Ziyech outshines Gudelj in every aspect of the game

Family and friends often refer to me as some sort of football Albert Einstein. I usually know a player’s strong foot, height, weight, former clubs and basically everything else you could ever want to know about football players. Especially in the Eredivisie im quite comfortable with player statistics.

One of the key statistics for any player is their passing accuracy. If you can’t manage to properly pass a ball to someone of your own team you probably shouldn’t be playing football at all. This season’s top passer for Ajax in the Eredivisie so far has been none other than Heiko Westermann. You read that correctly, Heiko Westermann. The German centreback managed to find a teammate with 93,8% of his passes. However, with only 48 minutes played and a very few amount of passes, that cannot be considered much of an achievement. Second on the list is Riedewald with an accuracy of 92,2%, while Van de Beek is in third with 91,4%.

What is quite the achievement is André Onana’s distribution. Comparing his stats to those of Jasper Cillessen, the current Ajax goalie seems to be much more proficient at successfully passing the ball: 72,9% of his passes reached a teammate compared to Cillessen’s 64,7%. This percentage includes Onana’s sloppy performance against AZ last weekend. Another difference between the two goalkeepers is in the long pass section: Cillessen had an average of 8 long passes per match while Onana only plays 5,1. These stats show that Onana doesn’t get into positions where he’s forced a long ball or he manages to find himself a different solution. Either way, Onana’s passing is more accurate than that of Cillessen and the fewer amount of long balls also benefits Ajax build up play-style.

One of the other new faces in the team is that of Davinson Sánchez. The rather scary looking Colombian defender has made quite the name for himself. Averaging 2 tackles, 7,2 clearances, 2,9 interceptions and 2 won aerial duels per match, Sánchez is exactly what Ajax have been lacking the last couple of seasons: a real defender. But that doesn’t mean he’s just a defender; averaging 52 passes per game with an accuracy of 90,2%, he’s proven to fit the role of ball-playing defender just fine. And these statistics are even more impressive when you take into consideration he’s only 20 years of age and doesn’t even speak the same language as his teammates.

The next newcomer on the list is Kasper Dolberg. The young Dane has proven himself to be a real goalgetter, and that’s exactly what the statistics underwrite. He’s averaging a goal every 120 minutes and wins over half of his aerial duels, significantly better than his fellow strikers Cassierra and Troaré.

With all of the news surrounding Nemanja Gudelj this week, let’s compare his performances to those of Hakim Ziyech, to whom he lost his place in the starting lineup. First of all, you’d think the Serbian would be the more sufficient tackler, but surprisingly enough Ziyech outshines him in that area with 1,8 successful tackles versus 1,6. The newly signed playmaker is also much better at creating opportunities for teammates (3,5 key passes per 90 minutes compared to Gudelj’s 2) and has contributed to far more goals than his Serbian counterpart. Bosz’ decision to bench Gudelj in favor of Ziyech seems to be more than justified.