Lenglet has been developing very well at Barcelona. However, the current problems that club faces have overshadowed the silver lining that is the Frenchman’s performance this term. Here is a quick look at the 19/20 season from Clément Lenglet and just how well he performed.
This is the tenth 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.
When Clément Lenglet left Sevilla for Barcelona in 2018, he posted a photo on Instagram the caption stating, “I humbly come to help the club and work the most”. Lenglet has gone on to do exectly that and he has kept his head down and kept on improving slowly yet steadily till the 2019/20 season.
Barcelona have recently had many problems, both on and off the field. With all these issues surfacing, some players’ development has gotten lesser attention than it should. Clément Lenglet is one of these. In the now-gone campaign, Lenglet has arguably been a more consistent and reliable defender than Gerard Piqué as well, who hasn’t been bad himself. Since joining Barcelona in 2018, the Frenchman has made the most of every chance he has gotten and is now a world-class defender worthy of being a starter for Barcelona. At 25 years of age, Lenglet has a very bright future ahead.
Born in Beauvais, Oise in France, Clément started playing with Ligue 2 side Nancy and debuted on 27 September 2013. Since then, he has never looked back. Moving to Sevilla in 2017, Lenglet went on to make 73 appearances and finally broke through in world football in their match against Manchester United. Barcelona then activated his bargain of a release clause and he is now a key player for the team, taking the opportunities presented to him by the injury to compatriot Samuel Umtiti.
In the 19/20 La Liga, Lenglet has gone from being a promising central defender to one who is fulfilling his potential. 186cm tall and being a left-footed central defender, he plays alongside Piqué and his role is mainly assisting in the build-up apart from pure defending. This season, Lenglet has gotten clean sheets in 43% of his matches, conceding 0.9 goals per 90. In terms of bookings, he has gotten 0.4 yellow cards per 90. His performance has been very solid overall.
In the offensive end, Clément Lenglet has scored four goals in all competitions this season | Photo by Josep Lago / AFP via Getty Images
Barcelona look to build up from the back and this is where Lenglet really shines. His passing accuracy is superb and so is his range. The former Sevilla man is very good at long-ranged passes and this helps Barça when they need to get out of a tight situation at the back. Completing 92.6% of his passes this term, he has proven that he is a very reliable option to build-up from. The Frenchman has the second highest passing success rate in La Liga. He has completed 95% of passes within the range of 5–20 yards and 87% of the passes with length more than 25 yards.
In terms of pure defence, Lenglet combines excellent positional intelligence with his defensive talents. His tackles are always excellently timed and well thought-out. This season, he has won 37 out of 49 attempted tackles. As Barcelona have played a high line, many tackles have to be made judging the pace of the opposition. The 25-year-old has made 16 tackles in the middle 3rd of the field which has allowed Barça to continue playing a high line.
Lenglet has also made 112 clearances for Barcelona in La Liga this season, along with 35 interceptions. Though his figure of interceptions isn’t the highest, it’s not often that he has to intercept since he is superb at containing an opponent and dispossessing him. When the opposition right winger advances into Barça’s third, Jordi Alba often tucks back and allows Lenglet to advance onto the winger. With his excellent positioning and timing, Lenglet has made 43.3% successful pressures this season out of 383 attempts in the 2019/20 La Liga. Taking all this into account, it’s no surprise he is first in the league in successful pressures made.
Gerard Piqué has lost his edge in terms of pace as his age has been catching up. Though he wasn’t the fastest, he has still deteriorated. Lenglet has as a result had more responsibility in tackling players dribbling at the defence. He has a 41.4% success rate in tackling dribbling players, without fouling. This is very impressive as Barcelona’s high-line leaves them especially vulnerable to direct players.
One example of this especially stands out. Against Celta de Vigo, Rafinha Alcântara and Denis Suárez were constantly causing problems to Barcelona with their dribbling. With the defence of Umtiti and Pique, Barcelona were especially prone to this. The difference in the defence with Umtiti playing and with Lenglet playing is very clear. Due to injuries, the former’s form has now dropped and he is no longer a player who can challenge Lenglet for the starting spot.
What next for Clément Lenglet?
Under new manager Ronald Koeman, Lenglet will certainly retain his starting spot. Since Koeman’s teams usually build up from the back, the Frenchman’s abilities will be very useful and apparent as well. Lenglet will certainly keep proving his worth for the club. His talent has now reached a stage where he should also be a part of the French squad for the 2021 Euros. Lenglet’s development has been one of the silver linings in Barcelona’s grey cloud this season and it seems that his upward trajectory will only gain more momentum now.
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