Explaining the Dynamic Dribbler – Player Role Analysis

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We are now in the home-stretch of our thousand-piece puzzle to break down the various roles that players adopt in a football team. The goal of this series has been to identify how clubs achieve balance within their ranks, by creating a team of players who hold varying roles. We therefore break down the twenty-six player roles that footballers adopt as part of our Role Continuity Evaluation System, identifying the unique job descriptions, metrics for evaluation and the best of the art in 2022 for each category.

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Today’s article is all about the ‘Dynamic Dribbler’ – those responsible for dribbling their way out of trouble, and advancing their team closer to goal primarily through skill and precision. Here is everything you need to know about the ‘Dynamic Dribbler’.

JOB DESCRIPTION & KEY PERFORMERS

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To start this section, I first turn the tables immediately toward you. Who is the first player that comes to mind when you hear the term ‘Dynamic Dribbler’?

Throughout this series, we’ve endeavoured to avoid player types signified by a single set of actions and statistics. The ‘Dynamic Dribbler’ is one of the rare exceptions, as the art of ‘dribbling’ is an essential way for wingers to enact magic on the pitch, and become the magic wand sorcerers that we all know they can be.

Unlike the ‘Inverted Winger’ that prioritizes creativity and play-making in the half-spaces, the ‘Dynamic Dribbler’ is someone that typically exploits the wide channels through their magic-touch, hugging the touchline and then cutting inside when appropriate. They prioritize their skill and precision on the ball to dance around opponents, before enacting further influence with a pass or a shot.

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Similarly to the way we described our ‘Ball-Playing-Centre-Half‘, the ‘Dynamic Dribbler’ can typically fit into one of the other two categories, but rarely both. Most notably, they often can be described as ‘Inverted Wingers’ due to their inclinations to cut inside. But remember, ‘Inverted Wingers’ are not only ones that dynamically dance their way into the half-spaces and central channels. Like Neymar and Phil Foden, they tend to already start from an ‘inverted’ position, in more of a creative role. Dynamic Dribblers love the out-to-out, out-to-in, in-to-out variety that can exist in their games, and you never want to know where one of these players is going to turn. That’s the beauty in their play, and what makes them so dynamically effective.

But since they are not only skillful with their dribbles but also tend to be quite speedy, many can also fulfill that ‘Direct Goal-Scorer’ mould. ‘Direct Goal-Scorers’ prioritize running in behind and utilize their speed to lead much of the aggression and intensity in pressing phases. Leandro Trossard is a great example of a player who dovetails within both roles simultaneously – excellently dancing his way around opponents, but also vivaciously racing in behind to finish off moves.

‘Dynamic Dribblers’ are more likely to be your luxury options who you do not necessarily want defending, but even they can be excellent in defensive phases given their relative speed and intensity. Alphonso Davies plays as a ‘Dynamic Dribbler’ for Canada as opposed to his ‘Wing-Back’ role for Bayern Munich, and his speed and intensity down the wing allows him to be a jack-of-all-trades – creating, scoring and defending for his life.

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Luis Diaz is another fantastic example of a fantastically skillful wing-wizard who loves to take on his man down the line. But as we all know, Diaz is incredibly effective in pressing and counter-pressing for Liverpool, and it’s one of the key reasons why the Colombian found himself recruited into the club.

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Nevertheless, the main task of a ‘Dynamic Dribbler’ is not to be a jack-of-all-trades, but to dynamically dribble their way around opponents, particularly in attacking phases and attacking transitions. They can score goals for fun like Mohamed Salah and Leroy Sané, and they can be equally creative to Ousmane Dembélé and Riyad Mahrez. But their main priority is to take on their man, beat them with a bit of skill, and then make the next move in the sequence.

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The dream would then be for the ‘Dynamic Dribbler’ to be a two-footed player that can cut onto either foot at any moment. Ousmane Dembélé serves as a perfect example of this mindset, and I’d hazard to guess most of you would require FBRef’s assistance before fully remembering which foot constitutes as his strong one. That’s not to say that the likes of Diaz and Traore can’t use their physicality to bulldoze their way through on their right-foot. But the ‘dynamic’ behaviours that a player within this type can exude will only be amplified if they add more variability to their play, and their team’s conquests in the process.

