Paulo Dybala celebrating

FX-Ray Project: Paulo Dybala

After three consecutive failures in major competitions, Argentina will make another desperate attempt to win the World Cup this summer. Among the players of the 23-membered squad, the presence of Paulo Dybala is worth to mention. In Russia, Dybala will take part in a men’s competition with his national team for the first time in his career. Jorge Sampaoli, the head coach of “Albiceleste”, decided to reward his loyalty to the game and his considerable individual progress.

The FX-Ray Project will try to make a deep analysis to the stats of the player, so as to identify whether the reasons of his current selection are justified or not. In addition, a closer look to his performance, season by season, will prove if the current selection is thought to be fair or the player should have been selected in previous completions, as well.

Analysis: Criteria and Limitations of the Research

Paulo Dybala is a charismatic attacking player, with plenty of moves around to the opponent’s area. The research will focus on his offensive features and how beneficial can be for his team. For reaching to safe conclusions about the results of the research, there are several facts that need to be set in order and certain comparisons to be made:

• In the first part of the research, the individual improvement of the player will be presented in specific categories, during his first full season in Palermo and the three following in Juventus.

• In the second part, his quality on the field will be examined, concerning the passing accuracy, the average number of passes match and his preference to finish the scoring opportunities from far, mid or close distance.

• In the third part, his contribution on the offensive plan of his team will be the main objective of the researcher, so as to extract from the analysis how important the role of the player is in the creation of scoring opportunities for him and his teammates.

At this point, it is essential to refer that for the purposes of the analysis, the stats from the major competitions in which Dybala has attended (Serie A, Coppa Italia, Champions League and Supercoppa Italiana) will be analyzed. The data collected come from season 2014-15 until today.

Resilient to the Top Level

The audacity of Dybala, which he has already demonstrated in Italy, has determined the path of his career, so far. In his debut to professional football, at the age of 18, with Instituto de Córdoba in Primera B Nacional of Argentina, he scored 17 goals in 38 appearances. Palermo was the first European club that provided him the chance to play in Europe, back in 2012, and he showed no hesitation for the bigger step, although he was only 19. The same happened when Juventus went for his signature three years later. It was only one year earlier, when Argentina had lost the World Cup final against Germany.  Inevitably, he was not selected in the squad in the World Cup of Brazil, as his first full season in Serie A took place in 2014-15.

It took him only two seasons in Palermo for becoming a precious player for the club, with 35 appearances in all competitions. He was playing as Second Striker, a position in which he managed to reveal many aspects of his talent. He was free to be anywhere on the field. He was attempting many shots, he was dribbling a lot, he knew how to keep the ball possession by winning fouls frequently and he had the perception to pass the ball in the right place at the right time. A sign of immaturity in his game style was the too many unsuccessful touches during the match. Nonetheless, for a club that was trying to avoid the relegation almost every season, his class was imperative.

With his transfer to Juventus, a top European club with rich history both in Italy and Europe, a significant drop to his individual numbers would be expected. On the contrary, Dybala kept the level of his performances higher than the experts’ belief. At his three seasons in “Vecchia Seniora”, he attempts pretty much the same number of shots (but with greater success, as it will be proven below), his passes constitute a permanent threat for the opponent defenders, while he reduces his unsuccessful ball touches. He may suffer less fouls and his dribbles have slightly decreased, but that happens due to the successful rate of dribbles, combined with his great passing skills. The percentage of his successful dribbling attempts as Palermo player was 59.16% (2.68 to 4.53 dribbles), while as Juventus player, his percentage is outstanding (2017-18: 71.92%, 2.51 to 3.49 per match).

Paulo Dybala : World Class Passer, Killer from Distance

Except from top dribbler, Paulo Dybala has many other skills in which he cannot be competed easily. One of these is his ability to secure the ball possession through his passing game. He does not hide himself during the match and prefers the ball to pass from his feet when the team tries to create a scoring opportunity.

In the above graph, the individual tendency of Dybala in passes is illustrated. In the upside line, the passing percentage of the Argentinian proves why he is considered one of the top passers in the world. Over the last four seasons, Dybala passes more successfully than Lionel Messi. During this season, Dybala’s percentage surpassed the 87%, a number which the captain of Barcelona and Argentina have not reached since 2010-11. Of course, Messi’s average passes per match are almost +60% than Dybala’s.

However, Dybala has made an important effort, in order to improve that part in his game style. Since his arrival to Turin, his intention to have more active role in the passing game of his team is obvious. In the downside line, the average passes per match have been increased significantly. More precisely, in 2017-18, he attempted more than 38 passes per match.

Shots DistanceOut of BoxPenalty AreaSix-Yard Box
2014/201536.92%53.78%9.3%
2015/201648.67%47.33%4%
2016/201754.31%44.57%1.12%
2017/201857.10%42.90%0%

The most important feature of an attacking player, in football, is the right perception of space and time. Especially when he has the chance to execute, so as to score a goal for his team. In this table, the inclination of Dybala to execute in front of the opponent goalkeeper is imprinted, based on the distance of the execution. Recently, he prefers to finish the chances out of the box more often, while his finishes from the six-yard box have dropped to 0%.

