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Barcelona’s gem that will define the new era: Analysing Lamine Yamal

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Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

Barcelona’s young talent, Lamine Yamal, is making waves this season for the senior team. Despite being only 16 years old, he has become an indispensable player under Xavi’s command.

In 40 matches across all competitions, Yamal has netted six goals and delivered seven assists for the Blaugrana. That means he is contributing to a goal every 373 minutes, a remarkable achievement for someone his age.

Given the breakthrough season he is having, it is only logical to dwell deeper into the statistics and do some benchmarking to establish the impact he has had so far.

Individual brilliance

When you watch Yamal play, what immediately stands out is his incredible dribbling skills. He has this amazing knack for getting past defenders, making him far better than his opponents. 

Interestingly, he completes 2.97 dribbles per game, with a success rate of 45.8%. To put it into perspective, the amount of successful dribbles places him among the best in the world (85th percentile).

Lamine Yamal completes almost three dribbles per match. Graphic: Progressive dribbles (left) & Dribbles inside the box (right).

Furthermore, Yamal is not just a skilled ball handler; when he’s dribbling, he’s in the top tier. On average, he makes 5.04 progressive drives per game, with about 2.75 of those reaching the final third and 2.34 inside the penalty area. 

Remarkably, he is dispossessed less than once per game. For comparison, he is slightly ahead of Bukayo Saka in this regard.

Meanwhile, what really stands out is his knack for creating dangerous opportunities. When you tally up his key passes and key pre-passes, he averages around 2.78 per game. 

Lamine is a passing genius and far superior to other wingers who have left Barcelona recently. He averages 34.47 passes and is much more effective than Raphinha [+4.6%], averaging [78.1%] in effectiveness.

Lamine Yamal plays almost 35 passes per match. Graphic: Passmap (left) & Key passes (right).

While this falls short of Raphinha’s [-1.88], it’s better than Vinicius Jr’s [+1.60]. Additionally, he generates about 3.02 shooting chances and 0.50 scoring opportunities per game.

Defensive solidity

Yamal’s defensive skills have significantly sharpened since he joined the first team. He now manages an average of 8.76 defensive actions per game, with 4.6 of those resulting in turnovers. 

Simply put, he is in the top tier (percentile >95) among wingers when it comes to defensive prowess. Similarly, he averages 2.39 tackles, 1.71 blocks and 0.9 interceptions per match.

Lamine Yamal plays a good role in defence as well. Graphic: Recoveries (left) & Deffensive territory (right).

When you observe his defensive area, it is clear that he effectively guards the entire wing, almost as if he were a winger himself. In fact, Yamal ranks as the second-best player in the team when it comes to CounterPression [29], with only Joao Cancelo ahead of him.

Despite all this, there is room for improvement as he struggles in aerial duels, with a success rate of only 15%.

What about the attack?

Despite being a forward, the attacking aspect of his game needs more focus if he wants to reach the level of a top player and possibly win the Golden Ball.

On average, he takes 2.79 shots – above the 80th percentile – per game. However, only 29% of his shots actually result in a goal attempt, whereas someone like Raphinha, for example, has a higher success rate at 38.4%.

Lamine Yamal averages 2.79 shots per match. Graphic: Shots on goal (left) & Area coverage (right).

When we look at the quality of Lamine’s attacks, he has a low expected goal value (xG) of 0.28, whereas the average for more successful players is above 0.43. To put it simply, Lamine needs to take around 18 shots to score a goal, whereas the European average is only 6 shots per goal.

Conclusion

After thoroughly analyzing his data, it can be assumed that Yamal should aim to get much closer to his goal. Currently, he’s averaging 17.5 meters, but his optimal range is 12.3 meters. Closing this gap could significantly enhance his effectiveness in scoring.

Additionally, it is noteworthy that the 16-year-old tends to target passes more towards the forward area (Zone 14) and the spaces in between, rather than relying heavily on crosses into the penalty area close to the goal. This sets him apart from Raphinha in terms of play style.

Creator: Gusfop, Editor: Ash Reyna

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