This analysis about Sergino Dest first appeared on Total Football Analysis, and was published with permission. All images in this article are property of Total Football Analysis.
Barcelona have managed to beat Bayern Munich to the signing of America’s next big thing, Sergino Dest. The 19-year-old full-back joins the Catalans after the departure of Nélson Semedo who made the switch to the Premier League.
The right-back position has been a huge area of concern for the Blaugrana and this signing should finally bring more balance to the squad and potentially solve a problem that persisted since the departure of Dani Alves.
This tactical analysis will give you a scout report on Sergino Dest and tell you how exactly can the youngster fit Barcelona’s tactics for 2020/21 and beyond. The analysis will dissect the player profile of Sergino Dest and see whether it’s compatible with Ronald Koeman’s vision of the Catalan giants.
The role of full-backs in Koeman’s Barcelona
Before actually starting the analysis on Dest’s best qualities and how they translate to Barcelona, we first have to establish what exactly is expected of a full-back at the club. Generally, the Catalans love their full-backs to act more as wing-backs – focused on the offensive and bombarding the final third with runs and/ or passes.
With that in mind, and regardless of the formation used, all of their targets and potential arrivals have to be competent on the ball and aggressive in their approach. However, with the arrival of Koeman, Barcelona have moved on from their traditional 4-3-3 and have adopted his favourite 4-2-3-1 system.
How does that exactly affect the full-backs? The emphasis will still be for them to push forward and attack, only this time, the width may exclusively be provided by them on that right side. Below, we can see Koeman’s preferred lineup so far in his tenure and the roles he expects the players to fulfil.
Note, however, that we are now focusing on the attacking phase of play. The 4-2-3-1 that Koeman prefers focuses mostly on inverted wingers, hence the need for attacking full-backs who provide width. Antoine Griezmann and Ansu Fati have been deployed on either side of the pitch so far and while the latter can provide the width and cut inside, the former is mostly occupying the half-space or the central areas.
Even if Koeman went with Francisco Trincão, the result would be mostly the same – the Portuguese gem likes to cut inside to the left as well, leaving the flank mostly unmanned. This is where the full-back comes in. The core principles they have to abide by in a 4-2-3-1 are supporting the build-up and the attacking phase, inverting when necessary to aid the double-pivot/ single metronome, offer support to the wingers and be able to overlap/ underlap when necessary.
You can see that relationship in the graphic below which emphasises the relationship the full-back can have with his teammates.
In the build-up phase, the full-back can combine with the goalkeeper, the ball-near midfielder, centre-back and the winger, pushing up to the middle third in an attempt to help progress the ball. This can be done to ensure the midfielders are not overcrowded and that the half-space is always occupied by multiple layered options, which can be seen in the second image where he has joined the middle third when moving up the pitch.
Depending on the type of winger in front, once entering the final third, the full-back can either overlap and charge forward or just ensure numerical superiority is achieved over the defenders out wide.
These are, of course, some of the general principles of the full-back’s role in a 4-2-3-1 formation and judging by Koeman’s system so far and personnel he tends to use, we can start gauging Dest’s role in it as well. But does he have the right skill set to do it effectively? Let’s continue with our tactical analysis and find out.
The attacking full-back
Dest’s best attributes indeed come to light once he starts attacking. The 19-year-old is an incredible ball-progressor and a creative outlet on the flank. By analysing his heatmap and one of Ajax’s pass maps from their Europa League clash with Getafe, both of which can be seen below, we get a better look at Dest’s player profile.
Notice his biggest connections on the pitch, as indicated by the thickness of the arrows. His average positioning was around the middle of the pitch with the most passes played between him and midfielder Ryan Gravenberch, centre-back Perr Schuurs and winger Danilo. These are the three main connections we can expect him to establish at Barcelona as well.
We’ve already concluded that the full-back in Koeman’s system will have to be able to support the build-up with the midfielders and connect with the winger in front, either overlapping/ underlapping or creating superiorities out wide. Both his heatmap and the pass map seem to indicate heavy involvement and a rather high position on the pitch. By all accounts, Dest is certainly a player who spends more time in the opposition’s half than in his own but is also someone who can help stabilise the possession phase in the middle third.
However, it will be his connection with the right-winger that makes or breaks the whole structure on that flank. Assuming both Griezmann and Trincão continue featuring in that position, we can fully expect Dest to be an overlapping full-back and provide the width for Barcelona.
Notice in the above image how this often played out at Ajax and how it might continue at Barcelona. Dest receives the ball in his own half but proceeds to run with the ball until he can connect with the dropping winger. Once the markers have been pulled out of position and space has been created, a simple one-two with his teammate deploys the American into the final third on an overlapping run.
