smarterthinking

Norway to Korea? No problem!

If you use smarterscout.com, you know that we look at each player through many facets of his game. The idea is to help coaches, scouts, and fans ask the right questions about his performance. You probably also know that we offer league adjustments that allow you to estimate how a player might perform in a different league. And there’s no more important time to use this tool than the transfer window.

To show just how powerful the league adjustments can be, we thought we’d shine a spotlight on a few smaller deals happening during this window – though they’re not small for some of the clubs involved. In each case, a player has moved from one league to a different one that's rather far away. Here’s how we think they’ll do.

Marcel Ritzmaier, a onetime Austria youth international and PSV product, is leaving Wolfsberger for Barnsley after 18 months for an undisclosed fee. The Tykes have had an unusual style this season, in that their defenders and midfielders have taken tons of risks on the ball, often losing possession, but their strikers have been unusually careful. That may all be changing under Gerhard Struber, appointed in November, who is bringing Ritzmaier in from his former club. According to our numbers, Ritzmaier’s ball retention at LM (or CM-L) in the Austrian Bundesliga would be well above average in the Championship, and he’d be an average attacker and defender, including in ground duels. Struber is playing the same 4-3-1-2 formation he used at Wolfsberger, but with captain Alex Mowatt in the CM-L slot. In theory, Struber could swap Mowatt’s outstanding attacking output for Ritzmaier’s ball retention late in games. But have the Tykes signed a sub to save their season, or will the captain be coming off the bench?

Anders Dreyer left his first club, Esbjerg, for Brighton in August 2018 at a cost of €2.2m and has gone on loan in Scotland and the Eredivisie since then. Now he appears to have signed for another supposedly data-driven club, Midtjylland in his native Denmark. The U21 international doesn’t turn 22 until May and hasn’t had much game time at any of his clubs, but he looks a bit above average in attack at RW, with fantastic dribbling, for the Superliga. He’ll need to have a few more minutes at a position before he can be evaluated by our smarterscout young prospect algorithm.

Bjorn Johnsen was born in New York City but came up through the youth ranks at Valerenga in Norway. Since then he’s been at no fewer than ten clubs and now, at only 28 years old, he’s headed to Asia for the first time. The 1.95m striker has gone to Ulsan Hyundai for €1m, and we think it will be money well spent. His attacking output for the past two seasons – at Rosenborg, AZ Alkmaar, and ADO Den Haag – has been excellent by a K League 1 standard. In open play he has strong skill in aerial duels and deadly finishing of non-headers. He’s a hardworking defender, too. Miguel Barbieri, an Argentine CB most recently on loan at Rosario Central, has left Racing Club for Tijuana. In exchange for a $2m fee, the Xolos are getting a player who became much more active in the opposing penalty area last season, and his relatively modest stature of 1.81m probably won’t be a huge issue in Mexico, either. He’s an aggressive defender who looks formidable in aerial duels but weak in the tackle by a Liga MX standard, with iffy ball retention as well.

Mats Moller Daehli, a member of agent Jim Solbakken’s extensive Norwegian stable, is leaving St. Pauli for Genk at a price of €2.5m. At age 24, he already has 23 caps for Norway, and we expect him to offer very high attacking output – with outstanding ball retention to boot – if he continues to play as an incisive passing AM. Just don’t ask him to win a duel in the air, which makes sense, because if you're only 1.77m as a kid in Norway, obviously aerial duels aren't your job. Norway, man. Norway.

[Photo: Litexfan]

Recent articles

Is player ownership of economic rights the next big thing?
What does it mean to be good in the air?
Premier League transfer window needs and ideas
smarterscout SPECIAL REPORT: What can data say about black coaches?