Kaoru Mitoma: The data and grades behind Brighton's latest sensation

2MY69H9 Brighton, UK. 04th Feb, 2023. Adam Smith of Bournemouth FC pulls on the shirt of Kaoru Mitoma of Brighton and Hove Albion during the Premier League match between Brighton & Hove Albion and Bournemouth at The Amex on February 4th 2023 in Brighton, England. (Photo by Jeff Mood/phcimages.com) Credit: PHC Images/Alamy Live News

When Roberto De Zerbi arrived at Brighton & Hove Albion back in September, Kaoru Mitoma had yet to make his full Premier League debut. But his late match-winner last weekend against Bournemouth was his seventh goal of the season, equalling the tally of Leandro Trossard.

His form earned Trossard a transfer to Arsenal last month, heightening the need for Mitoma to continue to be a difference-maker in attack after becoming an established first-team regular under De Zerbi.

Brighton have been seen as a club capable of recruiting well enough to sell their key players at a huge profit and not be worse off on the pitch as a result. Chelsea met the club’s valuation for Marc Cucurella last season, Spurs met the fee required for Brighton to part with Yves Bissouma, and in their place have come Pervis Estupiñán and Moises Caicedo – both of whom have graded at an elite level.

It is too soon to say whether moving on from Trossard has been a positive or negative influence for Brighton, but £27m ($32.6m) for a player aged 28 seems like good value and Mitoma has graded as one of the best players across multiple facets in the Premier League.

Here, we take a look at Mitoma, a £3m signing for Brighton in 2021 from Belgian side Union Saint-Gilloise.

Passing grade

81.7, position rank (6th out of 109)

Mitoma has been an accurate and progressive passer for Brighton so far this season, to earn himself a PFF passing grade of 81.7. The Japanese international leads all attacking midfielders in our precise passes per-90 metric of 0.5, far higher than the average of 0.14 among the 41 players to have recorded a precise pass.

Looking at Mitoma’s true pass percentage, which accounts for errors by the target on incomplete passes, he is tied-12th among all wingers to have played a minimum of 500 minutes in the Premier League with a true pass rate of 81.0%. Manchester City’s Riyad Mahrez leads the way in this category at 86.9%.

When considering the players with a higher percentage than Mitoma, the Brighton winger has still attempted the second-most line-breaking passes (10%), behind Nottingham Forest’s Jesse Lingard (11%) and ahead of the average of 7%.

Shooting grade

84.0, position rank (3rd out of 94)

Mitoma has a low volume of shots compared to others at his position registering 18 all season, lower than the average of 26.4. His efficiency has been a huge contributor to his 84.0 grade after 11 of those found the target.

Only Newcastle United’s Anthony Gordon (86.8) and Manchester City’s Phil Foden (84.6) have graded better than Mitoma at shooting, though he does own a better shots on target percentage of 73% to Foden’s 71%. Gordon, however, has perhaps had a better season than many people give him credit for, ranking second among all attacking midfielders at 85% and at a higher volume of shots.

Mitoma’s former teammate Trossard ranks sixth with an 83.0 grade based on his 32 shot attempts.

Crossing grade

63.6, position rank (57th out of 99)

Unlike passing and shooting, crossing has not been an attacking facet in which Mitoma ranks amongst the best in the league. His 63.6 grade is the 43rd percentile and is lower than other midfielders in the Brighton squad.

Alexis MacAllister (72.3) and Pascal Groß (70.1) are the only midfielders to hold a crossing grade above 70.0, while Solly March is marginally below that figure at 69.5 (ranked 31st out of 99).

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