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They may be the first player to advance the team up the pitch in attacking transitions like Adama Traoré, the one that hugs the touchline to isolate their defender on a switch of play like Adama Traoré, or the one to completely bulldoze seven players all on their own, like Adama Traoré. As you’ll come to find out, for his strengths and limitations as a footballer all wrapped up in one, Adama Traoré signifies this player type.

But before moving onto that next discussion topic, it’s worth reiterating that this role is exclusive to wingers. While the likes of Adama and Houston Dash’s María Sánchez can operate as a wing-back from time to time, their best role is one that positions them further up the pitch, where they can work their magic closer to goal.

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The dynamic, skillful midfielders are categorized within our ‘Midfield Maestro’ persona, and other dynamic tricksters tend to fall under multi-faceted categories that require more out of their skillfulness, such as ‘Inverted Fullbacks’ or ‘Creative Ten’s’.

The hypocrisy of this specific player type is that despite the dimensions to their play that extend to a simultaneous mix of artistry and deceit, they tend to receive criticism for being ‘one-dimensional’.

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This goes back to the defensive debate or the lamenting of these players as “luxury” options. While Adama threatens on physical appearance alone, you would not necessarily want him to worry about his defensive tasks. In fact, Barcelona seemed like it would be the perfect marriage for his decisiveness on the dribble, as opposed to the defensively-minded Wolves – where he was often left out in the cold by ex-manager Bruno Lage. The likes of Jadon Sancho and Riyad Mahrez may be intelligent pressers capable of angling wide and fulfilling their defensive responsibilities, but their first instincts will always exist on the ball, where they can run at opponents and confuse them into oblivion.

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In helping us quantify the role, we include only players with a successful dribble completion of 1.8 per 90 or higher. There is one exception to this, and that is if their progressive carrying numbers exceed 8.5 per 90. This allows some players to still quantify within the role, even if they’ve had a peculiarly low season when it comes to the number of dribbles they were attempting and succeeding.

So with this job description in mind, let’s dissect how to measure these dynamic dimes in the quest to evaluate their performance.

MEASURING DYNAMIC DRIBBLERS

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Within our Role Continuity Player Evaluation System, players are first measured by what they are expected to do in their position and role first, accompanied by a secondary role. We utilize statistics to help measure performance, but go far beyond that to incorporate the eye test in analyzing player IQ, awareness and tactical understanding. We can then congregate data to more adequately assess their player positioning and movement around the pitch, the areas in which they contribute to attacking moves, and the success at which they create moments of magic for their team. So with that, here is how we measure our ‘Dynamic Dribblers’.

1. ATTACKING THREAT & IQ

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More than most other roles, ‘Dynamic Dribblers’ encompass a specific set of skills in which they must master, and bring to light each and every time they play. Whether they’re dribbling to deliver crosses, dribbling to beat opponents 1v1, or dynamically carrying the ball up the field in transition, ‘Dynamic Dribblers’ are first assessed by the contributions they make on the ball. This might manifest in the form of 1v1 battles, in helping their team break free from compact defensive structures. or simply even seeing open space to advance into and taking the opportunity. Their ‘IQ’ in these moments of magic is particularly imperative, rather than just a sheer volume of dribbles or carries. This includes…

  • Decision making on when to dribble vs. when to pass
  • Decision making on dribbles, carries and forward thrusts (including dribble %)
  • Decision making in transitional moments, and ability to link play in the attacking half
  • Expected threat (possession-value added)
  • Successful attacking actions %
  • Spatial awareness in the attacking third + progressive passes received
  • Creation from open play, set-pieces and crosses
  • Shot on target %
  • xG + xA

2. ATTACKING CONTRIBUTION

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After establishing threat and IQ as a baseline, we then measure actual attacking output. This includes sheer statistical values that allow us to gain a better sense of how successful players were in carrying out their attacking endeavours. This may include their total number of…

  • Dribbles + carries
  • Touches in the attacking third
  • Successful attacking actions
  • Key passes, through passes + passes into the penalty area
  • Goal and shot-creating-actions
  • Shots + shots on target
  • Passes and carries into the final third
  • Fouls won + fouls won to fouls conceded percentage
  • Goal contributions (i.e. goals + assists)

3. POSSESSION & DISTRIBUTION

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While we want our ‘Dynamic Dribblers’ to spike highest in the attacking third, they must remain capable of coming deep and contributing to all phases of possession, potentially helping to break lines from deeper. They must also be able to win their attacking battles, and ensure that they are keeping possession of the ball rather than needlessly giving it away. As part of our ‘Possession & Distribution’ score, we measure…

