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Jurriën Timber: The Debrief
Arsenal add another versatile and highly technical player to their stable
It's goin' down, I'm yellin' timber
You better move, you better dance
Let's make a night you won't remember
I'll be the one you won't forget
Ooh-ooh (timber), ooh-ooh (timber)
Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh (it's goin' down)
Ooh-ooh (timber), ooh-ooh (timber)
Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh (it's goin' down, woo)
You’ll probably hear the lyrics to this classic (YMMV) Pitbull feat Ke$ha banger even more now with the signing of Jurriën Timber from Ajax.
He’s a fun and exciting player and it was a very fun task to learn more about him. Let’s jump into the stats.
The Debrief: Jurriën Timber
This will be looking at Timber’s stats by area/category from last season. All data will be per 90 minutes unless said otherwise and compared to centrebacks and fullbacks from the top five European Leagues going back to 2015/16 for percentile comparisons.
Ball Progression, Passing, and Carrying Metrics
80.9 - Pass attempts per 90, 98th percentile among centrebacks, 99th percentile among full backs.
109.2% - Pass Efficiency (the ratio of actual pass completion compared to expected pass completion, 100 is completed as many passes as expected and higher is better), 94th percentile among centrebacks, 96th percentile among full backs.
9.6 - Final Third Entry Passes per 90, 99th percentile among centrebacks, 99th percentile among full backs.
93.3% - Completion percentage on final third entry passes, 97th percentile among centrebacks, 99th percentile among full backs.
5.3 - Progressive Passes completed per 90, 98th percentile among centrebacks, 92th percentile among full backs.
2.8 - Long passes completed per 90, 20th percentile among centrebacks, 56th percentile among full backs.
59.5% - Long pass completion percentage, 65th percentile among centrebacks, 86th percentile among full backs.
0.24 - Goal probability added through passing (my version of an expected threat, this measures how much the actions a player did that help or hurt the team’s chances of scoring) per 90, 99th percentile among centrebacks, 99th percentile among full backs.
6.8 - Progressive carries per 90, 99th percentile among centrebacks, 94th percentile among full backs.
0.53 - Dribbles completed per 90, 86th percentile among centrebacks, 46th percentile among full backs.
1.42 - Turnovers (dispossessed plus miscontrols) per 90, 3rd percentile among centrebacks (the percentile for this is flipped, where higher is worse), 40th percentile among full backs.
1.8 - Final Third Entry Carries per 90, 97th percentile among centrebacks, 76th percentile among full backs.
0.71 - xG Buildup (the total xG where he was involved in the buildup play before the final pass or shot) per 90, 99th percentile among centrebacks, 99th percentile among full backs.
It is hard to look at the above and not have your appetite whetted. The stats suggest that Timber is one of the best passing centrebacks (with the caveat that he plays in a pretty dominant team in a weaker league) and that he would translate to being an excellent passer as a fullback.
One of the ideas floated with this signings that he is the Oleksandr Zinchenko or the right hand side and let me say that I can totally see why that comparison makes sense looking at the passing numbers.
What Timber adds compared to Zinchenko and what is very eye-catching on the video is aggressiveness on the ball moving with the ball to take advantage of any space given to him. He loves to drive forward and lay the ball off, often continuing his runs and finding himself in pretty advanced positions. This might make me a little nervous from centreback but from right back it makes me very excited.
1.33 - Aerial duels won per 90, 13th percentile among centrebacks, 50th percentile among full backs.
47.8% - Aerial duel win percentage, 9th percentile among centrebacks, 31st percentile among full backs.
1.68 - Possession adjusted tackles, 55th percentile among centrebacks, 29th percentile among full backs.
51.6% - Tackle percentage (tackles won dived by total tackles attempted plus fouls), 53rd percentile among centrebacks, 49th percentile among full backs.
13% - Dribbled past percentage, 92nd percentile among centrebacks, 96th percentile among full backs.
