Barça’s defensive problems persist. Keeping tabs on a player like Pau Torres would be crucial for Barcelona in the future.
Barcelona’s defensive record has not been immaculate lately. They have been leaky for years now. At one point in the season, the blaugranas had their worst goal conceded tally in the last decade. The problems in the defence are reasonably visible to the naked eye. No proper shape while defending and a lack of focus are some of the obstacles tactically fixable. But the main problem is the personnel available in the defence.
Gerard Piqué is 33 now and is not growing any younger. There is no proper replacement for the Catalan yet, while the one that showed promise might leave come summer. The other position is not locked down too. While Lenglet has shown promise, he has not featured regularly under Setién. Umtiti has been his preferred option but trusting the Frenchmen for the long haul seems to be not wise. Umtiti has suffered yet another injury and has been sharing his time between the pitch and the hospital.
So, it is wise to keep an eye on potential prospects for the centre-half slot. And, one such excellent centre-back is Pau Torres of Villarreal.
A homegrown Villarreal star
Pau Torres joined the Villarreal academy at the age of five and has been there since. Slowly growing through the ranks, he debuted for the club’s B team in 2016, aged 19. The same year, the lad got his first-team debut in a Copa del Rey game. He became a regular for the reserves for the rest of the season. The next season was more memorable as he made his La Liga debut, making him the fourth Vila-real born player to play in the league.
Pau Torres has been growing in leaps and bounds this season in La Liga | Photo by Imago
In 2018, for the first time in his career, he played for a different club. Malaga loaned him for a year in the Segunda División. The Spaniard played a titular role in Málaga, finishing third in their division. He featured in more than 40 games for Los Malaguistas, in a career-defining season. With the much-needed experience, he was ready to start for Villarreal. Alongside Raíl Albiol, he has been guarding the Yellow Submarine’s goal this season.
By the end of 2019, Pau got his contract extended, got his maiden Spain call-up and scored his first goal for the club. He became the first-ever Villarreal-born player to play for the national side. The 23-year-old has been confident, dependable, and a rock at the back.
Pau Torres’ playing style
Pau Torres is tall, left-footed and comfortable playing at left centre-back in a 4-man defence. He is calm and composed when pressed and has a knack of breaking the press too. He is excellent at getting the ball out from the back and finding that line-breaking pass. His distribution, especially his long-balls, are a treat to watch.
On the defensive side, Torres likes to anticipate the opponents’ movements than jump into tackles. His concentration and the ability to read the game helps him in this regard. To put things to perspective, we can compare the Villarreal-born man to Barcelona’s Lenglet. On the first watch, the two defenders seem to have a similar style of play.
Comparison with Clément Lenglet
Lenglet is only a year older than Torres but has been playing the top-level football for some years now. So, with the experience and quality, the numbers will be slightly better. Lenglet has better pass completion and participates more in the buildup as he plays for a side that builds out from the back and has a lot of the ball. However, Torres is not far behind.
A comparison between Barcelona’s Lenglet and Villarreal’s Pau Torres | Charts by @LaMasiaNostra
Both surprisingly play a similar amount of long balls with Pau liking to send in cross-field balls to the other flank. On the defensive side of things, the Frenchman is more positionally aware and makes better interceptions. However, the Spaniard makes more clearances in the box and commits lesser fouls. Despite being taller than Lenglet, Torres wins lesser aerial duals.
Pau Torres is not far behind Barcelona ‘s Lenglet in multiple aspects | Charts via @LaMasiaNostra
Lenglet shows better numbers when pressed as well as trying to get the ball to the final third. But, Villarreal’s style of play and position in the table might restrict the Spaniard’s abilities. He stays mostly on his half rather than pushing up and pressing high, which is understandable.
Lenglet surely has better numbers in most departments, but with a better possession-based team, Pau Torres’ numbers could improve. There are very few centre-backs who could fit the style of Barcelona and Pau could be one of them. If Umtiti’s injury problems continue and Barça decide to sell him, his €50m release clause could be tempting. But, if the azulgranas do sign Pau Torres, they would get a player who would possibly start for Spain for the next decade.
Three economical Memphis Depay alternatives Barcelona must chase
Memphis Depay, while still an option, might end up as nothing but another story of ‘what could have been’. Barça Universal takes a look at three options who the club can pursue instead of the Dutchman.
The 2020-21 season under Ronald Koeman is well and truly underway. Barcelona have begun their run in two competitions so far, having played four games in the League and the lone game against Ferencvaros in the Champions League. The start has been rocky, but promising.
A renewed squad has brought some much-needed revitalisation in the side. However, there is one department where the team have clearly lacked: centre-forward. The departure of Luis Suarez was undoubtedly needed, but it necessitated a backup in place. Having failed to acquire the services of Memphis Depay in the recent transfer window, the Blaugrana have struggled in the absence of a striker, often leaving a gaping hole ahead of the opposition backline.