  • Control (touches, miscontrols, dispossessed, passes received %)
  • Passing % + forward passing %
  • Decision making in supporting the build-up and progression
  • Progressiveness (i.e. prog. passes and prog. carries)

4. DEFENSIVE IQ

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Even if remaining high in defensive phases, ‘Dynamic Dribblers’ must still be sound defensively, and capable of producing moments of pressing, ball-winning, and angling out wide. Their role will always be more about contributing to the attack, but every player in the modern era must be able to defend. Our ‘Defensive IQ’ score includes…

  • Tackle % and decision making when tackling
  • Pressure % and decision making when pressuring
  • Dominance in defensive duels, + combined % of duels won across thirds
  • Positional awareness and positional discipline
  • Awareness of own strengths vs. strengths of teammates
  • Discipline (e.g. fouls, bookings, and positional discipline)

Unlike the vast majority of roles, we don’t measure ‘Defensive Contribution’ as a separate category. We care more about the success of a wingers defensive deeds, rather than the sheer numbers they accumulate. This can be particularly clear in assessing for values like ‘aerial duels won’, ‘blocks’, or ‘clearances’, to which their output should be practically non-existent.

5. ABNORMALITIES

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‘Dynamic Dribblers’ may also be given additional boosts or retractions for any abnormalities that they perform in a match, including the following…

  • Defensive contributions leading to a goal (GCA-Def.)
  • Penalty kicks won, or given away
  • Errors leading to shots or goals
  • Own goals
  • Red cards

While these metrics may affect a player’s rating in a given match, they don’t tend to change a player’s score over the course of a season, unless repeatedly conducted.

So with that, based on the five key evaluation metrics, let’s jump into what you’ve been waiting for – the very best ‘Dynamic Dribblers’ in the world of men’s football as of 2022.

TOP 20 DYNAMIC DRIBBLERS

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When assessing ”Dynamic Dribblers’, we’re searching for wing-wizards who excel on the dribble, both in their successful percentage rates and in their sheer volume of dribbling attempts. In the table below, we’ve chosen to include three essential statistical categories from the 2021-22 season that bring to light some of the best at the art.

Rank #Player TeamDrib.Drb. %Prog C.
1Mohamed SalahLiverpool1.8641.96.94
2Luis DíazLiverpool3.0266.78.58
3Ousmane DembéléFC Barcelona3.6362.014.3
4Rafael LeãoAC Milan3.2957.29.24
5Riyad MahrezManchester City1.5759.19.34
6Leroy SanéBayern Munich2.3249.07.73
7Jadon SanchoManchester United2.2857.89.95
8AntonyAjax*1.8260.09.33
9Allan Saint-MaximinNewcastle United4.4960.97.88
10Wilfried ZahaCrystal Palace2.3852.17.46
11Kingsley ComanBayern Munich2.7257.710.1
12TetêLyon3.6966.79.23
13Leandro TrossardBrighton1.8975.66.19
14Amine GouiriOGC Nice*1.8352.86.41
15Adama TraoréFC Barcelona5.0372.39.57
16Gerard DeulofeuUdinese 1.6843.89.00
17Jonathan IkoneFiorentina2.2655.86.26
18Pedro NetoWolves1.7340.98.65
19Samuel ChukwuezeVillarreal3.9253.28.78
20Sofiane BoufalAngers3.6751.68.19

Since dribbling is so essential to the role, we’ve included only players to complete over 1.8 dribbles per 90 in 2021-22, unless their progressive carrying rate reached over 8.50. This allowed Riyad Mahrez and Gerard Deulofeu to qualify, despite an uncharacteristically low number of dribbles from both players last season.

Of note, Riyad Mahrez’s dribbling numbers dipped likely as a result of a change in style of play that saw City’s wingers become more likely to ‘invert’ than the fullbacks. This has since reversed in 2022-23, and the Algerian is currently boasting career high dribbling numbers again. An incredibly skillful player that plays down the touchline more so than in the half-spaces, Riyad Mahrez must be classified under this player type, even despite his dip in dribbling highs last campaign.

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But when looking at the characters within the role, it’s clear to see the magic these players are capable of producing. Rarely do we have such a stacked lineup of players in our ‘Top 20’ – with the likes of Mohamed Salah, Luis Diaz and Leroy Sané leading the charge. This role is flexible in that many ‘Dynamic Dribblers’ may turn into ‘Inverted Wingers’ as they develop their creativity, or into ‘Direct Goal-Scorers’ as they work on their goal threat. But for the bulk of their careers leading up to 2021-22 and beyond, they prioritized their dribbling, and made that a constant habit within their role.