These instances aren’t really an anomaly because this is what Dest can do and do it effectively. Bursting into space and combining with his teammates is where he feels at home. But one important aspect we have to take note of is how he progresses the ball. Even though he’s a technical player, he will rarely engage in intricate passing to get into the final third.
Instead, he excels when he’s given the licence to run with the ball, as we’ll see shortly through stats as well. Below, you can see a graph that depicts all full-backs from the top five European leagues up to the age of 25 who have played at least 500 minutes in 2019/20. We have also included Dest, Semedo, Jordi Alba and Sergi Roberto as well for comparison’s sake.
The graph measures dribbles and progressive runs per 90 minutes. With 4.84 dribbles and 2.39 progressive runs per 90, Dest comfortably outperforms every Barcelona full-back in the analysis. However, we have to take into account the difference between the Eredivisie and LaLiga in terms of quality and competitiveness.
It remains to be seen whether the 19-year-old can translate those achievements into a bigger league. Still, even with that being said, his tendency to consistently combine with his teammates up front has to be taken into account and will certainly offer Barcelona an extra outlet on the right.
Even though we don’t have a large sample size as of yet, Koeman’s Barcelona have been attacking strictly down the left flank where Fati and Alba operate. The right, however, despite Roberto’s occasional ventures, is mostly deserted. In fact, 45% of their attacks have gone down the left with only 25% on the opposite side. The difference is huge despite the sample size.
But another thing that Semedo lacked and Dest can provide is the interplay with the teammates combined with his pace and dribbling abilities and positional awareness in attack. The Portuguese is a prime physical specimen but couldn’t get used to the demanding rules of positional play. His replacement, however, should fare much better. Below, we can see some examples of Dest’s movement and interplay in the final third.
With Ajax’s attack being very dynamic and fluent, players exchanging places was a common occurrence. We’re seeing a similar thing at Barcelona under Koeman, albeit mostly on the left side. With the introduction of Dest, however, we can expect the right to come to life as well.
In the above example, as soon as the winger drops deeper and hugs the touchline, the American knows he has to shift wide and confuse the backline with his run. This type of movement is something we will often see from him in the Barcelona shirt as it’s a great tool to both create and exploit the space. He starts from the half-space and then he can either cut inside or burst out wide.
And that’s exactly the aspect that’s also praise-worthy – his versatility. Not only is he capable of playing as a left-back when needed as well but he has the skill set to operate as an inverted full-back too, as we’ve partially seen in the previous example. Even though Barcelona don’t necessarily utilise inverted full-backs in general, we have seen Roberto be much more involved and acting as support for the midfield when needed. Dest can do exactly that while occupying the half-space and then bursting forward as well.
Above, we can see him tuck in centrally, receive the lay-out from the forward and then combine in the final third. Eventually, he recognises the space that’s available on the flank and proceeds to reposition himself once again. This shows his flexibility, involvement in the attack and positional awareness all in one single action.
Presence in and around the box
The final aspect we have to analyse when it comes to Dest and his skill set is the presence in and around the box. Generally speaking, this is an area Barcelona are really struggling in since their full-backs – with the exception of Alba – don’t offer a big enough influence in the danger zones.
However, with the addition of the 19-year-old, this could finally change. Firstly, we’ll start with some statistics and comparisons. Below, you can see the graph with the same player pool as the previous ones, only this time, we’re measuring shots and touches in the box per 90.
Compared to Barcelona’s full-backs and young full-backs across Europe, Dest is ranking quite high. Only Alba can match him in touches in the box per 90 but no one shoots as often as he does. Another thing we’ve included here is the xG per 90, which is shown by the size of the dots – the bigger the dot, the higher the xG.
Dest is clearly a much bigger threat to the opposition than any of the Barcelona full-backs with impressive numbers in all three categories. But let’s look at this more closely and compare him to Semedo directly since that’s exactly who he’ll be replacing.
Below is a radar comparing the attack and creativity of both players in some of the main categories. The results are shown in percentile rank as opposed to the per 90 values.
The only categories that favour the Portuguese right-back are the ones concerning smart and through passes and dribble success but the latter with a slight caveat of fewer dribbles attempted in the first place.
However, when it comes to passes into the penalty area, key passes, xG and touches in the box as well as dribbles per 90, Dest is outperforming his counterpart. While Semedo can run with the ball and dribble past his opposition with pace, he still doesn’t have the final product. The American, however, does, and it’s visible from this graph already.