1.32 - Possession adjusted fouls committed, 26th percentile among centrebacks (this is showing that he committed fewer fouls), 32nd percentile among full backs.
1.94 - Possession adjusted Interceptions, 34th percentile among centrebacks, 24th percentile among full backs.
0.37 - Possession adjusted blocked passes, 35th percentile among centrebacks, 14th percentile among full backs.
2.41 - Possession adjusted clearances, 3rd percentile among centrebacks, 27th percentile among full backs.
7.39 - Possession adjusted ball recoveries, 92nd percentile among centrebacks, 94th percentile among full backs.
The ball-winning numbers are not exactly impressive but come with the standard spiel that they don’t measure quality but rather describe what happens and how a team plays and Ajax are one of the more extreme teams in all of Europe for how they play.
No team in the Eredivisie had more of the ball than Ajax’s 66%. No team had a higher share of final third possession than Ajax’s 75%. They are a high pressing team with the lowest passes allowed per defensive action, combined with the second lowest passing percentage against. They also play in a methodical way, with the lowest average directness towards goal in attack in the Eredivisie.
This makes them an interesting and extreme team to compare and certainly skews the stat of the defenders in their team.
Watching the video on him, he looks mostly fine as a defender. He can get ball watching at times but generally looks to have a good feel for the game looking to cut out passes, recover for others and himself with his plus speed, and general confidence in himself.
The one thing that seemed to really stick out is that he loves to go to ground on his tackles and while he wins a good portion of these (56%) they are still a pretty high risk move that he seems to try a bit too often.
The other area that might be a weakness is in the air. He’s not exactly small (5 foot 10 inches) but doesn’t have the size you would like from a true centreback. This translates into him rating as a below-average player in aerial duels. With all of this I think his future at Arsenal is probably wider and that is fine looking at the current depth chart.
0.21 - Open play shots, 84th percentile among centrebacks, 40th percentile among full backs.
0.65 - Set play shots, 89th percentile among centrebacks, 96th percentile among full backs.
0.47 - Shots from headers, 85th percentile among centrebacks, 96th percentile among full backs.
0.16 - Non-Penalty expected goals, 98th percentile among centrebacks, 96th percentile among full backs.
0.38 - Open play key passes, 64th percentile among centrebacks, 32th percentile among full backs.
0.05 - Open play expected shots assisted (xA), 38th percentile among centrebacks, 37th percentile among full backs.
This is probably the hardest to translate and I will lean more into the video on this because there is a fair amount of examples of Timber getting into advanced areas.
Like we went over in the ball progression section he looks very comfortable driving forward with the ball and I think that would translate nicely to the wing should he need to overlap or connect with other players. His crossing looks pretty good (3 of 7 last season and 6 of 23 for his Eredivisie career) and given his technical level I wouldn’t expect that to drop off too much.
Overall in attack, he looks comfortable in attacking situations and has some really slick combinations that when you watch him, he doesn’t look like a centreback in the final third.
I am excited by this move and it checks one of the big areas that it looked like Arsenal needed investment this summer.
I expect that this signing is one for depth and to push Ben White (and also alow him to potentially do play more on the interior should William Saliba need a rest or be out).
While he was primarily a centreback in the Eredivisie I expect that is not where Arsenal expect him to play the majority of the minutes. Like the chase of Lisandro Martinez last season, this is with the eye of moving the player into a wider starting position (but probably still doing a lot of playing in central areas).
If he has a similar adaption as Martinez’s from Ajax to the Premier League I would expect this to still look like a very promising signing for Arsenal.
All told, Jurriën Timber is an thrilling move (it helps that the link came out of no where and he seemed to only ever had eyes for Arsenal). He has a perfect mix of young and experienced, dynamic and calm, technical skill and confidence, that I don’t think Edu and Arteta could have created something in a lab more suited to what they are building and needed from this type of signing.