I was spending some time perusing squad lists for the Euros yesterday. What struck me was how many players I knew nothing or next to nothing about. There are a lot of downsides about the twenty-four team format, fewer competitive games, less compelling group stage matches etc. but one of the positives will be an opportunity to discover more new players than we have in the past.
There are some good arguments that teams shouldn’t spend much time scouting players during the Euros: the sample size is ridiculously small, the level of competition is varied and players are playing with unfamiliar teammates. But whatever arguments there are to be made against scouting at the Euros teams are going to be doing it anyways so I think it is worth asking how to do it well. What should we look for from players in a small sample size playing on such a big stage? How do teams avoid becoming the summer’s scapegoat for signing a player who never lives up to his tournament performance?
I floated the question on twitter and got some interesting responses one thing they all had in common was that they were non-data based methods of evaluating players (or at least not strictly data-based). Do they look comfortable? Do they handle the pressure of playing on the big stage well? Do they adapt well to playing with unfamiliar teammates?
So I’ve decided to use this as a tool or a trial run to see how well this type of scouting at a major tournament works. I’ve chosen five young attacking players who I’ve done some very preliminary statistics based research on (basically just minutes, non-penalty goals and assists). Other than being under 21 and attacking – because let’s be honest watching attacking players is just more fun and tournament football is all about enjoying the summer – the only additional requirement was that these be players I have never watched play before. It could be that as soon as I see them at the Euros I realize immediately they aren’t as good as their numbers might suggest. That is the whole point of this to see what kind of insight we can get into a player purely from watching their performances at the Euros.
On top of watching these players myself I want to make this a public thing if you are watching these games involving any of these players let me know what you think. Did you learn something about the player watching them play? Do you think you know more about them than you did before the match?
So here are the five players I’ve selected.
Shani Tarashaj – Switzerland (Everton)
Tarashaj – 21 years old – has played his whole career at Grasshopers and was bought by Everton this past January, but was immediately loaned back. He had 0.46 Non-penalty goals per 90 minutes this season in Switzerland. He plays as an attacking midfielder and second striker.
Oleksandr Zinchenko – Ukraine (Ufa)
Zinchenko is only 19 years old and plays for Ufa in the Russian Premier League. He is an attacking midfielder and had 0.21 assists per 90 minutes popping in with a couple goals as well. He’s played just over 2000 minutes as a full professional, so it will be interesting to see how he does on the big stage.
Mariusz Stepinski – Poland (Ruch Chorzow)
Stepinski – 21 years old – plays mostly as a striker and scored an impressive 14 non-penalty goals last season (0.47 per 90 minutes) playing in the Polish League. He had a spell at Nuremburg earlier in his career, but was sent back to Poland after only one full season.
Emre Mor – Turkey (FC Nordsjaelland)
At only 18 years old Liverpool target Mor will be an interesting player to watch in France. He’s on here for his age as much as anything else, he has two goals and two assists in 973 minutes this year in Denmark, his first season as a professional. Marcus Rashford is the only player younger than him at the tournament.
Ante Coric – Croatia (Dinamo Zagreb)
Coric is 19 years old and has already played 3000 league minutes for a side that has won the Croatia League three years in a row. He averaged 0.48 non-penalty goals and assists per 90 minutes last season playing at a fairly high level. The previous season he had 8 assists for an average of 0.625 per 90 minutes.
The main worry with targeting younger players is that they may get less playing time than others at the tournament, but I think it makes for a more interesting case study. So if you are watching any of these players during the tournament let me know what you think, tweet at me (@gregorydsam) or if you feel so inclined write up a more comprehensive scouting report and see if we can’t learn anything new about these relative “unknowns” playing at the Euros.