One major weapon Dest also has over Semedo is the crossing ability. With 2.9 crosses per 90, 0.54 crosses to goalie box and 0.75 deep completed crosses (a cross that is targeted to the zone within 20 meters of the opponent goal), he outperforms the Portuguese in all three metrics (1.46, 0.16 and 0.32 respectively).
Even though Barcelona don’t necessarily utilise crosses as much, we can expect lots of cut-backs from the right side with Dest’s introduction. But it’s not just about the crosses and cut-back passes. This works best when it’s combined with other weapons in his arsenal.
We can see above how Dest first recognises the space to run into, exploiting the half-space channel as he often does, and then proceeds to sprint into the box and deploy a pinpoint cross to his teammate.
Being a right-footed right-back plays a major part in this aspect. He often lets the ball roll over his body when he receives and can quickly change pace to beat the opponent and then get into a prime position to cross.
Needless to say, despite not having to progress the play through passing nor passing excessively in general, he seems like an upgrade for the Catalans’ right-back position.
We have to remember that Dest is only 19 years old and still pretty raw. Additionally, with the right side becoming more involved in attack, the double pivot will have more defensive responsibility by drifting wide once Dest starts bursting forward at all times.
However, it shouldn’t take the young American too long to take over the position and become Barcelona’s first-choice right-back.
Scout Report: Analysis of Barcelona academy players
This article first appeared on Total Football Analysis. Link to original article.
Barcelona are a team well-known for their renowned academy, La Masia, as the Catalans’ production lines is responsible for some of the best players to ever grace the footballing pitch, not just in La Liga, but across the globe.
But it’s been years since the golden generation conquered the world, clinching Champions League and domestic titles for Barcelona in its rampage, and there is a sense that the well has dried up just a little bit.
For that reason, this data analysis will use statistics to find the best talents currently at Barcelona B and use that data as a foundation for further tactical analysis over the next weeks.
Initial data check
Before we delve further into this data analysis, we must explain the metrics that will be used in detail. For this particular analysis, we’ve decided to take a look at all the Barcelona B players Wyscout have in their database for the 2019/20 season.
Since we are talking about really young prospects that play in a league not as widely covered, some of the data will be scarce and will undoubtedly skew our findings. So it’s important to note that we’ll only highlight the players who have played more than 500 minutes for Barcelona B this season and only the ones whose data set allows us to take a more in-depth look.
With that in mind, we’ve decided to look for the most proactive attacking-minded players in the squad, analysing their goal contribution, creativity, and ball progression to give us a clear picture of some of the most influential players the young Blaugrana squad has to offer.
The first graph, therefore, will outline the players’ goal contribution per 90 (goals per 90 combined with assists per 90) and their expected goal contribution per 90 (expected goals combined with expected assists per 90 minutes).
Immediately, we can see a couple of names that stand out in the scatter graph above. While Nils Mortimer has exceptional goal contributions in 2019/20, averaging 0.54 G+A per 90 minutes from 0.38 xG+A per 90, he has only played 500 minutes this season and will therefore not be included in the shortlist.
Álex Collado and Ilaix Moriba, however, are the other standout performers, tallying 0.36 goal contribution per 90 from 0.41 expected goal contribution per 90 and 0.36 from 0.46 respectively. Both values are above-average in both of the categories. Apart from them, Abel Ruiz (0.28 from 0.44) and Monchu (0.32 from 0.37) are also worth keeping an eye on.
It’s also interesting to note that neither of those players have outperformed their xGoal contributions. The ones to do that are Kike, Hiroki Abe, Ronald Araujo, and Dani Morer, with the latter two being defenders.
The next graph will deal with the best creative forces at Barcelona B by outlining their passes into the danger zone per 90 (passes into the final third per 90 combined with passes into the penalty area per 90) and key passes per 90 minutes.
Now we get a completely different set of players. Riqui Puig is a name Barcelona supporters are well aware of and the 20-year-old midfielder has a particular skill set that benefits the Catalans. Puig averages 15.33 passes into the danger area per 90, which is miles ahead of the 6.30 that’s the average value of the squad. But interestingly enough, his 0.12 key passes per 90 are still below the average value of 0.20.
The other two names that stand out the most in the graph are Sergio Akieme and Guillem Jaime. Akieme is the most creative of the lot when it comes to key passes as he deployed the team-highest 0.69 per 90 along with 8.48 passes into the danger area per 90. Even though Jaime averages slightly fewer key passes per 90 with 0.55, his 10.88 passes into the danger area per 90 make up for the difference and put him in a “sweet spot” on the graph.
Still, Morer, Moriba, and Collado are also impressive in this metric despite the latter player tallying below-average passes into the danger area, which could be a direct result of his higher positioning on the pitch.
