Facundo Medina, RC Lens’s new signing – scout report
RC Lens finished 2nd in Ligue 2 and earned promotion to Ligue 1 where they will play next season. As any recently promoted side, Lens are trying to strengthen their team so it can match the level and standards of a superior division. One of their first signings was Facundo Medina, the Argentine came from Talleres de Córdoba for 3.5 million euros according to Transfermarkt and looks like it was a good buy for Lens.
In this tactical analysis we’ll take a look at Facundo Medina’s style of play and performances for Talleres in the Superliga in order to assess if he was indeed a good signing for RC Lens and if he is at a good enough level to play in Ligue 1. We will also try and see how well will he fit RC Lens’s tactics and dynamics and, an analysis of the data, will allow us to compare Medina’s statistical profile with other players both from Ligue 1 and the Argentine Superliga.
Facundo Medina is a 21 year-old left footed centre-back that can also play as a left-back. This season for Talleres de Córdoba he mostly played as a left side centre-back in a line of four defender although occasionly he also played as a left-back.
Despite playing as a defender, Facundo Medina has a huge role in the team’s build-up play and that shows in his heat map. The Argentine occupies the whole left-side of his own half of the pitch as well as some spaces in the opposition’s half, and that is because of his importance for maintaining possession and providing a back passing lane for his teammates.
Facundo Medina is what we can call a ball-playing centre-back, a player that goes beyond the traditional defender’s job and has as much responsibilities building attacks for his team as he as destroying attacks from the opposition. He is often the one that starts the build-up phase for his team, progressing the ball from his own half to more advanced areas of the pitch.
In order to have a better profile of the abilities and style of play of Facundo Medina, we took a look at the data. Calculating percentile ranks for some key stats allowed for a comparison with other centre-backs and full-backs from his league. Taking the comparison a step further, we also calculated his percentile ranks on the same metrics but in comparison to all centre-backs and full-backs in Ligue 1. While this is not a completely realistic comparison, due to the difference in quality and style between Argentina Superliga and Ligue 1, it allows us to have a picture of what could potentially be Medina’s ranks if he played in Ligue 1 this season. The comparison should always be seen having that difference between the leagues in mind, however, it gives us a glance of how Medina’s statistical profile fits in his new league.
An analysis of the bar charts shows us exactly how Facundo Medina is so important for the build-up play of his team. The Argentine scores high in most passing stats when compared to other centre-backs and full-backs in the Superliga with passes per 90 and progressive passes per 90 standing out the most. The metric “Dangerous passes per 90” was created adding passes to the final third per 90, deep completions per 90, and passes to the penalty area per 90. The metric
“Chance creation contribution was created by adding third assists per 90, second assists per 90, assists per 90 and key passes per 90. Medina ranks high in both these metrics even when compared to full-backs that might be more involved in the attack and that shows just how capable he is of finding passes to teammates further up the pitch.
In the defensive chapter he also displays good values with aerial duels being his most obvious weakness, that can be explained by him not being the tallest of defenders at 1,80m.
Looking at the bar charts that compare Medina to other Ligue 1 centre-backs and full-backs, the picture slightly changes. This slight change must be seen having the differences between the two leagues in mind and, despite the decrease in rank on some metrics, Medina still displays impressive ranks in defence and especially in the passing chapter.
Having established Facundo Medina’s profile and his role as a ball playing centre-back, we will now take a look at his actions in the various phases of the game in order to complete this scout report. A tactical analysis of his gameplay will also allow us to identify strengths and weaknesses, as well as make a better assessment in regards to how will he fit in RC Lens and in the Ligue 1.
Facundo Medina is usually one of the players that is in charge of the first build-up phase, after receiving the ball form the goalkeeper or another teammate, Medina will look to find a pass to a teammate that is further up the pitch. Being the first man in the build-up phase means that you are facing the game in front of you and it is easier to spot passing lanes, therefore, a player with good passing abilities and game reading skills can make the most out of the bigger amount of time and space that is sometimes available in this positions. Medina is definitely one of those players, he has good game reading skills and raises his head in order to spot passing lanes or teammates making runs. He his also good at keeping track of opponents pressing him, therefore, he can make the right assessment as to when he has to pass the ball before it is too late.