🗣 — Koeman: “I don’t have the power to sign Depay, it depends on the club. All I can do is wait. We wanted Memphis because he is a great player and has qualities that, in my opinion, we lack like depth in our attack.” pic.twitter.com/vpshfDApFP— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) October 18, 2020
Culés over the last few seasons have been accustomed to the managers playing down any rumours of transfers. Any questions on potential signings brought out the cliched response: “We do not talk about players of other clubs”. Koeman’s press conferences are a sudden whiff of fresh air. He is a man who is blunt to the press and speaks without riddles. He has made it clear on multiple occasions that he desires the services of Memphis Depay to rejuvenate the #9 role.
With the club in an unpleasant position financially, here are three possible alternatives that Barcelona can eye in the upcoming window, who may fit the profile better than Depay.
Note: The criteria we are using is based on financial terms alone. All options listed could be available for less than €25 million in the next two windows – i.e. if the respective club is ready to sell.
Daka is a baller; and he proves it every match. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
The stocks of Red Bulls Salzburg have been on the constant rise. They are slowly, yet convincingly establishing themselves as a hub the nurtures some of the finest talents in Europe.
One of the clubs recent successes, Erling Haaland, has set the world ablaze at Borussia Dortmund. And since the Norweigan’s departure, a young 22-year-old has taken over the goal-scoring reigns. Presenting, Patson Daka.
In 2019-20, Daka found the back of the net 24 times in just 31 league games. His six assists further enhance the stats, considering that the Zambian started only 21 games.
His fearlessness and spatial awareness make him a massive asset. While his finishing prowess is conspicuous, he also possesses great skill with off the ball moments. The youngster has taken 48% of his shots with his right boot, and close to 40% with the left. This ambidexterity is a rare and valued skill that very few strikers possess.
Last season, Patson outperformed his xG tally by 6.48, also averaging the highest xG per 90(0.79). A conversion rate of 30% at the age of 22 is more than what one could dream of. However, in addition to his crude finishing, Daka’s ability to create chances is what makes him a viable option for Barcelona. This is exemplified in his 0.86 key passes per game. Patson Daka is certainly one for the Barcelona scouts to fix their eyes on.
Edouard is the perfect blend of top-notch technical and physical prowess. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
Odsonne Edouard is a product of Paris Saint-Germain’s youth academy who has made a case himself to be considered amongst the creme-de-la-creme of Europe’s pedigree. The youngster currently plays in the Scottish Premiership for the champions Celtic, ending the COVID curtailed 2019-20 season as the top scorer with 20 goals in just 24 starts.
Edouard is not just a finisher but a well-rounded player. The goals flow freely from the Frenchman as long as he is provided with the right service. The 22-year-old outscored his xG by 5.08 in the last season with 40% shots on target. However, even with the goals removed, Edouard is a sensational asset.
His dribbling prowess is matched by few, with a staggering 7.17 dribbles per 90. In the air, the Frenchman provides a potent threat with his physique and height. The statistics speak for themselves; 3.9 aerial duels per 90, winning 40% of them.
He also finds himself amongst the very top players with close to 6.5 touches in the box and two progressive runs per 90, a profile that the Catalans require so desperately. His move to a top club is just around the corner, and Camp Nou might end up as a win-win situation for all parties involved.
There is work to be done with Morelos, but with the right guidance, there is nothing stopping him. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
The Rangers #20 – Alfredo Morelos – takes the third and final spot in this list of potential targets for Barcelona. His finishing trade is nowhere close to the aforementioned two. That said, what makes him a great choice for Barcelona, however, is his heavy involvement in the buildup, as seen in his 17.9 off the ball actions per 90.
He is a massive part of the Rangers team that finally looks ready to displace Celtic from the top spot. He ended the last season with 12 goals in 18 starts. Despite having one of the highest xG per 90(0.75 per 90), his conversion rate is staggeringly low. At the young age of 24, he still has considerable time to mend his flaws, though.
The Colombian averages 5.63 shots per 90 and is also well equipped in dribbling. The talent is there, however it requires the right investment. His days in Scotland seem to be numbered. With Barcelona too looking at a long term project, an investment of less than €20M may be a gamble worth taking.
Going by Ronald Koeman’s words, the Memphis Depay to Barcelona deal only seems to be a matter of time, and the likelihood of the former Manchester United man coming to the camp now increases with every passing second. Nevertheless, the club should consider other economic investments that may give a bigger long term influence, while acting as a pure no. 9 that Barça crave for. Patson Daka, Odsonne Edouard and Alfredo Morelos are just three of the countless young talents out there. Which direction will this board take?