For making the situation clearer, let’s take a look to the goals that he scored all these seasons. In 2014-15, he scored 13 goals with 53.78% of his chances executed from the penalty area. In 2015-16, he scored 23 goals, with most of his efforts to be finished from outside the box area. In 2016-17 and 2017-18, more than half of his finishes come from outside the box area, by scoring 19 and 26 goals, respectively. As the time passes by, although the distance of Dybala’s shots lengthens, his scoring effectiveness has also been augmented.

Major Factor on the Scoring Contribution

Juventus is a club with qualitative players. As a consequence, the scoring contribution of all these top level footballers should be divided in harmony. Notwithstanding, Paulo Dybala contributes a lot more than his other teammates.

The scoring contribution of Dybala, the last three seasons for Juventus, was 93 goals (68 goals, 25 assists). Meanwhile, the total goals of “Vecchia Seniora” in the same time period was 307. During his first season, in 2015-16, he scored or assisted 32 of the 93 goals that Juventus scored in all competitions (34.40%). In 2016-17, he scored/assisted 28 of the 107 goals that Juventus scored in all competitions (26.17%). Finally, in 2017-18, he scored/assisted 33 of the 107 goals that Juventus scored in all competitions (30.84%). In other words, his total contribution surpasses the 30%.

Moreover, another interesting stat is that he combines his scoring aptitude with significant number of assists at all his three seasons to Juventus (2016: 9 assists, 2017: 9 assists, 2018: 7 assists). His corresponding contribution at his last season in Palermo was 23 goals (10 goals, 13 assists), when his former club had scored only 52 goals in all competitions (44.23%).

In the last graph, the time between the goals and the assists of Dybala are presented. In 2014-15, he was scoring one goal every 235 minutes and giving one assist to a teameate every 305. In Juventus, the time between his assists has increased in each season, but the same thing has not happened with his goals. During the current season, Dybala needed less than three half times in order to send the ball into the nets, when his previous seasons in Turin were also successful in goal range. As a result of his scoring concentration, the range of his assist has grievously shrunk.

Results and Discussion

The findings of the analysis display how valuable is the contribution of Paulo Dybala for the clubs he played for. In 2015, it was his first full season which came along with double digits both in goals and assists in Italian Serie A. Nevertheless, the head coach of Argentina, Tata Martino, did not pick him in the final squad for the Copa America 2015, in Chile. His decision is thought to be justified, because Argentina wanted to claim the trophy and one full season of a young talent could not be considered satisfying enough.

In summer 2015, Dybala transfered to Juventus for 40.000.000€. His first season was incredible, by scoring 23 goals and winning 3 domestic titles (Serie A, Coppa Italia, Supercoppa Italiana). Again, Tata Martino did not include him to the final squad for the Copa América Centenario in the United States, in 2016. If Martino’s previous decision was reasonable, it seems that that decision was not. With Sampaoli, he played in eight matches for the World Cup Qualifiers and he was selected in the final squad for the World Cup of Russia.

Conclusion

Paulo Dybala is a world class player, whose game style and decisions during a match can influence the results of one of the best European clubs ever. The results of the research proved how priceless can be on the field for his club and how bizarre his absence from the national team of Argentina was. This time, Jorge Sampaoli showed him the trust he deserved, hoping that he will have found the piece that was missing, for bringing Argentina back to the glorious paths.


Bibliography

Transfermarkt.com. (2018). Football transfers, rumors, market values, news and statistics. [online] Available at: https://bit.ly/2lvCPOJ [Accessed 2 Jun. 2018].

Whoscored.com. (2018). Football Statistics | Football Live Scores | WhoScored.com. [online] Available at: https://bit.ly/1Vveeqz [Accessed 26 May 2018].

Brunati, V. (2018). Sampaoli será presentado con Argentina el 22 de mayo. [online] AS.com. Available at: https://bit.ly/2LHJ0uu [Accessed 1 Jun. 2018].

SEARLES, M. (2018). Argentina announce provisional 35 man World Cup squad. [online] Mail Online. Available at: https://dailym.ai/2l3wFpx [Accessed 25 May 2018].

Edwards, D. (2018). Argentina World Cup squad: Mauro Icardi left out for Russia 2018 | Goal.com. [online] Goal.com. Available at: https://bit.ly/2sOvG0p [Accessed 25 May 2018].

Afa.com.ar. (2018). Los 23 para la Copa América. [online] Available at: https://bit.ly/2MeHEbP [Accessed 4 Jun. 2018].

Data oriented innovation constitutes half of the most amazing parts in my everyday life. The love and the obsession for sports constitute the other half. In Statathlon, I have found a unique opportunity to combine my passions through research, in order to change the way most people perceive athletism on the whole.

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