RFPL Round 5: Weighted Age Analytics

In what is going to be a regular feature, I’m going to give you some curious stats about RFPL. I developed a measure called “weighted season-average age”, which is more precise than the simple squad average age because it reflects actual usage of the players rather than simple presence in the squad list.

Here’s how a given team’s weighted season-average age is calculated:

  1. First, you calculate the season-average age for all players in the squad. Season-average age is the average of a player’s ages in all matches he took part in. Let’s use Artyom Timofeev from Spartak Moscow as an example. Last season, he was used quite sporadically by Carrera, playing just four games. In these games, he was respectively 22.78, 22.82, 22.90 and 23.33 years old. Timofeev’s season-average age is thus (22.78+22.82+22.90+23.33)/4 = 22.88 years. By contrast, Igor Leontyev, who’s actually two months younger than Timofeev, was fielded exactly once. He was 23.16 years old, and so this becomes his season-average age.
  2. Calculate the “weight” of all players’ playing time. It’s quite straightforward: add up all minutes played by all players, and then divide the playing time of one player by that sum to get his “weight” in percents.
  3. Multiply the season-average ages of every player by their playing time “weight” and add up all the products, and you’ll get the weighted average age of all teams. This is a metric distinct from “simple” average age. For instance, Spartak’s season-average age (average of all players’ season-average ages) in 2016/17 was 26.30 years, while their weighted average age was 27.57 years. Again, it depends on player’s actual usage – whether he played at all, and if he did, how much time he spent on the field.

So, here are the age and playing time stats for RPL teams after five games. Naturally, players age during the season, so weighted age is going to grow unless the team fields younger players.

Weighted average-age for all teams

  1. Akhmat Grozny – 26.55 years
  2. FC Tosno – 26.63 years
  3. Zenit St. Petersburg – 26.87 years
  4. FC Krasnodar – 27.33 years
  5. FC Ufa – 27.45 years
  6. Anzhi Makhachkala – 27.47 years
  7. Dinamo Moscow – 27.68 years
  8. Amkar Perm – 28.06 years
  9. CSKA Moscow – 28.10 years
  10. Lokomotiv Moscow – 28.14 years
  11. Spartak Moscow – 28.23 years
  12. Ural Ekaterinburg – 28.23 years
  13. FC Rostov – 28.42 years
  14. Rubin Kazan – 28.45 years
  15. Arsenal Tula – 28.77 years
  16. SKA Khabarovsk – 29.20 years

Spartak, who lost Zobnin (23) and had de facto replaced him with Samedov (33), have increased their weighted age sharply (it’s only slightly mitigated by Petkovic, Tigiev and Pasalic), while Zenit, with its infusion of young Argentinians, became one of the youngest – which is in stark contrast to last season, when Zenit gave a whopping two percent of the entire season’s playing time to under-23 players.

Weighted average-age for first team (Players who played more than 300 minutes in the league)

  1. Zenit St. Petersburg – 26.82 years (10 players)
  2. Akhmat Grozny – 26.85 years (10 players)
  3. FC Tosno – 27.25 years (7 players)
  4. Anzhi Makhachkala – 27.54 years (9 players)
  5. FC Krasnodar – 27.54 years (10 players)
  6. Dinamo Moscow – 27.80 years (7 players)
  7. FC Ufa – 27.81 years (8 players)
  8. CSKA Moscow – 27.86 years (9 players)
  9. Spartak Moscow – 28.17 years (8 players)
  10. Amkar Perm – 28.38 years (9 players)
  11. Rubin Kazan – 28.63 years (7 players)
  12. Lokomotiv Moscow – 28.77 years (10 players)
  13. Ural Ekaterinburg – 28.78 years (10 players)
  14. SKA Khabarovsk – 28.88 years (8 players)
  15. FC Rostov – 28.90 years (9 players)
  16. Arsenal Tula – 29.38 years (9 players)

Here, Zenit looks even younger (their first team is currently the youngest in the league!), while Rostov and Arsenal are even older. Rostov’s and Arsenal’s squads were among the oldest in the last season as well; Spartak’s sharp age gain compared to the last season is very concerning though. There’s danger of repeating the situation of 1959: after the last season’s swan song (Spartak won both the league and cup in 1958), the Red-Whites’ ageing squad couldn’t cope in the new season and fell to sixth place.

Russian/foreign players’ playing time proportions

  1. CSKA Moscow – 74.28% (14 players)/25.72% (5 players)
  2. SKA Khabarovsk – 72.55% (16 players)/27.45% (6 players)
  3. Anzhi Makhachkala – 71.21% (14 players)/28.79% (5 players)
  4. Dinamo Moscow – 68.75% (13 players)/31.25% (5 players)
  5. Rubin Kazan – 63.69% (10 players)/36.31% (10 players)
  6. FC Tosno – 62.30% (16 players)/37.70% (6 players)
  7. Lokomotiv Moscow – 57.60% (13 players)/42.40% (7 players)
  8. FC Ufa – 56.02% (13 players)/43.98% (7 players)
  9. Amkar Perm – 54.87% (11 players)/45.13% (7 players)
  10. FC Rostov – 54.63% (10 players/45.37% (9 players)
  11. Arsenal Tula – 54.34% (11 players)/45.66% (8 players)
  12. Zenit St. Petersburg – 53.42% (10 players)/46.58% (10 players)
  13. Akhmat Grozny – 49.21% (10 players)/50.79% (10 players)
  14. Spartak Moscow – 48.45% (10 players)/51.55% (11 players)
  15. Ural Ekaterinburg – 47.80% (11 players)/52.20% (8 players)
  16. FC Krasnodar – 45.80% (11 players)/54.20% (9 players)

