HomeNewsAn underdog Saudi story

An underdog Saudi story

Published on:

If one wants to look at an underdog story in football, there are many this season. Aston Villa in the Premier League, Girona FC in La Liga Nice in Ligue 1. One club, however, that has not gotten the same limelight is Saudi Pro League club Al-Taawoun, who, despite facing clubs with far more cast financial resources, have performed admirably.

On December 30, 2022, one of the most shocking football transfers occurred as Cristiano Ronaldo signed a contract to join the Saudi Pro League by signing for Al Nassr. It was considered the first major coup for a league whose rise was backed by the country’s government, which is part of their Vision 2030. Six months before Ronaldo’s transfer to the Public Investment Fund (PIF), the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia, had taken charge of four clubs, Al Ittihad, Al Ahli, Al Nassr, and Al Hilal.

This meant that these clubs got significant funds from the PIF and used it to get the top players.

Saudi Pro League Top transfers 

Team  Player
Al Nassr Cristiano Ronaldo, Sadio Mane, Otavio, Marcelo Brozovic, Aymeric Laporte,Alex Telles.
Al-Hilal Malcom, Ruben Neves, Yassine Bounou, Aleksandar Mitrovic, Kalidou Koulibaly, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic.
Al-Ahli Edouard Mendy, Riyad Mahrez, Frank Kessie, Allan Saint-Maximin, Gabri Veiga, Roberto Firmino
Al Ittihad N’Golo Kante, Fabinho, Karim Benzema, Marcelo Grohe

However, after 18 games Al-Taawoun have performed admirably and are currently fourth in the league. This is an incredible achievement for a club whose biggest transfer was for Musa Barrow for only €8 million.

So, how did Al-Taawoun manage to surpass the expectations and compete with the big boys of the league?

Al-Taawoun 2023-24 season 

Despite not having the massive resources of the top four clubs, manager Pericles Chamusca has still drilled his side well. His philosophy is to have the ball as much as possible and immediately win it back if they lose possession.

It is reflected in the Buildup Disruption Percentage (BDP), where the team is naked third on the metric. In addition, they are also the fifth-best team in terms of possession. Keeping the ball for long durations helps the team control the game’s flow.

However, since their attacking options are less than the top teams, the club have almost solely relied on the creative brilliance of one man; Alvaro Medran. The Spaniard has been the league’s best player on the Expected Threat (xT), a metric measuring how threatening a player is across various pitch parts.

Medran has eight assists to his name, second only to Ronaldo in the entire league. Medran’s greatest strength is his passing, which he uses to create the third-most chances of any player in the league while also completing the fifth-most through balls.

Al-Taawoun’s dependence on Medran comes from the fact that they cannot flex their muscles in the transfer market like the ‘big four.’ So they can only follow their tried and tested method and hope Medran stays fit for the entire season.

Al-Taawoun stats and tactics 

Despite not having a star-studded squad, Al-Taawoun play a fairly attacking tactic, which relies on suffocating the opposition off the ball. While their finishing has been well below par, they still have managed to hit 101 shots on target.

However, their relentless defense allows them to be attacking, which has conceded the second-least number of goals in the league. While defending, Chamusca’s strategy is to allow the opposition to have as few shots as possible. In fact, they have conceded the third-least shots on target this season. This is already an impressive stat but when your goalkeeper is also the fourth-best player in the save ratio metric, this strong defence becomes an impenetrable wall.

Even if the opponent manages to get in a situation where they have a clear shot at goal, Al-Taawoun are the team with the second-best successful tackles rate.

One area of concern for the team is that, for now, almost every department of their team is working like a well-oiled machine; however, whether they can keep the same level of performance for the entire season, considering factors such as lack of form, injuries, suspensions.

For now, though, Al-Taawoun are busy punching way above their weight and surprising the Saudi League.

Saumy Deepak Tripathi
A Bayern Munich fan who is deeply in love with football statistics. Has a soft spot for goalkeepers! (well only he knows why). You’ll find him vibing on 70’s classic songs and spends an abnormal amount of time cooking.

also read

Manchester is whose?

Everything to lose