lauantai 2. toukokuuta 2020

Veikkausliiga 2020 - Team age profiles

I thought that I would switch to English just to hone my writing skills. This post is a primer for the next few blog posts where I will be looking more closely at Finnish Veikkausliiga teams squads for the upcoming season. I have used as the source for all data in this and upcoming posts. The data was updated at the end of April 2020.

I have long been a proponent of giving more playing time to younger players in Veikkausliiga. This is related to my overall strategic vision about Veikkausliiga where I think that most teams should give more responsibility to young players. This is based on the idea that increased playing time would benefit (and likely improve) the youngsters  most and also give the teams a better chance of collecting a pay check via future transfers.

The current average age of ALL squad players in Veikkausliiga is about 25 years. That does not sound too bad but to me is slightly concerning especially if you consider the "playing time"-weighted average ages shown a little later herein. Actually, according to CIES study of 31 European Football leagues, Veikkausliiga is on the younger end of the spectrum. With an average age of 25.3 years Veikkausliiga was the eight youngest of the 31 leagues.

However, what does concern is that, at least to me, Veikkausliiga should not be a league where most of the players are in their prime or beyond. Internationally Veikkausliiga is not seen as a very desirable landing place for prime age players for multiple reasons, so why would you try and recruit such players here? What I personally would like to see more is young talent, both homegrown and foreign, given the opportunity to shine earlier in their careers without forcing a move abroad at a very young age by not giving them playing time. 

Veikkausliiga squad players & share of playing time in previous season

The graph plots all players in Veikkausliiga based on their age and minutes played for the team in 2019. A lot of the dots are at 0% because there have been a lot of changes in many of the teams' rosters for this season.

I have highlighted players under 22 years who played more than 15% of their teams minutes last season. The list is worryingly short and only has 20 players in it. Lahti has 4 players on the list (Eemeli Virta, Teemu Jäntti, Jasin Assehnoun & Pyry Lampinen). Three other teams, HIFK, Ilves & RoPS have 3 players on the list. I have mentioned earlier that it would be great to see Naatan Skyttä of Ilves seeing more minutes. He has performed very well at a very young age.

Several teams had zero players U22 who had significant playing time last year. Honka, IFK Mariehamn, Inter Turku & Valkeakosken Haka had no players on the list. For Haka, there is a silver lining though, as they do have players like Anton Popovich, Salomo Ojala and Akseli Lehtojuuri on their squad. Ojala had a huge season in Ykkönen last year but has just turned 23 in April so is not highlighted above. Lehtojuuri is only 18 years old and has some stats that make me very curious. He played about 230 minutes of football in Ykkönen and scored 3 goals which makes me hope we will see a lot more of him this year even as the level of competition has gone up a notch.  

U22 players with more than 5% of max minutes 

The table gives some insight to teams tendencies and strategies. For example, Rovaniemi has been a good place for young, aspiring players for a while now. HJK signed coach Toni Koskela back from the arctic circle last year but this did not change RoPS's eagerness to give young talent opportunities. However, the top teams do not seem to play youngsters that much as last years top 6 (KuPS, Inter, Honka, Ilves, HJK & IFK Mariehamn) shows with Ilves being the lone outlier here.  

Lahti also gave U20 players significant minutes last season with Eemeli Virta and Jasin Assehnoun playing over 70% of all minutes. Since @oskarikarppinen  (thank you!) noticed some errors in my data regarding SJK's young players, I did an update to the table. SJK now also had four young players with quite significant playing time.

Team age profiles & squad sizes

So let's have a look at how Veikkausliiga teams rank based on average ages of their current squads.

Veikkausliiga 2020 - average ages of squads

The graph plots the average age and the percentage of new players in this years squad (as % of squad size). We can easily see a couple of points:

1) Honka really has quite an elderly group this year
2) Half of the teams have had 50% or more of their players join in 2020
3) Ilves and KuPS have the youngest groups (both teams are expected to do well this season)

Veikkausliiga 2020 - weighted average ages of squads

So here is the graph I referred in the beginning with weighted the x-axis (ages) by minutes played last season. Not a perfect measurement as we cannot yet know how the minutes will be distributed in 2020 season but it paints a slightly different picture anyway. We can see that Honka has really depended on the senior players in their squad and when we take the minutes played into consideration, Lahti and RoPS are the teams farthest on the left. These two teams gave quite significant responsibilities to younger players and that seems like a good bet to me. Generally the plots jump to the right when we weight with playing time meaning that most teams still rely mainly on the more experienced players.

Ilves is quite intriguing finding here as their squad for season 2020 is one of the youngest (measured by average age they are the youngest and median age second youngest). However, they also had some older players with a lot of playing time (not looking at you Mika Hilander) which moves the dot to the right. 

The age distribution of team squads

The white boxes show the lower and upper quartiles (25% and 75%) of the players' age distributions. The light blue vertical line in the box is the median age for the players in each team. Lahti and Ilves have the youngest teams measured by the median age of squad. Both teams' median is less than 23 years. On the other end of the spectrum, Honka, HIFK, SJK and HJK all have median ages >25 years. KuPS as a reigning Veikkausliiga champion has a little different approach compared to the other favourites (HJK, Honka especially) as their squad composition is more inclined towards younger players. 

Squad sizes & new faces for 2020

The squad sizes range from Inter Turku's 18 players to Kuopion Palloseura's 28. Ilves has the most players remaining from their squad last season with 18. Many teams have a lot of new players for the upcoming season and it will be interesting to see how the Covid-19 situation and no team practises in a long time will affect the teams in the beginning of the season.


Lots of new players for 2020 and different approaches to squad building is what strikes me most as a conclusion from this analysis. It will be interesting to see how the teams will distribute playing time this year and if we see any new young players break through. I will be writing more about the individual teams' squads in future posts.

Ei kommentteja:

Lähetä kommentti