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Electric Youth: The Rise of Alphonso Davies

 

Bayern Munich’s Alphonso Davies has become one of the most highly-rated young talents in the world. Despite his youth, Davies has become an indispensable part of Hansi Flick’s starting XI. Let’s take a closer behind the astronomic rise of the young Canadian. 

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 has become a staple in Flick’s side, starting in 32 out of 33 matches in all competitions, and the Canadian has also played the most minutes of any outfield player under Flick:

Most minutes under Hansi Flick

As of Tuesday 18th August 2020

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. He has reached the highest top speed in the Bundesliga this season (36.5 km/h), highlighting his electric pace. 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 (39%) among those players who have attempted at least 45 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 five assists this campaign have come from outside the 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 seven regular full-backs in the Bundesliga with 100+ involvements in sequences that end in a shot. Davies has also started 33 sequences ending in a shot, 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 (145) of all Bayern players – in the league only Filip Kostic (146) and Jadon Sancho (155) have attempted more. The fact that 70 percent of Davies’ take-ons have come in the opposition’s half demonstrates how advanced the Bayern full-back typically plays.

Alphonso Davies take-on map

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 (57%) 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 12.1 metres per carry including take-ons – the furthest distance of all regular starters in his team. 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. One only has to think of his 19-touch assist for Kimmich against Barcelona as a clear example of the qualities Davies can offer.

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.


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