When a young kid is asked in what position he'd like to play, it's highly unlikely that he will reply a left-back or any defensive position in particular. But in the current era, there's a change in the trend where full-backs are encouraged more and more to develop offensive characteristics. After the likes of Marcelo, Alba, Alaba, Robertson, Alphonso Davies is the new shining light in the left-back position who has excelled in Bayern Munich this season and that's not only in terms of speed. After his debut in January 2019, there has been only one way to stardom for the 'Road Runner' and that's upwards. So where does he stand in terms of attributes and contribution compared to the other starlets in left-back/left wingback position?
In Bundesliga many top teams have opted for three at the back, making the use of wingbacks more prominent. Despite the back-four system of Bayern, Davies can match up to the wing-backs thanks to his excellent pace and workload.
Style of Play
An out and out winger back in his Whitecaps days due to his speed and crossing ability. But at Bayern, his position changed but his attributes have remained the same. Bayern Munich has a dynasty of possession-based attacking style and under Hans-Dieter Flick, it has remained the same. Out of the two full-backs, Pavard is more defensive-minded and stays back while Davies drives forward. Thanks to his lightning pace Davies can trackback quickly and hinder the opponent. Davies even at his young age has astute tactical awareness and identifies threats and weaknesses despite not being a natural defender. Most of Bayern's attacks are wing oriented and this helps Davies to bomb forward more often. Bayern wingers or wide players tend to drift infield that creates spaces out wide which are attacked with real intent by Davies on the left side, his heatmap shows the evidence of it.
As the 2019-20 season has progressed, spiral improvement in Davies's gameplay is noticeable. In Bundesliga he has featured for 1953 minutes, scoring three times and assisting five times. His 35 key passes are one of the best outputs from a left-back in Bundesliga if not the best. 40 chance creations are also Indicating to his passing ability. 64% of dribble success is also impressive along with 62% tackle success rate. His 37% cross accuracy has also aided Bayern's attacking play. From defensive perspective his recovery run on Haland was clocked at 21.9 mph, one of his many recoveries runs this season. Compared to the other top performers of the same position of left wingbacks like Maximilian Mittelstaedt, Marcel Halstenberg, Rafa Guerreiro things look quite impressive for Davies. Rafael Guerreiro has 10 goal involvements in the Bundesliga with 8 goals and 2 assists but it is worth mentioning that Guerreiro has set-piece duties and was also deployed as a central midfielder and left midfielder. Halstenberg of RB Leipzig is another top performer with 77% dribble success and is second to Davies for crossing accuracy of 35%. Halstenberg is also the top tackler among the four with 66% successful tackles. 32 key passes and 34 chances creation also speaks for his attacking play. Guerreiro's versatility puts him in a balanced position in our verdict whereas Mittelstaedt is more comfortable on the defensive front having the highest numbers of blocks, interception and clearance with a very healthy dribble and tackle success rate. Readers may be curious that why dribble success matters for a defender? It does matter since higher dribble success implies that the player is more capable to resist the press when pressured. Also for easier interpretation crossing, key passes, chances created are measures of attacking threat and blocks, clearances, interceptions and tackle success indicates defensive ability.
The best-attacking left-back in Bundesliga is the Bayern Man Alphonso Davies.
A Place Among the Best Ones
Now on a wider scale compared to the other top left-backs of other European top leagues things look tight. Selected testimony for the verdict are Andrew Robertson, Alex Sandro, Sergio Reguilon and Theo Hernandez. Breakdown of data shows Robertson being the most creative with staggering figures of 43 key passes and 50 chances created. Reguilon is a close second tied with Davies but Davies has played more minutes. Though the Real Madrid loanee tops in dribble success with 73% followed by Sandro with a 69% success rate. Theo Hernandez of AC Milan is an interesting character who has finished moves rather than creating it and has 5 goals to his name. His crossing accuracy is as low as Robertson but the high quantity of Robertson has earned him 7 assists. The Liverpool man has also a high number of clearances and interception making him a very valuable asset in both attack and defence.
Despite the excellent progress of Davies, he is yet to reach the level of Robertson. It will be an injustice to even expect that much efficiency in his breakthrough season but certainly, he has all the materials to become the leading left-back of the next generation if he keeps his mind focused in onfield matters.
Only league seasons have been considered here. Cups and European ties have been excluded.
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