It’s a question that plenty of West Ham United fans have been asking themselves in the last couple of days, especially after Saturday’s defeat to close rivals Tottenham Hotspur, is youngster Grady Diangana ready for the big step up yet?
The starlet has played just three times in competitive first-team matches but a huge opportunity for him to step up and claim a permanent place in Manuel Pellegrini’s regular starting Xl has arisen. Join us as we analyse that opportunity and whether Diangana is ready to grasp it by carrying out a statistics-driven tactical analysis on his role in the senior set-up so far.
Firstly, we are going to take an in-depth look at the aforementioned opportunity that has reared its head for the 20-year-old and it comes from a great deal of misfortune for one of his teammates.
Winger Andriy Yarmolenko is set to miss the rest of the season, following a torn Achilles heel injury that he collected at London Stadium on Saturday afternoon, before undergoing successful surgery and being given a timescale of around six months out.
This means that there is a chance for Diangana, who came off the bench to replace Yarmolenko for his second PL appearance and played 57 minutes of the Spurs loss, to take the place of the ex-Borussia Dortmund man in Pellegrini’s preferred starting team.
However, he does face some competition from the likes of the far more experienced Robert Snodgrass and Michail Antonio, hence the debate surrounding whether or not he should be given the big opportunity straight away, which we are going to answer today.
Heatmap And Position
For the first of two main phases of our analysis, we have enlisted the help of our good friends over at wyscout.com, to bring you the below graphic, containing a heatmap and position map of Diangana’s from this season so far.
As you can see from his five matches played stat, these maps also take into account his two appearances for West Ham’s under-23 side in the Checkatrade Trophy, defeats to Bristol City and Exeter City.
As both the heatmap and position map shows us, Diangana has been deployed on the right wing this term, his best and preferred position, primarily, which gives him much-needed experience in Yarmolenko’s role under Pellegrini, the right third of a front three, which also contains Felipe Anderson and Marko Arnautovic.
For the second of the two primary parts of our tactical analysis, we are going to delve into the stats behind Diangana’s 2018/2019 at senior level thus far, finding out if they warrant being given the big chance.
To do this, we have taken the above graphic from the excellent Wyscout website, it contains a block of his general stats for each match played and the average of them, the one we are going to be analysing today.
The stats are from his three first-team appearances this term, the only three of his career, a start and his senior debut in the Carabao Cup and two substitute appearances in two Premier League home matches, against Manchester United and the Lilywhites.
The first statistic that we are drawn to in the averages column is total actions and his rate of success in them, Diangana weighing in with a busy 84.04, comfortably over 50 per cent of which were completed successfully.
Next is his eye-catching 1.19 goals per game, having netted twice in the spectacular eight-goal League Cup thrashing of Macclesfield Town at London Stadium, although this is evened out by an average of zero assists so far.
An average of more than four shots with 42.9% of them being on target would rival any 20-year-old to have played in two of the most competitive competitions in the world, along with his 0.45 expected goals rating.
Passing is clearly just another strong point of the Academy of Football graduate’s game as he possesses an 83.3% and 66.5% accuracy, as you can see, in his short and long passing. However, his crossing could do with some work as this is something he will need to do a lot of at senior level, averaging a 0% accuracy from his 1.19 crosses.
As a very skilful player, it’s no surprise to see Diangana with a dribble success rate of over 70% and he is clearly not afraid of doing a bit of dirty work and getting stuck in too, being involved in 23.5 duels and 2.38 aerial duels and winning 43.6% and 25.2% of them respectively, on average.
Almost six interceptions per game, more than both Snodgrass and Antonio, display his excellent reading of the game, although over 11 losses each time he steps onto the senior field may be of concern. But it must be said that around five recoveries with 66.8% coming in the opposition half and a clean disciplinary record makes up for it.
Overall, for a youngster finding his feet not just in the Premier League and League Cup but at first-team level altogether, these figures are much more than just eye-catching, they undoubtedly warrant an opportunity to produce them on a regular basis.
If Diangana is looking for inspiration in making the permanent leap up from reserve team to first-team football, he need not look any further than close friend and teammate Declan Rice.
Having made his senior debut in May 2017, Rice has barely been out of the team since, under three different managers, making over 40 first-team appearances and earning all kinds of recognition in the process. The fact that backs up all of our points: Diangana is a year older than Rice, two years older than him when he became a first-team regular in East London.
In conclusion, our statistical tactical analysis today has found that Diangana is more than ready to make the big set up to the starting Xl in the Premier League, and a permanent place in the first-team set-up.
It’s a gamble that Pellegrini must take as the stats suggest, favouring the out-of-form Antonio and ageing Snodgrass, who could start in an entirely different position anyway, and one that the club has seen pay off massively in the last two years with Diangana’s comrade Rice. At 20, unless he is given his full opportunity soon, he could find himself drifting away into obscurity and Saturday’s trip to the King Power Stadium and whatever lies ahead after that is the perfect chance to give Diangana it, in Yarmolenko’s place.