Finding a good attacking left-back can be very tricky. The Eredivisie has Owen Wijndal — who I spoke about earlier, but another great young talent in that position as well. Feyenoord’s Tyrel Malacia is both linked to Manchester United and Olympique Lyonnais at the moment.
In this article, I analyse his performances in the 2021/2022 Eredivisie where I focus on data and video. The data and video has been collected on June 12th, 2022, and comes from Wyscout. The event data comes from Opta.
- Seasonal stats
- Ball progression
- Key passing
- Comparison with Wijndal
- Final thoughts
- Name: Tyrell Malacia
- Date of birth: 17–08–1999
- Nationality: Dutch
- Position: Left-back
- Contract expires: 30–6–2024
- Current club: Feyenoord
- Previous clubs: Feyenoord (Y)
- International: Netherlands (5 games)
Tyrell Malacia is your top athlete in a full-back role. He can cover ground from the attacking third to the defensive third and back, which makes him a threat in attack, but also sound in defence. Because he likes to engage in attacking activities on the pitch, this also means he needs to cover a lot of ground in defence and all this comes down to his pace. This allows him to be everywhere in that wide area of the pitch.
He is good in the 1v1 duels and doesn’t get dribbled past often. He engages in proactive defensive actions via interceptions and uses his speed to tackle when he is out of position. This happens quite regularly, after the transition has started, his defensive positioning is off and he needs to cover a lot of ground to correct it. His speed allows him to cover that ground and use a tackle, but this will be different in a top 5 league.
He can be considered as a player who likes to make runs down the line all to the backline, with a good cross. He likes to progress the ball via his passing and he interacts well with the left winger in that left wide area.
He’s quite predictable in his runs and actions, but because of the quality of his actions — he can be rather successful in doing so, combined with his work ethic to get it right.
In the pizza plot above you can see Malacia compared to full backs with 900 minutes in the Eredivisie 2021/2022.
He scores quite average on the defensive metrics, with the exception of the PAdj sliding tackles. In the passing metrics he scores in the 73rd percentile for xA, but 85th and 88th percentile for passes to the final third and passes to the penalty area. When we focus on the progression metrics, we see that he scores in the 80th and 88th percentile, which is quite good as well.
This data does explain a bit about his overall scores in comparison to his peers, but how and where does he make these actions? I will attempt to illustrate that below.
Malacia seems to be doing well in the tackles metrics, but not so well in the interceptions metrics. But we need to delve deeper into this.
So where does he conduct these defensive actions?
In the pitch plot above you can see where Malacia commits most of his defensive actions. It’s interesting to see that his recoveries relate a lot to transitions and high up the pitch, which do relate to his interceptions. What’s interesting about his tackles is that he attempts to try counter-attacks high on the opponent’s half, but also deeper — which is a last resort tackle.
But how does he defend? We have seen where he defends, but what do successful defensive actions look like?
In the video above you see a compilation of his defensive actions with Feyenoord in several games against Twente, Ajax, AZ and PSV. They showcase his ball recovering ability, and how complex (or not) these are.
The modern defender isn’t only concerned with defending and producing defensive actions — but he/she also needs to be comfortable on the ball and progress play from it. Especially when you are an attacking full back or wing back.
In the scatterplot above you can see the progressive metrics of progressive passes per 90 and progressive runs per 90. Malacia does above average on the progressive passes per 90, and also above average on the progressive runs per 90.
Every player makes passes in a game, but which passes actively contribute to the progression and construction of an attack? You can see some of these metrics in the beeswarmplot below.
As you can see in the graph above, Malacia scores quite high in most metrics, only in the assists per 90, he scores quite average. He is not the best in passing in his position but excels in the through passes, passes to the final third, and passes to the penalty area.
What’s interesting is how he makes key passes. He scores in the high average, but the intent of his key passes does tell a lot about how he can help in an attack.
Malacia is known to get forward a lot and into the wide areas of the final third. He is quick, agile, and knows how to beat his direct opponent in a 1v1, but also carries the ball into the half-space to orchestrate play.
In the shot map above you can see from where Malacia has conducted his shots in the 2021/2022 Eredivisie season. He had 53 shots of which 1 went in goal. 17% of his shots were on target and he generated a total xG of 3,34 — the latter meaning that he is underperforming with -2,34.
Apart from shooting in the box, he loves to shoot from zone 14 and left from that zone — as that is the zone where comes frequently and tries to shoot from distance. This happens a lot from cleared balls from set pieces. But the most shots come from outside the penalty area, just like where he scored his only goal.
Comparison with Wijndal
Now we have looked at the individual qualities of Malacia, I would like to compare him to another very exciting left back: Owen Wijndal
Owen Wijndal has been regarded to have an excellent season and in an attacking sense he really has with his assists, and the xA is higher in this radar. But in every other data metric, Malacia scores better than his rival from AZ. The data is clearly in favour of Malacia in this particular profile.
Tyrell Malacia is an incredibly exciting left back as he has shown at Feyenoord. He was instrumental to the way Arne Slot’s team was playing, both domestically and in Europe and he has shown to be a good match for top opposition. He isn’t starter material yet for a top club in a top 5 league, but in 2 years he will be ready.
He needs to work on his defensive positioning and his physical fitness because that is required in a league like Ligue 1 or the Premier League. This doesn’t mean he isn’t fit, but the impact of these leagues is bigger than the Eredivisie.