Replacing Radu: Using Statistical Science to find a Serie A Alternative.

At 33 years old, Radu has played in 13 Serie A campaigns and is a true veteran, next season is likely to be Stefan’s last for his beloved club as his contract expires in June 2021. In this article I have used statistical science to analyse players who are currently in Serie A to see if they would be worth investing in to replace the Romanian. This is the second article of this format following on from my initial post Superseding Senad.

Radar from Organized Chaos

Radu and Lazio

Stefan Radu sits in the Biancocelesti hall of fame with 372 appearances for Lazio, the fourth highest in the clubs history and only four behind Paolo Negro. The Romanian has only made less than 20 appearances in Serie A for Lazio during his tenure with the club. He was signed from Dinamo Bukarest in 2008/09 for a fee of £3.5 million after a successful one year loan the season before.

During this distinguished period Stefan was rewarded with the captains armband during the 2011/12 season and gained International status representing Romania 13 times.

RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA – DECEMBER 22: Senad Lulic and Stefan Radu of SS Lazio celebrate the winning of the Italian Supercup and raising the trophy after the Italian Supercup Final match between Juventus and SS Lazio at King Saud University Stadium on December 22, 2019 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Marco Rosi/Getty Images)

Radu has secured six trophies during his spell with Lazio, lifting the Italian Cup three times (2008/09, 2012/13 and 18/19) and the Italian Super Cup on three occasions in 2009/10, 2017/18 and 2019/20.

As a player Radu is known for his defensive side of the game, strong in the challenge, excellent positioning and possesses a wealth of experience. However it is off the pitch where Stefan also has gained a reputation across the years, the defender has become a pillar to his teammates and under his leadership he has helped to embed core values throughout the squad.

During his time at the club Radu has had to deal with competition for his place in the starting eleven and has always meet the challenge, here is a list of central defenders which Lazio have signed since Radu has featured for the Biancocelesti;

  • 2011/12 Marius Stankevicius £720k Sampdoria
  • 2012/13 Michaël Ciani £1.35m Bordeaux
  • 2014/15 Stefan de Vrij £6.3m Feyenoord
  • 2014/15 Santiago Gentiletti £675k San Lorenzo
  • 2015/16 Maurício £2.4m Sporting
  • 2015/16 Patric £450k Barcelona
  • 2015/16 Wesley Hoedt Free Transfer AZ Alkmaar
  • 2016/17 Wallace £7.2m Braga
  • 2016/17 Bastos £4.5m Rostov
  • 2016/17 Luiz Felipe £675k Ituano
  • 2018/19 Francesco Acerbi £9.5m Sassuolo
  • 2019/20 Denis Vavro £9.5m FC Copenhagen
  • 2019/20 Andreas Karo £144k Apollon Limassol

Data

I have gathered data from whoscored.com which I have used to carry out the below analysis (created in scatterplot) to compare players who have played over nine appearances in Serie A. I have selected areas of the game which I feel are key for a player operating as a centre back and have only highlighted players who have achieved higher figures than the man who we are looking to replace.

Defensive Contribution – Tackles

Lazio favor three at the back with two stoppers either side of defender with license to carry the ball out, play long passes and generally act as a catalyst for attacking (The Libero – Acerbi). This formation puts an emphasis on the stoppers ability to defend and most importantly be good in the tackle.

Studying the data above Stefan Radu is currently winning 75% of his 2.4 tackles which equates to winning 1.8 per 90 minutes.

The key performers in relation to tackling in Serie A are on the right hand side of the dataviz with seven players winning over two tackles per 90 minutes. The stand out performer being José Luis Palomino (30 years) from Atalanta, who is winning 2.9 tackles per 90 in as side which has been playing free-flowing football under Roberto De Zerbi. Palomino has a market value in the region of £9 million, however his current contract expires this summer which could allow Lazio to sign the player on a free transfer.

Many of the other key performers I would deem as being either too old, Domenico Criscito (33), Diego Godin (34) and Martin Caceres (32) or too costly Kalidou Koulibaly (£63m). This leaves Marlon Santos (24) the defender joined Sassuolo in 2018/19 from FC Barcelona and is averaging 2.4 tackles per game and Rodrigo Becão (24) who plays at Udinese and is also making 2.4 tackles per game.

Defensive Contribution – Aerial

Lazio have the best defensive record in Serie A this season, conceding only 23 goals from the 26 games played. The Biancocelesti have proven that they are extremly hard to break down with Inzaghi setting his side up to be compact without the ball when the opposition enter the final third.