In the image below we can see Facundo Medina receiving the ball in the first build-up phase, despite being pressed by two opponents but he is able to dribble in between them, retain possession, and then play a pass to his teammate.
Like it was previously mentioned Medina’s game reading skills allow him to spot passing lanes and teammates making runs, at the same time, his passing range and technique are also very good, allowing him to easily progress the ball for his team. Facundo Medina averaged 64.38 passes per 90 and 14.34 progressive passes per 90 this season, ranking third in the league amongst other defenders in both metrics. This stats demonstrate very well the ability that Medina has to find passes for his teammates in between the lines and progress the play for his team and why he is a very capable ball playing defender. One key thing that allows the Argentine to find those passes is the way he provokes pressure from the opposition. In order to create space in between the lines Medina carries the ball forward himself until the opposition’s press is triggered, as soon as that happens, he uses his good passing skills to pass the ball into a teammate in the vacated space.
In the image below we can se a good example of Medina provoking the opposition’s press to create space . He times is pass perfectly and his able to find his teammate in behind the opposition’s defensive line.
If no immediate passing lane becomes available close to him, Medina has no problem of recurring to a long pass and shows great quality when doing so. His passing range and abilities, as well as his vision, are very good and that allows him to play long passes either into the feet of a player, or into space, in an attempt to get a teammate in behind the opposition’s defensive line. Long passes are not only Medina’s last resource when no other option is available, the Argentine will play this type of passes if he spots a team-mate making a good run into space, and with is good vision and technique he is able to execute fast and surprise the opposition. Medina averaged 8.5 long passes per 90 this season which quite a high number for a centre-back.
In the image below we can see Facundo Medina playing a long pass in behind the opposition’s defensive line after spotting the run from his teammate. The pass gets the attacker into a 1vs1 situation against the goalkeeper.
One las thing has to be mentioned in regards to Facundo Medina’s passing and that has to do with the fact that he sometimes misplaces his passes. This is something normal and happens to every player, in Medina’s case, it is most noticeable in his long passes as those are the ones more difficult to get right. Nevertheless, his vision and passing technique are good for a 23 year-old and he still has plenty of time to improve.
Positioning and interceptions
Playing a centre-back Medina shows good positional awareness, he knows where he needs to be on the pitch at all times so that he can be a passing option to his teammates but also so that he can react quick enough if necessary, in other words, he positions himself correctly when his team is in and out of possession of the ball. This good positioning, the already mentioned game reading skills, and his good speed allow him to predict and intercept many passes. Medina often steps out and away from the back-line to intercept passes but he is intelligent and diligent when he does it. If he predicts the pass and feels that he can intercept it he will run at full speed to get the ball, if he doesn’t think he can intercept it, he will adjust his position to press or block a passing lane but without fully committing to the play.
In the image below we can see Medina predicting the pass, stepping out of his line and quickly intercepting it, regaining possession for his team. The Argentine knows how to make use of his reactions and speed very well and this is a good example of that.
Other aspects that contribute a lot to Medina’s success in intercepting plays and reacting quickly that also have to do with positioning are his body orientation and spatial awareness. The Argentine has a very good sense of the distances between him, his teammates, the opponents and the goal. What this allows then is for Medina to know how he should position his body depending in relation to where he might need to run or turn to. This spatial awareness, alongside the right body orientation are particularly useful to control depth when playing in a high line and to face 1vs1 situations.
In the image below we can see Facundo Medina adopting the right body orientation to face a 1vs1 situation while controlling depth at the same time. He is ready to commit to the tackle when the attacker shows him to much of the ball but also to react if he decides to accelerate in any direction. He holds his position until the attacker decides to dribble and then quickly tackles him and reagins possession.
