duels at a very good rate. The brown line chart indicates the duels won % while the bar plot indicates the successful duels won/90.
When it comes to the crossing ability, we can see that he performs very well especially when compared with good deliverers like Chilwell and Carvajal. He attempted more crosses than all but for Davies, yet he has better accuracy than him. The bar plot indicates the accuracy rate while the circles denote crosses attempted/90.
His goal contributions have also been superior to that of these set of players. His larger bubble size indicated that he has more xG/90 than all of them, while only Carvajal has better xA/90 than Rasmussen.
A thing to be noted is that the above players are compared with him only based on their stats which looked similar to Rasmussen’s after clustering. The point of this section is not to prove he is better than the above-mentioned players as they play in much stronger and competitive leagues. The point proven here is that a person of his potential could soon find himself playing in a top league if not the top-5 leagues simply based on the stats.
Comparison with Clinton Antwi
Clinton Atwi is the only other recognised full-back that Nordsjaelland has apart from Rasmussen. They have used the likes of Mohammed Diomande and Ivan Mesik as makeshift options during some injury crisis to Rasmussen while for the better part of the first half of the season, Rasmussen was rotated with Antwi. Let’s check their statistics and analyse.
From the chart, we can see who is the winner and the most complete here. Rasmussen has outperformed Antwi in all the metrics that we have considered here. Although Antwi is 2 years younger, Rasmussen has been stronger both offensively as well as defensively.
Areas for Improvement
Rasmussen is one of the few Nordsjaelland players that sees a lot of the ball. Being one of the chief creators on the ball, he gets to have many touches on it. Also, he loses the ball a lot of times during a match. This has forced a lot of turnovers for the opposition.
We can see a lot of inaccurate passes from him and also a lot of lost duels in his own-third where he lost the ball 26 times this season. Luckily his losses have not resulted in goals but still, they have yielded an xG of 0.21. However, at a very early age, this is an aspect he ought to be improving if he has to move into the big leagues, where the opposition could be much more ruthless into counter-attacks.
Rasmussen is a great prospect who is destined for a top league team shortly. Though he has not played since December due to injury concerns, he still has been impressive in the matches he has appeared. Teams like Chelsea and Tottenham are into the market for a full-back and Rasmussen can be an absolute bargain option.