For all the talk of Krasnodar’s excellent youth facilities, up until now, they’ve been very consistent in almost always using the maximum allowed number of foreigners (if they constantly fielded six foreigners, the numbers would’ve been 45.45%/54.55%). On the other hand, we have Zenit, who, despite a foreign coach and influx of Argentinians, seem to trust their Russian part of the squad more, including newcomers Kuzyaev and Erokhin. And on the far end of the spectrum reside CSKA, who gradually got rid of most of their foreign players who played a large part in their league successes (and naturalised Mario Fernandes), FNL alumni SKA, Dinamo and Tosno (which is understandable, since the foreigner limit in FNL is much harsher), last season’s survivors Anzhi who went through a fire sale during winter, and, surprisingly, Berdyev’s Rubin.

Another interesting tidbit – there are zero foreign goalkeepers in the teams’ squad lists this season. Guilherme is a naturalized Brazilian, and Dinamo’s young David Sangara was born in Mali to a Russian mother, but that’s it.

23 and younger/24 and older players’ playing time proportions

  1. Akhmat Grozny – 29.31%/70.69%
  2. FC Ufa – 27.60%/72.40%
  3. CSKA Moscow – 27.11%/72.89%
  4. Lokomotiv Moscow – 24.95%/75.05%
  5. Zenit St. Petersburg – 20.02%/79.98%
  6. FC Krasnodar – 19.96%/80.04%
  7. Anzhi Makhachkala – 17.96%/82.04%
  8. Spartak Moscow – 17.66%/82.34%
  9. Rubin Kazan – 15.84%/84.16%
  10. FC Tosno – 14.71%/85.29%
  11. FC Rostov – 13.19%/86.81%
  12. Dinamo Moscow – 12.34%/87.66%
  13. Ural Ekaterinburg – 12.10%/87.90%
  14. Arsenal Tula – 6.65%/93.35%
  15. Amkar Perm – 2.69%/97.31%
  16. SKA Khabarovsk – 1.47%/98.53%

Akhmat has bought several very young Brazilians who have immediately become key players, though they trusted their youth in the last season as well (and that paid off – they sold their best U23 player, Daler Kuzyaev, to Zenit). Ufa under Semak consistently used Bezdenezhnykh, Zhivoglyadov and Oblyakov, while CSKA and Lokomotiv have excellent youth prospects in Golovin and Miranchuk. Even Spartak, despite losing Zobnin, are consistently using Dzhikiya, and in the last match against Arsenal, four more under-23 players were fielded (Selikhov, Tigiev, Pasalic and the unfortunately injured Timofeev, who tore his ACL after turning awkwardly). On the other end, we curiously have three relegation fighters – Arsenal, Amkar and SKA also occupy 13th, 14th and 16th places in the league. Could these stats be connected somehow?

Playing time of players aged 31 and older

  1. Lokomotiv Moscow – 38.06% (8 players)
  2. CSKA Moscow – 32.42% (5 players)
  3. Arsenal Tula – 26.85% (3 players)
  4. Ural Ekaterinburg – 26.46% (4 players)
  5. FC Ufa – 24.97% (4 players)
  6. FC Rostov – 22.55% (4 players)
  7. SKA Khabarovsk – 22.12% (5 players)
  8. Rubin Kazan – 18.81% (4 players)
  9. Spartak Moscow – 18.44% (3 players)
  10. Amkar Perm – 15.39% (2 players)
  11. Akhmat Grozny – 15.29% (2 players)
  12. Anzhi Makhachkala – 14.06% (2 players)
  13. FC Tosno – 12.40% (3 players)
  14. FC Krasnodar – 9.09% (1 player)
  15. Zenit St. Petersburg – 7.58% (2 players)
  16. Dinamo Moscow – 5.11% (1 player)

Lokomotiv and CSKA (and Ufa as well) immediately bring to mind the old Soviet adage – “сплав опыта и молодости” (“an alloy of experience and youth”): all these teams have very old and very young players at their disposal, with few prominent “middle-aged” players. Arsenal Tula is up there as well, a leftover from the last season where they fielded fourteen “older” players.

On the other end, we see Krasnodar, who shed experienced Russian players such as Kaleshin, Bystrov, Torbinsky and Izmailov, and Zenit, which are undergoing a major overhaul, accompanied by relegation battlers Tosno and Dinamo (Dinamo had to resort to their youth players back in 2015/16, when they sold a lot of their first team and relegated).

