Marc-André ter Stegen completed his fifth season for the blaugranas. With the next campaign arriving within a month, here is a quick look at the overall 19/20 season from Ter Stegen and just how consistently he performed.
This is the seventh episode of a series in which we review the performances of the different Barça first team players, as well as discuss their futures for the next campaign. You can check the series here.
The 2019/20 season has frankly been a failure for Barcelona. For starters, the team didn’t win a single trophy, which in itself is not what Barça, as a historic club, can accept. The way the team played was far from how they should play. Many clubs have a specific way or philosophy of playing. Barcelona is built upon a specific style of play and for the club to neither follow that nor play especially appealing football just meant that the lack of trophies can’t be compensated for.
It is only natural for everyone to reminisce about the golden age that the club experienced under Pep Guardiola and see the difference in the quality of players playing then and some of the ones playing now. However, even among these, some players still maintain the high standards that blaugrana players should, and among them is Marc-André ter Stegen.
Since leaving Monchengladbach for FC Barcelona in 2014, Ter Stegen has gone on to become an undisputed starter and has been in the conversation surrounding the best goalkeepers in the world for the last few years. Bought for a bargain price of €12 million, the German keeper has become a fan favourite and is one of the most consistent players in the squad. Ter Stegen’s commitment, communication with the fans and calm yet authoritative temperament are just some of the things which have made him a starter under every manager throughout his Barcelona career. Similarly, this term Ter Stegen has featured in 36 matches in the league, playing 90 minutes in each as is usual for a goalkeeper.
Again, the most recent debacle against Bayern Munich will unfairly stay too fresh in the memory for fans | Photo by Manu Fernández / Pool via Getty Images
In La Liga, Barcelona have conceded the fifth least goals, with 38. Nonetheless, Ter Stegen could arguably perform at an even higher level with a better defence. Barça have managed to concede a lot of goals caused by miscommunication, unorganised play in the box and a lack of discipline in the backline. Ter Stegen naturally suffers from this, but his incredible reflexes, great judgement of space, and superb positioning has made sure he still performs at the very highest level.
Ter Stegen is a goalkeeper with the brain of a midfielder. He works best as a sweeper-keeper, he is excellent with his feet and is willing to take risks. These attributes make him an excellent fit in-between the posts at a club like Barcelona. The 28-year-old has only improved upon these attributes this season. To show this, we will utilise some data provided by StatsBomb.
Compared to the last course, Ter Stegen has made less dangerous passes. This means, less passes into crowded spaces and risky areas. That might normally mean that he plays short passes or plays easy passes. In the German’s case, it would be incorrect. His 28.8m average passing length is almost the same as last year’s 29m, but he has made 10% less dangerous passes. His accuracy backs this up with more than 88% passes successfully.
The goalkeeper shows his attacking mentality with 19.5m of aggressive distance covered on average. Regardless of this, Ter Stegen has miscontrolled the ball zero times and he has naturally not been dispossessed this season.
Somewhere Ter Stegen struggles has always been catching balls floated into the box when the opposition crowd the six-yard box. Even this season, Ter Stegen has struggled in this regard. He is only in the 14th percentile of cross stopping according to Football Slices. This aspect has always been exploited by the opposition against Barcelona and is definitely somewhere the German keeper needs to improve upon.
From the previous data, we can see another example of just how good Ter Stegen is in terms of passing. He is in the 98th percentile in terms of launched pass completion. This is what makes him a very reliable player to pass back to. Barcelona have also been able to build up reliably with Ter Stegen’s passing ability. This forms the backbone of the Barça style. Juego de posición relies heavily on building up from the back.
What next for Ter Stegen?
Though Ter Stegen had a somewhat average start, he performed at a very high level consistently for the majority of the campaign. Unfortunately, the sour ending that Barcelona left the season on won’t help his case as it will only lead to people doubting his ability, especially in big games. It’s clear that Ter Stegen had a horrible game against Bayern, conceding eight goals. But this shouldn’t negate the number of times he has bailed out Barcelona after the defence failed.
As Barça’s last man and as their German wall, Ter Stegen has proven himself time and time again. The fact that despite Barcelona’s problems this course, he has managed to maintain his standards for the majority of the season shows just how capable the German is. Under new manager Ronald Koeman, Ter Stegen will undoubtedly be a starter, despite recent surgery on his right patellar tendon that may have him out until November. Once he is back, the only thing that remains to be seen is: will the team’s backline be good enough next season to help Ter Stegen reach the heights he is capable of?
A 19/20 season review of the new faces: Pedri
In September 2019, Barcelona paid 5 million euros to secure the services of Pedri, who would have a standout debut 19/20 season with Las Palmas at 17. In this article, we analyse the attributes and main statistics of the young and extremely promising attacking midfielder.
This is the first episode of a series of articles that dive deep into a season review of the incoming new faces at Barcelona. You can check the 19/20 season reviews here.
As Ronald Koeman‘s new Barcelona is already taking shape, the youngest member to be joining the first team is Pedro González López, affectionately known as Pedri.
The 17-year-old from the Canary Islands has been a member of UD Las Palmas through and through, right from the youth team set-up to his professional debut in 2019 with the first team. Playing primarily as an attacking mid or left winger, Pedri showcased his attacking repertoire early enough to become an important member of the Las Palmas senior team and went on to play 2982 minutes for them.