Finally, we’ll take a look at the best ball progressors in the squad, outlining their progressive actions per 90 (progressive runs combined with progressive passes per 90) and dribbles per 90 minutes.
Once again, Puig is the standout performer and seems to be the best ball progressor at Barcelona B by some distance. The young midfielder averaged 14.72 progressive actions per 90 along with 5.44 dribbles per 90 as well.
Kike’s case is quite interesting as he averaged the team-highest value for dribbles per 90, tallying 9.28, but is just below-average in progressive actions per 90 with 6.96. This time, Akieme is close to that “sweet spot” with a nice ratio of 4.28 dribbles per 90 and 10.11 progressive actions per 90. Of course, both are lower than Puig’s but they’re still good enough to have an impact.
And yet Barcelona B have an abundance of great ball progressors in the squad as all of Jaime, Morer, Óscar Mingueza, and Jorge Cuenca eclipse the average value of 7.46 per 90 by some distance.
Next, we will highlight five of the best players that should be analyzed further by using the data gathered and putting it into a tactical context.
Riqui Puig, 20 years old, midfield
Puig has already had some taste of the senior squad and it is still largely expected that he makes the step up sooner rather than later. The young midfielder is among the best ball progressors in the whole league, let alone at Barcelona B.
With 14.72 progressive actions per 90 minutes along with 15.33 passes into the danger zone, he is by far the most effective player in those metrics on this shortlist. And with 2.06 deep completions and 2.10 through passes per 90 minutes, we can also see that he is quite potent in that creator and distributor role. His final product is still not there but given his role in the squad, that is not a major issue at the moment.
Sergio Akieme, 22 years old, left-back
As far as aggressive and progressive full-backs go, it seems that Akieme is settling quite nicely into that role. The 22-year-old excels in the offensive phase and likes to directly contribute to the attack as well. Interestingly enough, and as we’ve already seen in the scatter graphs earlier in this data analysis, Akieme’s tallies in expected goal contribution and actual goal contribution are both slightly below average.
But when it comes to progressing the ball and creativity, he is quite exceptional. His 0.69 key passes per 90 minutes mean he’s by far the most prolific among Barcelona B players in that category and his 8.48 passes into the danger area put him a good distance over the average line as well.
Guillem Jaime, 21 years old, right-back/right-wing
Jaime has spent time both as a right-back and as a right-winger throughout 2019/20 and that has inevitably had an impact on his stats. But even when he’s deployed in a more defensive role, the 21-year-old likes to bombard forward, similarly to Akieme, and connects well with his teammates up front.
His goal contributions are both below average but he clearly excels in both creativity and ball progression, as can be seen from the graphs and his stats below. His 11.85 progressive actions per 90 minutes are only behind Puig’s and Mingueza’s, taking into account the latter’s smaller minutes tally.
Similarly, his 0.55 key passes per 90 minutes mean only Akieme has a better value while only Puig and Monchu are better passers into the danger area.
Ilaix Moriba, 17 years old, midfield
Moriba is definitely a prospect well worth keeping a close eye on. The youngster is only 17 years of age and his game tally is slightly lower than the rest of his teammates on this list, but he still stands out for different reasons.
His goal contribution is through the roof, especially since he’s been used as a midfielder throughout the 2019/20. But it is also interesting to see that he’s been able to muster 0.36 goal contribution per 90 from an 0.46 expected goal contribution, which does suggest his return could be even better than it currently is.
But Moriba is also highly creative, tallying above average key passes, passes into the danger area, and dribbles per 90 minutes. He is, however, below average when it comes to progressive actions but he more than just makes up for it in other areas.
Álex Collado, 21 years old, right-wing
And finally, we have Collado, a 21-year-old winger who is pretty close to the first-team already and could make that step up soon as well. And when we analyze his stats, it’s fairly easy to see why that is.
Collado’s goal contribution stands at 0.36 per 90 minutes, which is the same as Moriba’s but with a slightly lower expected goal contribution of 0.41. Still, from the players with significant game time this season, no one has a better value than Collado.
And with 0.39 key passes per 90 minutes and above-average dribble per 90 values, it is clear that the young winger can be a creative force as well as the one to put the finishing touches when necessary.
This data analysis has used statistics to find some of the best attacking and creative forces at Barcelona B. However, data can only tell us so much without a proper tactical context and for that reason, we’ll aim to further analyse all of the five shortlisted players before giving you the final verdict on their potential and overall ability.
Still, this is a solid foundation that can help us identify the players that have clearly stood out from the rest throughout 2019/20.