Bjorn Engels is likely to pair with Tyrone Mings at the heart of the Aston Villa defence next season.
Words by Regan Foy | @FindFoy
All stats acquired via the Wyscout Platform
Fans have been pondering whether the signings of Ezri Konsa and Kortney Hause will be enough to fill the hole in the Aston Villa defence left by Manchester United loanee Axel Tuanzebe – with the centre-back forming a strong partnership with newly signed Tyrone Mings that was key in Aston Villa’s promotion to the Premier League.
With the impending signing of Belgian centre-back Björn Engels from Ligue 1 side Stade Reims, it becomes less likely that Axel Tuanzebe returns to Villa Park this season, especially as the deal would be another loan. Whilst Tuanzebe is the youngest defender in the trio of himself, Engels and Mings, the experience of the other two defenders could be key in Aston Villa’s survival next season.
Firstly, let’s take a look at the basic physical attributes of the three. Tyrone Mings stands at 196cm and Björn Engels sits just below this at 194cm. Tuanzebe on the other hand, is a little shorter at 185cm. With the difference in height, comes the difference in ‘expected’ stats – goals for instance – where Engels and Mings sit comfortable close to having a 1.00 xG, Axel’s sits below the 0.70 mark.
Defensively, Björn and Tyrone are usually more successful in what they attempt. We’ll break this down for you.
Per 90 minutes of football, Tyrone Mings and Björn Engels succesfully defend their goal anywhere ranging from 7.57 – 7.88 times, compared to the 6.47 times of Axel Tuanzebe. Engels is often involved in less defensive duels that the other two across 90 minutes, but is more successful than Tuanzebe in the outcome, on average.
Axel Tuanzebe actually attempts more aerial duels than Mings and Engels in a game, but is less successful than them – likely because of the difference in height. Both of the players expected to be at Aston Villa this season beat Tuanzebe on this stat by a solid 10%.
Björn Engels makes significantly less fouls per 90 minutes, whilst also making significantly more interceptions too, compared to Tuanzebe.
Last year we saw the dominance of Tyrone Mings and his attempts at long balls, something that Axel Tuanzebe struggled to replicate. Mings made an average of 7.62 long passes per game, with just under 50% of them successfully reaching a team-mate. Axel struggled to keep up with these numbers, making an average of 4.17 passes per game, and 46% of them reaching a team-mate. Engels on the other hand, makes more long passes on average than Tuanzebe by 0.14% – whilst his long pass accuracy outweighs that of both Tyrone and Axel.
Keeping the passing theme going, Axel was the most outstanding of the three last season in terms of general passing success percentages, bordering on a 90% success rate. However, both Björn and Tyrone managed a percentage on or above 85%.
Whilst defenders aren’t necessarily known for – nor is it expected of them – scoring goals, Axel Tuanzebe struggled to get shots on target last season. He took eight shots throughout his 30 appearances, and only two of these hit the target, compared to the seven out of ten for Tyrone Mings, and five out of eight for Björn Engels.
Whilst Axel has his own merits that make him a much-loved player at Villa Park, and a player that will be fondly thought of in years to come, the stats show that Björn Engels is a more than capable, if not better replacement for Axel in the Premier League. Granted, the Belgian is three years older than Tuanzebe, who has more time to progress and develop into the World Class defender that so many Villa fans expect him to become – but for the here and now – the time that is most important – it’s looking like Engels could be a perfect partner for Tyrone Mings at the back.