First-Half JSTATS: Park, Eduardo leading Sagan Tosu’s surprising charge to the top four

First-Half JSTATS: Park, Eduardo leading Sagan Tosu’s surprising charge to the top four

Sagan Tosu were not expected to be sitting in fourth right now. After finishing 13th place in the MEIJI YASUDA J1 LEAGUE last season, and having never before qualified for the AFC Champions League, many expected they would be battling simply to survive in the top division in 2021.

Instead, they've surprised everyone, sitting in the top four thanks to an elite defense, which is anchored by Park Il-gyu.

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The South Korean goalkeeper has been sensational, and part of that is because of the distance he covers. As of July 17th, when JSTATS published data before the Tokyo 2020 break, Park averaged 7.4 kilometers covered per game — by far the highest among his positional group and a historic pace for goalkeepers. While he’s obviously crucial to keeping goals out, his athleticism also allows him to play an essential role in Sagan Tosu's buildup — something demonstrated by the fact that he leads all goalkeepers in the number of passes leading to a shot within three plays. Oh, and the core of goalkeeping - stopping shots? He leads the league in that, too. Park Il-gyu is doing it all for Sagan.

He is hardly doing it alone, though. Eduardo has shone in the center of the Sagan defense, helping form the backbone of the team. He leads the club in clearances and blocked shots, and also contributes to the attack, like Park. In the first half of the season, Eduardo recorded the highest number of vertical passes in the league, showing that he can play a major role as a switch in the attack from the center back position.

(Stats as of July 17, provided by Data Stadium, Inc.)

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