Use xGold to find four replacements for Marc Cucurella

As of this writing, 25-year-old Spain international left-back Marc Cucurella has left Brighton and agreed to join fellow Premier League side Chelsea. The Spaniard moves after spending just one season at the south coast club, having joined Getafe in La Liga in August last year. Indeed, it follows a sort of pattern as Cucurella had only spent one season at Getafe after playing for Barcelona.

When he moved to Brighton there was some surprise from those who didn’t quite see the stylistic fit given that Cucurella had spent the 2020/21 season playing for a Getafe side which was extremely effective but also very difficult to watch given their defensive perspective on the Game.

Brighton, however, have developed one of the most effective and engaging recruitment networks in football with extensive use of data and the ability to adjust their view of players to suit their style of play. current team. This allowed Brighton to look beyond the skewed defensive overview on Cucurella, as his data showed a player with relatively low volume and performance in the attacking and ball progression phases and a large outing. in the defensive phases.

Looking back, which is always interesting in recruitment, we now know Brighton made the right call in believing that Cucurella’s attacking and ball progression figures would improve playing in a more open and attacking side. in his approach to the game. Now, after initial interest from Manchester City, Cucurella will play his football at Stamford Bridge for Chelsea next season. It remains to be seen, however, how the Spaniard fits into a squad that already features England international Ben Chilwell.

Brighton will now focus on finding a suitable option to replace Cucurella production. To be clear at this point, we have no doubt that Brighton already have a short list of alternatives to the Spaniard that would have been worked on for some time. They are, after all, a team that believes in succession planning.

In this data analysis article, we’ll use our proprietary xGold tool to identify four potential Cucurella replacements at Brighton. XGold is a custom tool that allows us to find players whose performance is similar, data-wise, to any player in the world. In order to visualize our player data for this analysis, we are using Wyscout statistics which will be run through Python to create pizza graphs which then show a set of metrics which we use to assess full-backs. The data will also be converted into percentile rankings, with each player compared to full-backs in their own league.

But first we will need to understand how Marc Cucurella performed last season for Brighton

Marc Cucurella, 24, Brighton and Spain

We should start by understanding how Brighton tend to play. Their coach, Graham Potter’s preferred system of play is a 3-5-2 and as such Cucurella tended to be used as a left winger in that system. Brighton are possession driven and finished the 2021/22 Premier League season fourth in the league in possession with an average of 54.8%.

They are also a team that like to play progressively through the third of the pitch and, although centre-backs in Brighton’s system tend to be volume passers in this regard, we have also seen Cucurella contribute. Brighton finished the season with an average of 63 progressive passes per 90, which rank 8th in the Premier League and 50.16 passes to the final third by 90, which ranked 6th in the Premier League.

Cucurella impressed for Brighton in all phases of the game. He was in the 95th percentile for contributions to goals and 97th for the expected contributions to the objectives. In terms of passing and ball progression, he was an important player for Brighton as he finished in the 96th percentile for passes by 90, the 86th percentile of dangerous passes, the 85th percentile for progressive stocks and the 96th percentile for zone entries.

In short, it’s clear that Cucurella is much more than the defensive back we saw at Getafe and it’s easy to see why he’s attracted huge interest from Manchester City and Chelsea this summer.

#1 Antonee Robinson, 24, Fulham and USA 92% game

Antonee Robinson is no stranger to transferring links. In 2020, the USA international left-back was extremely close to an incredible move from Fulham to Serie A as he was set to join AC Milan. In the end, the move fell apart due to a heart problem that was detected by the doctor. It is believed that after undergoing a medical procedure to correct this problem, there are no long term implications for the player. Indeed, the 24-year-old full-back played 3,264 league minutes as Fulham ran away with the league title in the 2021/22 campaign and won promotion to the Premier League.

Last season saw Fulham’s average 59.2% possession, just behind possession-hungry Swansea City, as well as 75.84 progressive passes by 90, the 2nd the highest in the Championship. They also classified 2nd for assists in the final third with 55.22 by 90. Fulham have also played in a 4-2-3-1 form for the most part and as such Robinson should adapt to playing as a winger.