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While all of these players can be classified as ‘Dynamic Dribblers’ within our system for 2021-22, they are not all perfect fits across the board. So with that, let’s now cross-examine the very best at the art, that also qualify as the most quintessential ‘Dynamic Dribblers’.

PERFECT PROTOTYPES

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Among the twenty names listed above, these are the ten most prototypical ‘Dynamic Dribblers’. To rank high on this list, a player should have a significant superiority when it comes to dribbling, carrying, and offensive duels. They should also test lower on behaviours associated with other player types, such as playing more of a creative role in the half-spaces, or frequently operating as a wing-back up and down the wide channels. Let’s dive in.

Rank #Player Team#Pl. PastSCA-Drib.CPA
1Adama TraoréFC Barcelona5.220.993.04
2Allan Saint-MaximinNewcastle United4.810.741.67
3Ousmane DembéléFC Barcelona4.010.572.74
4TetêLyon3.850.151.69
5Sofiane BoufalAngers4.210.621.27
6Samuel ChukwuezeVillarreal 4.190.612.77
7Rafael LeãoAC Milan3.670.832.42
8Luis DiazLiverpool 3.210.942.17
9Jadon SanchoManchester United2.370.432.46
10Kingsley ComanBayern Munich2.850.202.32

In illustrating their talent, we’ve chosen to include carries into the penalty area, the number of players they dribbled past in 2021-22, and their shot-creating-actions from dribbles – all on a per 90 basis. Adama Traoré tops the table in all three sections, showcasing why he’s both a freak of nature and the perfect prototype to exist within the ‘Dynamic Dribbler’ scope.

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When looking for a player to fill the billing in a similar style to Adama Traoré, statistics like carries into the penalty area and shot-creating-actions from dribbles may be worth further examination, even if they are relatively unexplored in other realms. No one can compete with his pace and power on the ball, but if teams want a player of a similar mold, our list of top-quality ‘Dynamic Dribblers’ may come in handy.

CONCLUSION

‘Dynamic Dribblers’ are perhaps the most specific in their skillset within our Player Role Evaluation System. They accomplish remarkable feats on the ball, and often catch the eye for their ability to wiggle their way out of trouble, beat a player with a split-second piece of skill, or explode away in transition. But even ‘Dynamic Dribblers’ are more than just what they accomplish on the ball, and must be masters of assessing space to advance into, and using their dynamism to create chances for their teams. If there’s no end-product on the end of the flair, all the hard work goes to nothing, and the team ultimately end up pursuing other options in their attack instead. With that, even ‘Dynamic Dribblers’ must work to improve a variety of facets within their game, including their defensive work-rate, positional IQ, and their ability to adequately scan the field. If they can accomplish this feat, they can be like Mohamed Salah, and go from world beaters on the ball, to world beaters, period.


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So there it is! Explaining the ‘Dynamic Dribbler’ within our Role Continuity Evaluation System. Be sure to check out more from this series as we detail all twenty-six roles, and follow on social media @mastermindsite to never miss an update. Thanks for reading and see you soon! 👊⚽

More in this series…
-> Explaining the Shot Stopper – Player Role Analysis
-> Explaining the Sweeper Keeper – Player Role Analysis
-> Explaining the Wide Warrior – Player Role Analysis
-> Explaining the Inverted Fullback – Player Role Analysis
-> Explaining the Wing-Back – Player Role Analysis
-> Explaining the Ball-Playing-Centre-Half – Player Role Analysis
-> Explaining the Stopper – Player Role Analysis
-> Explaining the Sweeper – Player Role Analysis
-> Explaining the Midfield Destroyer – Player Role Analysis
-> Explaining the Anchor – Player Role Analysis
-> Explaining the Deep-Lying Playmaker – Player Role Analysis
-> Explaining the Shuttler – Player Role Analysis
-> Explaining the Box to Box Midfielder – Player Role Analysis
-> Explaining the Tempo Setter – Player Role Analysis
-> Explaining the Midfield Maestro – Player Role Analysis
-> Explaining the Creative Ten – Player Role Analysis
-> Explaining the Inverted Winger – Player Role Analysis

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