This series takes a look at the latest signings and statistically analyzes those individuals’ contributions and how they compare to the current squad.
Previous article in this series: Achraf Hakimi
Next up is Aleksandar Kolarov, whose transfer to Inter came seemingly from nowhere. Considering he can slot into either the left centre back or left wing-back positions in Conte’s 3-5-2 lineup, he will be analyzed against three other starters he compares closely to.
Namely, Ashley Young and Alessandro Bastoni, whose positions are the ones he’ll most likely be fighting for, but he will also be compared to Diego Godin as he is, statistically speaking, Inter’s top defender.
For the purposes of this analysis, defensive stats will be used alongside ball-progression accuracy and, as always, all stats are courtesy of WyScout and FBref.com. The stats will be presented in the following order: Kolarov, Young, Bastoni, and Godin respectively.
As for the defensive stats go: Kolarov is on par with Young for tackles and interceptions per game, but lags slightly behind Bastoni and far behind Godin (2.01, 2.0, 2.64, 4.76); this continues into “all successful defensive actions” as well, which adds ‘duels and loose-ball duels’ to the stat (6.4, 7.01, 8.31, 11.34).
Kolarov is slightly better than Young at winning the duels though (57.6%, 51.4%, 59.8%, 64.3%); they’re all near equal when it comes to winning aerial duels (63%, 62.5%, 64.6%, 67.1%); and the same with winning tackles (58.1%, 57.6%, 56.8%, 55.3%); but slightly different in getting dribbled past per game (0.69, 1.08, 0.6, 1.06).
From these stats, he is most comparable to Ashley Young, while being slightly better in duels and not getting dribbled past as much. It can also be deduced why Bastoni is so highly regarded, considering how close his stats are to Godin whilst 13 years his junior.
Regardless, Kolarov is, at minimum, a defensive improvement to Ashley Young, but only slightly. While these stats point to Kolarov usurping Young, personally I don’t agree that he should.
Because a defender’s main objective is to block aggressors, but it cannot be their only trait, they must progress the ball in some way, especially as a wing-back. General passing accuracy skews our analysis of their abilities (83.3%, 83%, 89%, 88.3%).
To paint us a better picture, we’ll want to look more precisely: forward pass accuracy shows Kolarov behind everyone (70.2%, 74%, 81.1%, 80%); passes over 10 meters up-field by either lob, through-balls, or direct passes show Kolarov closer to a central defender than of a wing-back (76.4%, 82.3%, 73.7%, 73.8%); and “smart” pass accuracy, like through balls, shows Kolarov better than Young, but behind Bastoni and Godin again (47.4%, 34.7%, 55.6%, 57.1%).
Successful crosses are also important for wingers, which Young wins at (29.7%, 40.7%, 30.8%, 25%); as are successfully dribbling past opponents (73%, 58.1%, 53.3%, 86.4%), while Kolarov beats Young and Bastoni, Godin is exceptional here.
Another stat worth adding here is ‘shot-creating actions’ per game, for which Kolarov excels over the rest (3.2, 2.37, 1.3, 0.96). So, in a wing-back capacity, Kolarov works well in bringing the ball up-field but, surprisingly, works better at driving the ball centrally and creating a chance rather than lobbing or crossing to our attackers.
While the best crosser in Europe’s top 5 leagues last season was only successful 55.3% of the time, Dijon’s Fouad Chafik, that stat is still shocking and required double and triple-checking considering Kolarov is best known for his crosses as well as his aggression. The fact remains: his crosses are sometimes beautiful, but just usually aren’t.
Put it all together and we have a slightly more defensive, good dribbler, that hasn’t been as good at winger roles. Therefore he isn’t an improvement on Ashley Young but, with the acquisition of Hakimi on the right, who is a pacey goal-involved winger, Kolarov might be the “ying to his yang” on the opposite side.
That, or Conte just wants an aggressive D’Ambrosio for the left side for less money.