Robinson’s performances last season were very solid, although we should bear in mind that Fulham were generally dominant. He finished in the 80th percentile for contributions to goals, 89th percentile for spans and 99th percentile for accelerations. In the passing phase of the game, he was hugely important for Fulham. He was in the 97th percentile for passes by 90, the 96th percentile of dangerous passes, the 99th percentile for progressive stocks as well as the 92nd percentile for zone entries.

xGold match to Marc Cucurella – 92%

#2 Adrien Truffert, 20 years old, Rennes and France, 88% match

Then we have 20-year-old French U21 international Adrien Truffert from Rennes. The young left-back is a product of Rennes’ youth academy and in the 2021/22 season he played 3049 minutes in Ligue 1 for the French side. Truffert is an extremely modern full-back who is able to contribute significantly at all phases of the game.

Last season we saw Rennes mostly line up in a 4-4-2 or 4-1-4-1 formation so, again, he should adapt to playing as a winger for Brighton. Rennes finished the 2021/22 season with an average of 55.7% possession which saw them rank 4th in possession in League 1, they were similar to Brighton in their approach to moving the ball into the thirds as they averaged 67.75 progressive passes by 90 (5th in the Premier League) and 50.05 passes to the last third by 90 which was 7th the highest in the league.

Truffert returned excellent attacking numbers. He was in the 91st percentile for contributions to goals and 80th percentile for expected contributions to goals. Interestingly, he was also in the 91st percentile for shots and 93rd percentile for accelerations. However, it was less impressive in the passage and progression phase than it was in the 80th percentile for passes, the 60th percentile of dangerous passes, the 65th percentile for progressive stocks and the 55th percentile for area integers.

However, we also have to keep in mind that Truffert is only 20 years old and will continue to develop.

xGold match against Marc Cucurella – 88%

#3 Sergio Gomez, 21, Anderlecht and Spain, 87% match

The next player on our list is one who has already been linked with Manchester City as a potential Cucurella alternative in 21-year-old Spain full-back Sergio Gomez from Anderlecht. Gomez is, like Cucurella, a former Barcelona player although he left the club while still in the U19 squad to join Borussia Dortmund in Germany.

Despite clear potential, he never really made an impact in Germany before moving to Belgium to join Anderlecht on a permanent deal in July 2021. Gomez was actually initially a winger although he has now been converted back /wingback.

Last season, under new Burnley manager Vincent Kompany, we saw Anderlecht play mostly in a 4-4-2 formation. They were possession-oriented with an average of 55.4% possession which was the 3rd the highest in the Belgian Pro League. They averaged 73.54 progressive passes by 90, the 7th the highest in the league, and 57.7 goes to the last third by 90, the 2nd the highest in the Pro League.

Last season we saw Gomez finish in the 95th percentile for contributions to goals and 97th percentile for expected contributions to goals. He was also in the 84th percentile for shots par 90. The Spaniard was also important in terms of ball progression as he finished in the 96th percentile for passes, the 86th percentile of dangerous passes, the 85th percentile for progressive stocks and the 96th percentile for area integers.

xGold match against Marc Cucurella – 87%

#4 Quentin Merlin, 20 years old, Nantes and France, 86% match

Quentin Merlin is perhaps the biggest outlier in terms of coming from a side that doesn’t match this Brighton side stylistically. He spent more time than others playing as a winger as Nantes last season went from a four-game and three-game system throughout the season.

They weren’t too heavy in possession though as they finished the 2021/22 Ligue 1 season with an average possession of 44.1%, a total that saw them rank 17th for possession in the French top flight. They averaged 60.43 progressive passing by 90, which ranked them 16th in the league and 47.82 passes to the last third by 90, leaving the side 10th in League 1.

If we look beyond these metrics, in the same way Brighton had to when signing Cucurella from Getafe in the first place, we start to see a player with the potential to adapt his game to a more dominated by possession.

In the offensive phase, Merlin finished with a decent outing as he was in the 82nd percentile for contributions to goals and 83rd percentile for expected contributions to goals. Although he played for a team that didn’t see the ball much, Merlin was also in the 73rd percentile for passes per 90. He was effective with those passes though as he finished in the 94th percentile of dangerous passes, the 98th percentile for progressive stocks and the 88th percentile for zone entries.

xGold match against Marc Cucurella – 86%

Conclusion

Now that the deal to take Cucurella to Chelsea is complete, we’re likely to see Brighton weigh their options, although it’s extremely unlikely they’ll take long to make a move towards a potential left-winger replacement. By using xGold we cut a lot of the noise in terms of football recruitment to ensure we select the right players to then move on to the next stage of the recruitment process.

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