Inside the Mateo Bajamich bid: How he came on Sunderland's radar and the performance data that convinced Phil Parkinson

As football changes, so too does the way in which potential transfer targets are identified.

Monday, 7th September 2020, 2:00 pm

While the ‘old-fashioned way’ of scouts heading out to games, armed with a notepad and report template, still has its place, clubs are increasingly turning to data-driven means of recruiting players.

As scouting departments are stripped back and, with overseas talent-spotting trips coming increasingly difficult in this window in particular, alternative approaches have to be pursued.

That’s where systems such as wyscout come into play. The software hands clubs a raft of data, making it far easier to watch targets who may otherwise have been tough to track.

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Inside Sunderland's bid for Mateo Bajamich

And it’s through wyscout that Sunderland can perform checks on the likes of Mateo Bajamich – Phil Parkinson’s latest attacking target.

The young Argentine has been the subject of a six-figure bid from the Black Cats, and is also attracting interest from MLS outfit Houston Dynamo.

But why has he been identified as a target? Using wyscout, we take a look at the data that saw him crop up on Sunderland’s radar:

More than goals

As with any striker, Bajamich will ultimately be judged on goals.

It’s the first statistic that will be viewed by potential interested clubs, and the 21-year-old’s record stands up to scrutiny.

Since his emerge at Instituto, who play in the second division of Argentina, Bajamich has averaged a goal every 252 minutes.

In comparison, since the start of the 2019/20 season, Will Grigg has averaged a goal every 279 minutes and Charlie Wyke has netted once every 375 minutes.

He’s clinical, too. Bajamich’s xG stood at 0.32 goals per game last season, but he actually scored 0.36 goals per game – meaning he performed slightly better than expected in front of goal.

But Bajamich’s game is about more than goals.

A look at his footage on wyscout – which is widely available to clubs such as Sunderland – shows a player who stretches the opposition. Comfortable playing off the shoulder of the last line of defence, Bajamich has bags of pace and is intelligent in his use of it.

He runs the channels well and is comfortable holding the ball up, a key prerequisite for any striker playing in Parkinson’s 3-4-3 system. His six assists during the last twelve months show another side to his game (according to wyscout, Wyke failed to register a single assist last season, while Grigg made just one).

The high press

In an empty Stadium of Light, you could hear every instruction barked by Parkinson during the 0-0 draw with Hull City.

He regularly called for his forward players to press higher up the field, urging Grigg forward and praising his work as he closed down the visiting backline.

Over and above scoring goals, Parkinson expects that kind of high work rate from his strikers – and it’s the ability of Bajamich to do just that which likely brought him to the attention of the Black Cats.

The Argentine averages 1.71 interceptions per game while also recovering the ball in the opposition half over 1.8 times during every 90 minutes, highlighting his ability to press high and regain possession in the final third. They are impressive statistics, particularly for such a young forward.

Versatility

With squad caps coming into play from this season, versatility is becoming increasingly key.

Scope to recruit two players for every position may soon become near-impossible meaning those in the 22-man squad (which will reduce to a 20-man squad by the time the 2022/23 season begins) will have to be able to play a variety of positions.

And Bajamich can certainly do that.

Indeed, while his preferred position is as a central striker, the youngster has played a great deal of football on the right flank or in behind the striker.

Another big tick in his favour – and indeed, another reason why he’s seen as an attractive target for Sunderland.

The role of the agent

Tools such as wyscout are proving increasingly helpful for clubs as they look to wade through the numerous players put to them by agents.

Local reports in Argentina have suggested that Bajamich is represented by his relatives, but EHM Sports Management have claimed responsibility for the player on wyscout – meaning it is they who will be contacted by potentially interested clubs.

EHM are developing a reputation for identifying young South American players and claim to have noted talent-spotter Andrea Bramerio – who has helped many such youngsters move to Europe – working for them.

‘We have to spread our net wide’

Sunderland’s interest in Bajamich comes just days after they clinched a deal for defender Arbenit Xhemajli – a similarly left-field signing and one who was monitored in a similar way.

Parkinson confirmed he had watched ‘just about every game’ that Xhemajli had played via the software, and he’s likely to have done similar with Bajamich.

It's a notable shift in policy for the Black Cats, who have mainly focused on domestic recruitment since their drop into League One.

"Like I said when we signed Arbenit, we have to spread our net wide to add the quality we need into the squad,” said Parkinson on Bajamich.

"He's a player we've obviously looked at and along with a number of targets, we'd like to add another couple into the group sooner rather than later.”

And with the League One salary cap set to make landing EFL players increasingly difficult, expect Parkinson to be spending plenty more time on wyscout in the coming weeks and months.

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