West Ham United defender Fabian Balbuena has this week admitted that he initially struggled to adapt to living in England in an interview with the club’s official website, following his summer move from his native South America.
But while the defender may have found it hard to settle into the London life off the pitch, how has the Paraguayan International fared on it, trying to get to grips with the most competitive league in the world, in the Premier League? Today, we are going to carry out a statistics-driven tactical analysis of his season so far to find out, join us.
Heatmap And Position
For the first phase of our analysis, we will be taking an in-depth look at the man who has played every minute in the PL this season’s heatmap and position map, with a little help from our friends over at wyscout.com.
The above graphic, taken from the fantastic Wyscout website, displays his heatmap and position map, along with some statistics showing his disciplinary record and the fact that he has featured for the entirety of every Hammers league game this term.
As we can see from both maps, Balbuena has been deployed in the right centre-back position within a back-four consistently and has covered his ground excellently. He has popped up everywhere from his own box to the halfway line frequently, this is the style of defender he is and the reason he has been favoured so much by Manuel Pellegrini.
Next, with our data provided by Wyscout once more, it’s time to analyse some of the seven-cap Paraguay International’s general stat averages from the campaign so far.
As you can see, in the graphic there is a list of these stats for each game he’s played, all of which have come in the English Top-Flight having not featured in the Carabao Cup yet. However, today, we are just going to be focussing on the averages column at the very top.
These stats are per 90 minutes and the first one we are drawn to in the graphic is total actions and the rate of success Balbuena enjoys with them, he is a very busy man on the field of play with an average of 59.06, an impressive 63.9 per cent of which are completed successfully.
While he has earned more acclaim for his work at the opposite end of the pitch in his first few months in English football, the graphic also tells us he offers something in an attacking sense, averaging 0.63 shots per game and getting a small percentage of them on target.
You can add this to a respectable, for a centre-back, expected goals rating of 0.04, although, he is yet to score or assist since signing from Brazilian club Corinthians in July.
Defenders and especially central ones are never judged too highly on their passing but this is not an area where ‘The General’ has struggled, achieving over 86% accuracy with his short passes and not doing too badly with his trickier longer ones either with just under 50%, as we can see.
Understandably, crossing isn’t his strong point with a 0% accuracy from his average 0.1 and uncharacteristically for a player in his position, he has attempted the odd dribble and with positive outcomes, too, a 59.6% completion rate as he has stepped up into midfield and made vital inroads into the opposition half, on occasion.
It will come as a slight disappointment to Balbuena that he hasn’t been able to win more than 50% of his duels or aerial duels given his height and aforementioned physicality. Although, he is involved in plenty and he more than makes up with it with his eye-catching 7.4 interceptions.
He closes with an average 8.85 losses, over 50% coming in his own half, however, this is balanced out by his 10.1 recoveries per match, the lion’s share protecting his own goal in his own half. Meanwhile, his disciplinary record has been excellent, collecting just one booking at just over 0.1 per game, which is just out of the picture.
Overall, these figures would be more than respectable for a centre-half with years, let alone just weeks, of Premier League experience as life on the pitch, has been much simpler for Balbuena. These stats prove that he has taken to life in the world’s toughest league against the world’s toughest strikers, like a duck to water.
Partnership With Diop
One of the keys to the Paraguay man faring so well for West Ham has been the relative consistency around him as, for the last seven games, the man to the left of him, his centre-back partner, has been the same.
The defender alongside him in Pellegrini’s preferred Xl which has been implemented over the last two months is fellow summer signing Issa Diop as the pair have helped each other get used to the pressures of the PL. They’ve contributed to the team’s only clean sheet of the season, conceding a mere eight goals in seven games together, they look to be the future of the club’s central defence.
In conclusion, our statistical tactical analysis today has found that while he may have found it hard to settle into life thousands of miles away from his home and in an entirely new continent and country, his football hasn’t suffered, as a result.
Balbuena has adapted perfectly on the pitch, forming a new long-term centre-back partnership with Diop and making one of the best starts to life in Claret & Blue among the nine first-team summer signings. His form has helped him regain his place in the national team, and at the age of 27, his prime is truly upon him and the only way from here is up in the best league in the world.