All youth (season-average age 21 and younger) players used this season

  1. Dzhemal Tabidze (GEO, FC Ufa, 21.36 years) 450 minutes
  2. Alexei Miranchuk (RUS, Lokomotiv Moscow, 21.78 years) 449 minutes
  3. Leo (BRA, Akhmat Grozny, 18.99 years) 438
  4. Alexander Golovin (RUS, CSKA Moscow, 21.16 years) 410
  5. Sebastian Driussi (ARG, Zenit St. Petersburg, 21.47 years) 362
  6. Dmitry Barinov (RUS, Lokomotiv Moscow, 20.88 years) 356
  7. Georgy Melkadze (RUS, FC Tosno, 20.32 years) 293
  8. Alexander Zuev (RUS, FC Rostov, 21.09 years) 266
  9. Fyodor Chalov (RUS, CSKA Moscow, 19.30 years) 231
  10. Anton Miranchuk (RUS, Lokomotiv Moscow, 21.78 years) 225 minutes
  11. Emanuel Mammana (ARG, Zenit St. Petersburg, 21.49 years) 180
  12. Ivan Oblyakov (RUS, FC Ufa, 19.04 years) 180
  13. Ilya Pomazun (RUS, CSKA Moscow, 20.98 years) 180
  14. Ayaz Guliev (RUS, Anzhi Makhachkala, 20.65 years) 170
  15. Mikhail Lysov (RUS, Lokomotiv Moscow, 19.48 years) 167
  16. Rifat Zhemaletdinov (RUS, Rubin Kazan, 20.87 years) 159
  17. Alexei Gasilin (RUS, Amkar Perm, 21.41 years) 133
  18. Dominik Dinga (SRB, Ural Ekaterinburg, 19.27 years) 90
  19. Ivan Ignatyev (RUS, FC Krasnodar, 18.59 years) 90
  20. Ravanelli (BRA, Akhmat Grozny, 18.91 years) 88
  21. Zelimkhan Bakaev (RUS, Spartak Moscow, 21.06 years) 68
  22. Ilya Zhigulyov (RUS, FC Krasnodar, 21.46 years) 40
  23. Alexander Troshechkin (RUS, FC Tosno, 21.30 years) 27
  24. Pavel Dolgov (RUS, Anzhi Makhachkala, 20.98 years) 19
  25. Igor Bezdenezhnykh (RUS, FC Ufa, 20.97 years) 16
  26. Artyom Galadjian (RUS, Lokomotiv Moscow, 19.22 years) 15
  27. Mihajlo Ristic (SRB, FC Krasnodar, 21.75 years) 15
  28. Magomed-Shapi Suleymanov (RUS, FC Krasnodar, 17.61 years) 15
  29. Konstantin Kuchaev (RUS, CSKA Moscow, 19.35 years) 14
  30. Artyom Yusupov (RUS, Ural Ekaterinburg, 20.21 years) 3
  31. Ayub Batsuev (RUS, Akhmat Grozny, 20.47 years) 2

Arsenal Tula, Dinamo Moscow and SKA Khabarovsk are yet to field an under-21 player.

Some conclusions

Overall, the start of this season looks more optimistic than the previous – both from club and Sbornaya standpoint. The main difference isn’t, even more, goals scored, but rather the increased usage of younger players, both Russian (such as Miranchuk and Golovin, who are already established stars in their respective clubs, and several guys from the Krasnodar Academy) and foreign (Driussi, Pasalic, Brazilian youngsters from Akhmat). I’m even inclined to think that this season, RFPL will finally get rid of the hangover from the early years of foreigner limits.

Back then, any Russian passport-holders who could kick a ball straight (or, as Valery Karpin rather eloquently stated, “if the guy can make a shot at the goal, his minimum asking price is $500,000. If he actually scores a goal, the asking price increases to $1,000,000!”) were offered rather lucrative contracts to ensure their loyalty to the club, and both the prices and wages for Russian players shot up. Russians stopped going abroad (remember how many of them were playing in Europe in the 1990s!) because nobody wanted to match their financial appetites, and the league became rather stagnant – the same cast of familiar Russian characters wandered from one mid-table club to the other, getting (obviously) progressively older with each passing year and giving little chances for youth players to prove themselves. Now that the many “limit kids” are past their peak, younger players seem to finally get back into the so-called “Russian positions” in the squad.

Still, many relegation battlers are still too wary to trust their youngsters. SKA Khabarovsk have the oldest squad in the league and seem to do little to improve that, Arsenal did get rid of most of their “30+ club” of the last year but still don’t use younger players much, and Amkar’s surprisingly bad start could also be connected with the squad ageing. On the other hand, we have young squads of Anzhi and Tosno battling relegation too, but at least they are doing something for the future of their clubs and Sbornaya, rather than trying to get some immediate results with the players who belong to the past.

Author: Alexey Spektrowski

I’m a Spartak Moscow fan who dabbles in Soviet/Russian football history (mostly numerical and statistical). Contributed some data to the Spartak Moscow museum at Otkrytie Arena.

Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    Excellent data and article.

  2. aleksey says:

    great analysis, i think really overall positive trends for the future of the national team

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