Marking and tackling
Facundo Medina is neither the tallest nor the strongest of defenders, nevertheless, his physicality is good enough for him to cope with the demands of playing as a centre-back. Like many other Argentine players, Medina likes to mark and press his opponents very tightly and gives them no space or time on the ball. He can also be a bit more aggressive when it comes to tackling than it is usual in European football and that is something that will be a part of his transition to Ligue 1. This aggressiveness, although sometimes can lead to fouls, can have a good impact on marking and tackling as Medina is always very determined and doesn’t hold back on challenges.
In the image below we can see Medina marking and opponent and giving him no space to play. The Argentine is also blocking the opponent’s view of his surroundings so that he can’t recognise the position of his teammates and, therefore, has less chances of producing a successful pass.
Facundo Medina shows good technique and timing on the tackles he makes, although sometimes his aggressiveness makes him get to much on the player. Despite some fouls and the odd mistimed tackle, the balance for the Argentine in this department is positive without a doubt. In terms of numbers, Medina won 69,08% of his defensive duels which is a very good win rate. Aerial duels are probably the Argentine’s most noticeable weakness, although he is not bad in the air, his height (1.80m) makes him smaller than some attackers and can sometimes influence his success. Medina won only 54.05% of his aerial duels this season which ranks him below the median for the league. All things considered we can say that despite his lower success in aerial duels the Argentine is a very tough man, battles a lot for the ball, and wins it a lot of the times.
Despite his intense nature when approaching duels and tackles, Medina is able to execute them cleanly even in high risk situations or dangerous zones of the pitch. A good example of this can be found in the image below, Medina performs a clean tackle inside his penalty area and prevents a goalscoring chance for the opposition.
How can he fit at RC Lens?
RC lens most used formation this season was a 3-4-3. With possession, the wing-backs provide full width and the wingers position themselves in the half-spaces. Without possession, Lens organise themselves in 5-4-1 system. In the image below we can see RC Lens’s passing map, this map shows us the average position of the players on the field and also highlights the most used passing lanes between them.
Facundo Medina, as we already saw, is an excellent ball playing defender and can offer a lot to Lens’s build-up play. He will most likely play as the left sided centre-back and will give Lens the ability to play progressive and line breaking passes to find players in more advanced areas of the pitch. In a system like Lens’s the centre-backs play a huge role in this phase of the game and Medina will definitely bring ability and confidence to the team to play out from the back.
Below we can see an example of Lens building and attack in the mentioned shape, the centre backs on each side of the line of three are usually the ones looking to play line breaking passes to players in between the lines.
On the defensive side, Medina will bring the needed anticipation and interception skills for a team that plays a high line and likes to press high up the pitch. The Argentine’s speed and positioning will also be of great value to control depth and cope with balls played in behind Lens’s high defensive line. Lens area team that likes to be intense when defending and pressing and Medina’s already mentioned aggressiveness and intensity, although need some work and control, will fit the French side perfectly.
In the image below we can see an example of Lens’s high press and high defensive line. A player like Medina with good speed and positioning is crucial to a team that presses and defends so high as he is able to control depth, chase runners, and intercept passes if necessary.
This scout report showed how Facundo Medina is already a very complete ball playing centre-back at the age of 23. He still has room for improvement, particularly in his long passes , as he sometimes overuses and misplaces this type of pass. His aggressiveness, that is sometimes excessive, is also another point that can improve but with the right coaching, he can learn how to use it in the right amount and at the right time.
Medina’s move to RC Lens to play in Ligue 1 will come with different challenges and impose him a different level. Some of his new opponents are going to be world-class teams like PSG that have world-class players used to compete at the highest level in the Champions league, and it will be interesting to see how Medina does against them.
His fit in the Lens’s team seems to be a perfect one, the team’s system and dynamics will most likely bring out the best of Medina’s passing and defending qualities with the Argentine assuming a pivotal role in the team’s build-up play.
All in all Facundo Medina’s signing seems to have been a very well thought one by RC Lens and for 3.5 million euros the French side acquired a young defender with huge potential.