This means that often a teams only way to create chances against Lazio is to play a cross into the box and hope to win the aerial battle, therefore making heading an important attribute.

Stefan averages 1.2 successful aerial duels per game, winning 50% of his attempted aerial duels. The Romanian stands at 1.83 meters and the shortest defender in relation to the most popular choices iin central defence for Lazio this season, Acerbi is 1.92 meters and Luiz Felipe 1.87 meters.

The stand out performer in relation to aerial success is Mattia Bani (26) from Bologna, the Italian defender is attempting the most aerial duels per 90 at 6.7 per game highlighting his importance to manager Siniša Mihajlović. Despite having the highest attempts, Mattia also leads in relation to successful aerial duels taking into consideration his win rate of 58%.

Although players worth a notable mention are Chris Smalling (3.7), Berat Dijmsiti (3.5), Bruno Alves (3.4), Amir Rrahmani (3.3), José Luis Palomino (3.3) and Matthijs de Ligt (3.2) who are all winning over three aerial duels per game game in Serie A.

Attacking Contribution – Dribbling

Pressing has become familiar in the modern game, as teams increasingly look to win the ball back higher up the field. This has seen the role of the centre-back change with managers often looking to recruit individuals who are composed on the ball and have the ability to build from the back by playing through the press. For this reason I have opted to look into successful dribbles per 90 to assess individuals who are comfortable on the ball.

Taking the data into consideration Radu is one of the more accomplished dribblers in the league, he averages 0.8 dribbles per game with a success rate of 88%. In fact there is only a single defender in Serie A who completes more successful dribbles per 90 than the Romanian, Davide Biraschi.

The 25 year old from Genoa completes 1.8 successful dribbles per game, a figure which is over double that of Radu in second place. Other players worth a mention are Alessandro Bastoni (20) of Inter and Cristian Romero (21) of Genoa.

One thing for sure is that Davide Nicola certainly likes his central defenders to advance with the ball, this possible could be one key factor in his team conceding the third highest amount of goals in the league (47).

Attacking Contribution – Long Balls

The long ball is a trait which has been commonly associated with Francesco Acerbi in the Lazio defense. The defender often can be found playing a long ball into advanced positions towards the towering figure of Sergej Milinkovic-Savic.

Due to the above reason the long-ball is not a regular feature of Radu’s game, the defender averages just 3.5 successful long balls per game, a figure which is topped by many centre-backs in Serie A.

Most notably Bruno Alves who completes 8.4 long balls per game, the 38 year old clearly acting as a quarterback within the Parma camp. As expected Acerbi is second in the rankings, the Biancocelesti player completing 5.9 long passes per game.

Other notable performers are Simone Iacoponi (5.7), Leonardo Bonucci (5.5), Domenico Criscito (5.3), Diego Godin (5.3) and Patric (5.1).

Conclusion

I have concluded that there are two viable replacements within Serie A taking into consideration the above analysis and the context that Igli Tare would not look to spend a significant amount of monies on the replacement considering the ink from the signing of the unproven Denis Vavro is yet to dry.

José Luis Palomino

José has a market value of £9 million, however as explained earlier his contract with Atalanta is due to expire this summer. If Lazio could secure the player, which would probably depend on who Gian Piero Gasperini would look to bring in, José would bring with him a wealth of experience.

José has played 6,126 minutes over his three seasons in Serie A since his signing from PFK Ludogorets Razgrad in 2017/18 for £4 million. The Argentinian is an exceptional defender which reflects in his numbers this season. Averaging 3.3 successful aerial duels, 2.9 tackles per game and 2.41 interceptions José could be the calibre of player that Lazio would look to sign to bolster their backline in preparation for the Champions League.

Mattia Bani

Mattia Bani has a market value of £2.7 million and is contracted until 2023 with his current club Bologna. At 26 the Italian would be entering his prime and would provide Lazio with a longer term option. Bani has progressed through the league structure in Italy from his years at Reggio Audace in Serie C, stepping up to Serie B with Pro Vercelli and now Serie A with Chievo and now Bologna.

One potential barrier to this transfer is that Mattia only signed for his current club in 2019/20 moving from Chievo for £2.4 million.

Mattia has played a total of 5,800 minutes in Serie A and it could be argued that he has proven himself with sides from mid-table and below and potentially merits an opportunity with a side from the top half of the table.

The Italian is averaging this season 3.9 successful aerial duels per 90 crediting his superior ability in the air, 2.2 Interceptions per game and 1.9 tackles per game, all of which are higher then the man who we have identified him to replace.

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