Taking a look at one of Atlanta United's most exciting prospects Caleb Wiley has got a lot going for him. Aside from apparently being a really smart attacker with a poachers instinct, Wiley is also a fast winger who has some really desirable qualities in both attack and defense. Caleb is currently being deployed as a winger in Pineda's system and I don't have any complaints, any player on short lists with Alphonso Davies has my approval.
But what is that winger role? Wiley normally plays left wing in front of Andrew Gutman, this allows him to be more attack focused and not have to worry about getting back quite as much. He does, however, have to come back and help defend Andrew Gutman. This has happened in multiple different ways this season. He can either press up higher than Gutman, defend on the outside of Gutman, or take Gutman's role which allows him to do something else. This variability is important for dealing with different situations, but also requires good communication to not let Bernardeschi score without breaking a sweat.
This defense relies on pushing players out wide and then multiple players collapsing around them. This was executed well against Charlotte and was a major reason for the success of the team.
And Caleb is also pivotal in the attack, clearly demonstrated in the Charlotte game when he runs into acres of space on the left wing after the ball is brought up the right flank and Almada drags defenders WAY out of position. This has also been happening in the Toronto game but is so clear and obvious in the most recent game against Charlotte. I talked more about it in a different article but basically, Wiley being in this much space on the attack should not be happening.
This kind of free space allowed Caleb Wiley to be named the MLS player of the week and receive a 9.2 rating from FotMob with two goals and an assist. Looking deeper into his stats he had a decent defensive performance with a 100% tackle rate, 3 clearances, and 5 recoveries. It wasn't flawless in the back as he got dribbled past twice but still a good day out, and let's be honest, the attack is what we are all most excited about. The 18-year-old registered almost 150 yards of passing including going 1 for 1 on long balls. Looking at more selfish stats he also managed the second-most touches in the box and tied for the second-highest progressive receives as he wasn't dribbling with the ball much but was running onto passes a lot.
Taking a step back to look at Caleb's numbers in the last season, not just in the Charlotte game, there are some very positive numbers. Perhaps the most exciting is the .33 tackles in the attacking third per 90 which puts him in the 86th percentile among fullbacks. This is promising as it shows a desire to press the ball even in a system that didn't press high very much last year. He also had good blocking stats showing good positional awareness. He also has 0.06 errors per 90 rate putting him in the 6th percentile, which is outstanding, the last thing you want is your defenders giving up shots through errors. These defensive stats are also based on defenders because if you base his stats off of attackers he is 90+ percentile in almost all the defensive stats.
Onto some of the more fun stats, Caleb Wiley has a very good .16 average xG per shot which makes sense when coupled with his average shot distance being 12 yards, both of these stats put him in the 98th percentile. These two stats mean that Caleb does a good job of getting close to the goal before letting rip, something that is definitely of value as we try to block Pity Martinez from our minds. Something mentioned earlier but still impressive is Wiley's almost 9 progressive passes received per 90 which means that on average someone will pass a ball that moves the play up the field to Caleb almost 9 times per game. It is interesting to flip between the tabs comparing Wiley to fullbacks and wingers as some stats are ridiculous in either category and a lot of changed percentiles.
Looking at Caleb as a provider he has a good amount of crosse into the box, but unfortunately a low assist rate of .11 per game in 2022. I was just thinking that hopefully it will improve in 2023 but it already has with his assist for Araujo against Charlotte. In addition to that the 18-year-old has a high rate of take-ons that led to shots as well as a good rate of live passes leading to shots, 2.26 per match putting him in the 87th percentile among fullbacks. Hopefully, the homegrown talent continues to grow and improve and thoroughly humiliate some more very out-of-position defenders.