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Electric Youth: The Rise of Alphonso Davies

 

Bayern Munich’s Alphonso Davies is one of the most highly rated talents playing in the Bundesliga in 2019/20. Despite his youth, Davies has become an indispensable part of Hans-Dieter Flick’s starting XI. Let’s take a closer look at what makes the youngster so good.

By: Lars Wiedemann

Born in Ghana in November 2000, Davies moved to the German Bundesliga from the Vancouver Whitecaps during the winter break of 2018/19 as a budding left winger. But the 19-year-old had to wait almost a year for his breakthrough, managing to take his chance while teammates Niklas Süle and Lucas Hernandez struggled with long-lasting injuries. These injuries led to left-back David Alaba moving into the middle of defence and Davies found himself thrust into a new role at left wing-back.

Under Flick – who took charge in November 2019 – Davies is the only outfield player who has started in all 21 of his matches in all competitions, and the Canadian has also played the most minutes of any player under Flick:

Dangerous skillset:

Davies possesses many of the skills demanded of a modern-day winger – speed, bravery, accuracy of pass and a deep understanding of the game. Davies’ athletic ability is tough to match. Only Kingsley Coman has reached a higher top speed for Bayern in the Bundesliga this season (35.7 km/h) than the Canadian flyer (35.3 km/h). Of the regular starters in Bayern’s squad, Davies has the most sprints per 90 minutes too (37). As demonstrated for Robert Lewandowski’s third goal against Chelsea in the Champions League in February 2020, where Davies provided a jet-heeled run and accurate cross, the Canadian’s athleticism is a huge attacking threat.

While his speed allows him to get into advanced attacking positions, Davies is also a very accurate crosser. The Canadian has the best crossing accuracy (37%) among those players who have attempted at least 30 open-play crosses in the Bundesliga this season.

His lightning pace and accuracy were perfectly captured in that Lewandowski goal. The sequence map below shows that the move starts with a take-on before Davies’ acceleration and speed enable him to glide past Christensen and drive into the box to cross for Lewandowski to score.

In the Bundesliga, Davies’ formula for success is similar. As full-back, the Canadian often tries to use his elite speed to drive into the box to create dangerous situations.  His expected assists map shows that while three of his four assists this campaign have come from outside box, he has created another four excellent scoring opportunities from inside the box.

Attacking involvement:

Looking deeper into sequences, Davies’ contribution to Bayern’s attacking dominance is even more impressive. He is one of four regular full-backs in the Bundesliga with 100+ involvements in sequences that end in a shot. Seventeen of these sequences ended in a goal, which is the highest contribution of any full-back.

Davies has also started 24 sequences ending in a shot, again the highest number of any Bundesliga full-back.

Elite one-on-one dribbler:

With his bravery and speed, Davies is one of the leading Bundesliga players in terms of take-ons. He has attempted the most take-ons (112) of all Bayern players and is one of just seven players in the Bundesliga to attempted over 100. The fact that two-thirds of his take-ons have come in the opposition’s half demonstrates how advanced the Bayern full-back typically plays.

But it’s not only the quantity of his take-ons that makes him a nightmare to defend in one-on-one situations. Davies also has the highest success rate (58%) of all full-backs in Bundesliga this season:

Another interesting element of take-ons we can analyse is how far a player progresses the ball after his take-on. In the case of Davies, he is averaging 8.6 metres per carry including take-ons – the furthest distance of all regular starters in his team with at least 700 minutes played in the league. Davies appears to be benefitting from his former position as left winger and fits perfectly into Bayern’s tactical line-up, where Flick encourages his full-backs to push forward and play very offensively.

Much is made of Davies’ athleticism offensively, but his speed is a defensive asset, as well. When Bayern push numbers high up the field in attack or indeed when high pressing to win back possession, it is essential they have defenders with the speed able to recover and maintain defensive strength.

With his recent contract extension until 2025, Bayern Munich have placed enormous confidence in the 19-year-old as David Alaba’s long-term successor on the left defensive wing. Davies looks like he is already repaying their faith.