His skillset didn’t go unnoticed at the bigger clubs, and soon enough, he was snatched up by Barcelona. So, what does the young midfielder bring to the table?
Pedri was, admittedly, not the biggest goal threat in his first senior season, but given his age, that’s not an issue at all. He scored 4 goals and gave 5 assists.
Watching his shot videos and looking at his shot-map, one can conclude that he does need to work a bit on the judicious choice of positions from where to take shots. For example, there were a bunch of shots from the right with his right foot – shooting from such acute angles is quite unnatural for someone who is not a natural goalscorer. There are also far too many shots from outside the box, most of which, as the videos suggest, are hopeful punts than accurate attempts.
Given below are a variety of his attacking stats – both the raw value and the percentile (mentioned inside parentheses) when compared to other wingers or attacking midfielders who played at least 1000 minutes in the Segunda División of Spain last season.
Data by Wyscout
While most numbers appear to be modest, do keep in mind that this was a 16-year-old playing his first professional season. And his assists, expected assists (xA) and dribbling percentiles are particularly encouraging. It shows he is not afraid to take risks, and we are going to get more glimpses of that further into the article.
But before we proceed, let’s take a look at an animation of the only goal he scored from outside the box:
It was a well-struck fist-time half-volley into the left bottom corner, giving Las Palmas a 1–0 home win against Sporting de Gijón in September 2019. It also marked Pedri’s fist goal as a professional.
A big issue that plagued Barcelona all season was an uncoordinated and lackadaisical defensive effort put in by the team in general. Very little defensive activity by Luis Suárez and Lionel Messi led to Barcelona effectively defending with nine men. A lot of old men in the midfield in the form of Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitić and Arturo Vidal also meant that the necessary speed to catch up with fast breaks was lacking as well.
All these afore-mentioned midfielders are very fine players – some of the top midfielders in their prime – but have grown old and lost a bit of their zip, which is much needed in the midfield right now. Meanwhile, Frenkie de Jong is very athletic, and Riqui Puig is deceptively fast, and both of them put in decent defensive numbers. And Pedri should complement them well were these three to take the field in a game together.
Pedri put in a good amount of defensive work for Las Palmas. Browsing through his videos, one can immediately conclude that Pedri is deceptively fast as well and good at reading runs, and he times and angles his own runs to cut the opponents off in their tracks and win back the ball.
Shown below are a variety of his defensive stats. Except for aerial duels – understandable as he is only 177 cms tall –, he ranks very high at every other metric:
Next, let’s take a look at Pedri’s passing characteristics, as shown below.
Pedri was highly involved in the attacking build-ups while maintaining a pretty decent passing accuracy for an attacking midfielder/winger hybrid. He played a lot of forward passes at decent accuracy – something that should bring smiles to the faces of the fans. The teenager is definitely someone who is not shy at taking risks and will mix it up with a decent range of long balls as well. Pedri played around 9 forward passes per 90 minutes, around 8 back passes per 90 minutes and the rest were lateral.
Once again, his video clips make it clear that he attempts to progress the ball and be vertical whenever possible, and the data corroborates that. But here comes the highlight of the article: his keypassing numbers.
What should be clarified right away here is that “dangerous passes” is a nickname I am using for all sorts of progressive and productive passes. This includes passes that lead to shots, assists and pre-assists, progressive passes etc. Let’s have a look at his numbers:
Here we see his greatest asset: his passing abilities to do something productive. And Pedri is outstanding at almost every single category. He ranks very highly in productive passes (which are passes leading to shots + 2nd assists + 3rd assists), passes to the final third and the penalty area, through balls, deep progressions and progressive passes, while also maintaining a reasonably good accuracy at each kind of pass.
This is arguably what attracted Barcelona, and the club will be well served by a passer who is already at this stage of calibre at such an early age. Let’s take a deeper look at his passes that led to shots and goals:
14 of his 19 key passes were into the penalty area – arguably the most dangerous area to take shots from. Only one of the key passes is a corner kick – everything else comes from open play, which is encouraging.
Watching the videos, three of the key passes that end outside the box came from fast breaks – counter-attacks – where Pedri carried the ball upfield from deep and laid it onto the path of his teammate, or found his teammate with accurate long balls from deep. So, even though they were far from the box, they led to extremely dangerous plays by Las Palmas.
Focusing on just the assists, it is easy to see how Pedri combines his speed at ball-carrying with his silky dribbling skills to get past opposition and create crucial amounts of space before finding a teammate with a laser-accurate pass:
And as a special gift to the readers, here is an animation of the assist that happens at the top right corner of the pitch in the viz above. Pedri makes a well-timed run to latch on to his teammate’s pass outside the box, before pulling off an outrageous piece of skill to dribble past his marker with a ‘Berbatov-flick-and-turn’, runs into the box and lays the ball off through two opposition players for his teammate to smash a goal in.
Pedri is an absolute gem, and along with Ansu Fati, Riqui Puig, Francisco Trincão and Frenkie de Jong, may well end up forming the core of a youth-based team. As such, Barcelona will do well to hold on to him and nurture him well. After an already promising – unofficial – debut against Nàstic de Tarragona on Saturday, culés can only hope for him to have a great season and future ahead.
Acknowledgements: I would like to acknowledge the contribution of Samuel Gustafson, writer at Barça Universal, in collating the data and the videos used in the above article