Why Răzvan Marin is a decent replacement for Frenkie de Jong

One of the questions that many people have when it comes to the upcoming 19/20 Eredivisie season is whether Răzvan Marin is a good replacement for Frenkie de Jong. In this article I want to show you how to answer that question using FBM statistics. Our approach consists of three steps:

  1. Subtract De Jong from Ajax.
  2. Add Marin to Ajax.
  3. Compare Ajax with De Jong to Ajax with Marin.

With FBM statistics you can literally subtract players from a team as we have an FBM team score which is the same kind of data as an FBM players score. Ajax with De Jong has the following FBM team score:

ClubOverallAttackDefenseTransitionSurpriseFBM team score

These numbers are the average FBM players scores of the starting XI of Ajax in the 18/19 season. Besides the absolute numbers, which indicate the strength of the team for all football clubs, one also has to look at the ratio of these numbers as that gives more insight in how well balanced the team is. For Ajax with Frenkie de Jong the balance of the team looks as follows:

(The less defense the better, the more transition and attack the better.)

The score for Frenkie de Jong looks almost the same:

Frenkie de Jong94197916

Yet, we have to divide these numbers by 11 and normalize for the percentage of the minutes that De Jong actually played. Then we can subtract those numbers of Ajax’ FBM team score to see how Ajax looks without De Jong. These numbers are:

ClubOverallAttackDefenseTransitionSurpriseFBM team score
Ajax with de Jong7338594815203
Ajax minus de Jong (with 10 players)6638524115182

You can immediately see that De Jong had very little impact on Ajax’ attack, but as only one player in a team of eleven players (9.09%), he had a major impact on defending (11.86%) and transitioning (14.58%).

Next we take Marin’s numbers at Standard Liege:


Those numbers look a lot less than Frenkie de Jong’s numbers. But we also have to compensate for the difference in leagues (Eredivisie vs Jupiler Pro League) and quality of the team and the team members (Ajax vs Standard Liege). When we use our Bayesian model to compensate for these matters, Marin’s most probable numbers for his play at Ajax are:


These numbers still look less than the numbers of Frenkie de Jong. But let’s see what happens when we add these numbers to Ajax. Again, in our model we normalize for played minutes and differences between the team. We then get:

ClubOverallAttackDefenseTransitionSurpriseFBM team score
Ajax with de Jong7338594815203
Ajax with Marin7341574115197

If we only look at the FBM team score, you can see that the scouts of Ajax did a great job as with Marin, Ajax is only 3% weaker (197 vs 203). If we look at the more detailed numbers, we can see that this is mainly due to the fact that Marin more strongly supports Ajax’ attack (41 vs 38). At the same time, transitioning will be less effective with Marin instead of De Jong (41 vs 48). To most observers that would be obvious. Nevertheless, we are always happy when our model comes up with obviousness. It is an interesting trade-off. Yet, given how hard it is to find players that support transitioning, it is also very understandable that Ajax has made this trade-off.

The most interesting part though is the balance of the team:

The slight increase in defense reflects that Ajax has become a little bit weaker with Marin instead of De Jong. Nevertheless, this is compensated by having transitioning and attacking more in balance. That’s why we think that Marin is a decent replacement for Frenkie de Jong.

How probable is it that Marin is able to contribute?

As we always stress that football data is meaningless, unless you can answer the question: “What is the probability that a player is able to contribute?”, let me make this more explicit in the case of Marin. As Marin’s numbers above are his probabilities. 


So let’s answer the following questions:

  1. What is the probability that Marin is able to contribute to Ajax overall? Answer: 84%
  2. What is the probability that Marin is able to contribute to Ajax’s attacking? Answer: 39%
  3. What is the probability that Marin is able to contribute to Ajax’ defending? Answer: 68%
  4. What is the probability that Marin is able to contribute to Ajax transitioning? Answer: 3%

These numbers have a plus or minus 6% points room to deviate (the surprisal rate).