If Culés were ever facing a dilemma whether Oscar Mingueza was truly worthy of being a regular in the first team – still unsure regarding the Spaniard’s talents –, his exceptional performances against Sevilla over the last two games must have surely been the nail in the coffin, elevating his status not only in the team; but amongst the fans well. As Mingueza proceeds to prove doubters wrong and make a name for himself in a team going through a tricky season, Barcelona appear to have unearthed a gem for the future.
During the time Sergiño Dest had been out injured this campaign, spectators were used to seeing Mingueza own the right flank, a position he is vastly unfamiliar with, but one that he gradually began to make hay with. By simply fulfilling the basics, Mingueza established himself as a reliable outlet in Ronald Koeman’s XI. It was made apparent that replacing a marauding speedster like Dest was bound to be a tough ask – given the raw speed and trickery the US international possessed – and questions were constantly raised over his offensive output as well as how it impacted his defensive concentration.
Even so, while the complaints were at times validated, catering to the number 28’s needs by placing him in a position he is far more amicable with, it’s safe to say Pimienta’s prodigy has blossomed like none other. The 3-5-2 hybrid system was an unconventional choice to begin with, yet it enabled Ronald Koeman to bring the best out of the profiles available.
Mingueza, in particular, has been tasked to start in a back 3, alongside Gerard Piqué and Clement Lenglet, where his aggression to neutralize the opposition’s plays from the right-hand side have proven to be critical. Forming a solid alliance with his partners in crime, he managed to successfully keep two clean sheets in two games against one of Spain’s most efficient sides, Sevilla.
Albeit conceding a penalty in the Copa del Rey encounter stained what could have been an unimpaired display, his ability to continuously keep the Andalusian teams’ nifty forwards at bay with aerial dominance and positional proficiency elevated Barcelona’s daring approach upfront.
With defensive duties expanded and authority to occasionally rotate roles with Dest, La Masia’s pearl was not just limited to closing down passing lanes or compress spaces; but he played a commanding high line and did not show any hesitation to burst forward, which eventually proved to suffocate Sevilla and forced them to play long balls in both encounters.
The truculent nature of Barcelona’s defence translated to the forwards, helping the side press valiantly and thriving in their build-up as neat one-touch passing would seamlessly allow the Catalans to bypass the first wave of pressure. Furthermore, an attribute that makes the young starlet a promising prospect is undoubtedly his versatility. The beaming blonde boy from Catalonia has shown on various occasions that he can comfortably break an opposition’s lines by carrying the ball up-field as well as execute well-timed tackles.
The 21-year-old made 5 tackles and won 6 ground duels in the game at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan. At the Camp Nou, he had another exceptional exhibition – bar the penalty –. Still, he lacked polish at times and tended to rush into challenges, which is something he is only going to learn with time. Despite the youngster showing applaudable performances at centre-back, it is worth noting that Mingueza has invariably exceeded expectations wherever he is employed on the field.
The jack of all trades‘ limitations at right-back were made evident in various encounters, but his anticipation of opponents is simply a testament to the 21-year-old’s upbringing at La Masia. While raiding up-field his decision making may not always be ideal, his ability to cover large distances and situate himself according to different phases of play enables him to adjust into the team.
After neglecting academy graduates for years – unquestionably Barcelona’s most prized possession –, the academy has once again started to produce talents tailor-made for the Barcelona style. Oscar Mingueza is one of the many upcoming stars to have arrived at the first team, having already registered 25 matches.
A conundrum for the soon to be elected president would be the extension of Oscar Mingueza, who’s current deal lasts only till the end of this season. Despite reports suggesting that Real Betis have approached the player, the Blaugranas’ financial predicament and the spike in performances from this prodigy imply that he has warranted an extension and should continue to be relied upon. It’s becoming glaringly obvious that Mingueza has successfully surpassed the status of a fringe player.