The wait is over and finally, the fans of Kerala Blasters are going to see their team in the final of the Indian Super League after years of disappointment! In my previous tactical analysis, I analysed Kerala Blasters as a team and how they react to and play in different phases of the game. In this tactical analysis piece, we will perform a detailed analysis of Adrian Luna in the form of a scout report and try to highlight why this particular player has been vital in Kerala Blasters’ journey to the finals.
Note that all the visualisation used contains only players who’ve played in similar positions to Luna and should have played at least 600 minutes this season and also that information at the time you’re reading this piece could differ from the time of writing.
Adrián Luna is a 29-year-old attacking midfielder who also plays on the flanks and switches roles as the game progresses. Standing 167cm tall, the player is really competitive and a physically-imposing competitor if the situation demands it. Having previously played in different countries like Spain, Mexico, Uruguay and Australia, it’s sure that Luna is a very experienced player.
Just by looking at his player profile above, one can spot that the player has been the best among all the wingers in the league in terms of passing and creativity and also looks like someone who equally contributes in the attacking phase, as well as the defensive phase of the game. We can also see that the player has been outperforming his expected goals and holds a high influence in creating goalscoring opportunities. Something that has been a huge asset for the player is his technical ability which complements his vision. Vision is one thing but it takes a different skill set to implement the vision without any flaw in a match situation with very few seconds to make decisions. In the upcoming sections, we will analyse the key abilities which have influenced his numbers and the team’s performance.
Role in the team
It’s important to understand the role that the player performs in the team and how the coach makes use of him in his tactics. Luna, although deployed as a left-winger, is responsible for playing the attacking midfielder role in the game. As a result, you can see that the player drifts inside when in possession.
From his heatmap this season, we can see that he operated the most on the left flank and there are traces that indicate he operates centrally at times too. As a result, one can see that Luna stands very low in terms of crosses per 90(2.41) among the wingers as his role is different from natural wingers.
When he drifts inside, the left flank is occupied by the left-back who then has enough space to operate completely on the flanks and the space behind is covered by the centre-midfielder.
In the match situation represented, we can see Luna has drifted inside which, as a result, gives enough space for Nishu Kumar to completely dominate the left flank. This system works really well because of the discipline that both Luna and the team holds. In the defensive phase of the game, the team always manages to get back into shape leaving no open space for their opponents to penetrate.
In simple terms, Luna is a left-winger when without possession and acts as a left attacking midfielder when in possession and this switch is well supported and balanced by the entire team. Why Luna plays this key and complex role in the team is something we’ll analyse in the upcoming sections.
Vision and execution
Upon drifting to the middle, Luna gets to express his complete talent or, in other words, this is how the tactical system brings out the best from the Uruguayan. Luna has a splendid vision and is always looking for opportunities and spaces to exploit. With a very good ability to play first, Luna often executes moves when it’s least expected by the defenders. His passes are well understood by the strikers which also helps him to succeed within the team’s system.
In this match image against Jamshedpur, we can see Luna in possession in the centre and as a result, he has options from both left and right and also from the middle. His vision helps him to identify the best available option, and his technical abilities help him execute the move he envisioned perfectly.
In this scatter plot, we have smart passes per 90 against passes to penalty area per 90 to further analyse how often his passes end up inside the penalty area, and also to see if these passes have creativity in them. To make it easy for identification, Luna is marked as a red dot while the other players are grey.
As the data supports, we can see that Luna stands second in both the highest number of smart passes per 90(1.07) and also with the number of passes into the penalty area per 90(4.55). Frequently, Luna makes through passes into the box which are well-read by the strikers. He has also been consistent throughout this season for the team which shows his experience and maturity.
Luna possesses strong character and knows how to react to game situations, always doing what’s best for the team. Since he has a huge role in the team, he also has the responsibility to cover a lot of space.
After moving into the centre, Luna also gets back to the wings if that means offering support to the ball possessor. From this image, we can see Luna sprinting into open space but also acting as an extra option for Nishu to pass to.
Hence, by playing multiple roles depending on the match situation, Luna becomes a player hard to read and mark for the opponents. Which helps the team in the attacking to produce results.
Influence in the attacking third
This is a bar chart showing the difference between the actual goal contribution per 90 and the expected goal contribution per 90.
We can see Luna stands first in this category pretty much indicating that the player has been outperforming his expected metrics and producing magic in the final third by pulling off goals and creating chances that have a very minimal success rate. He has an expected goal contribution per 90 of 0.31 while his actual goal contribution per 90 stands at 0.58 which is really good and explains the kind of influence he’s been having on the team’s end results.
Apart from influencing open play, the player also creates several chances from set-pieces. This is a plotting of Luna’s freekicks and corners which either ended with a shot or a goal.
From this plot, we can see that he delivers set-pieces into key zones of which the corners have been the most efficient. We are ignoring his direct goals from freekicks as we are trying to look at the influence and goalscoring opportunities that he creates in the attacking third.
It’s quite evident how the tactical system laid out by Ivan Vukomanović, along with the individual talent of Luna and his very good teammates, has not only helped the attacker to outperform himself but also play a vital role in getting the best out of his teammates, which has been crucial in his team’s journey to the finals. To make it simpler, his vision and execution have been his greatest asset with commanding technical abilities, the role he plays in the team helps him get the best out of his abilities and, as a result, along with very good teammates, Luna has become very influential in the attacking third of the play.
Luna, as mentioned earlier, drives the attacking third, but what makes the system successful is how disciplined Luna is when it comes to getting back into formation and covering for the left-back when necessary out of possession.
We can see Luna sprinting back to mark an opponent who is in his zone. In fact, he then went on to regain possession. The fact that the player makes sure to fall into shape to support his teammates without giving up irrespective of the situation is what makes Luna a standout player.
Luna reacts based on the situation; sometimes he commits tactical fouls, sometimes he presses high and closes down quickly and all of this is possible because of his experience and ability to read the game very well.
The scatter plot represents his defensive numbers in the number of defensive duels he involves himself with, and also the number of interceptions that he makes per 90. We can see he involves himself in 7.39 defensive duels per 90 — the fifth-highest — indicating how actively he involves himself in defensive duties. His PAdj interceptions per 90 is 5.82, which further depicts his positioning in the game to intercept passes.
Adrián Luna is a complete player and a wonderful asset that any team would love to have and the recruitment team have Kerala Blasters have done a very good job by signing the player on a two-year contract. What makes him the best is his versatility by which the player fits into any system and always does what’s best for the team and which is exactly why the player has shined this season.
Due credits to the coach and the other players who perfectly complement Luna’s play in the team. This combination has helped Luna to act as a vital piece of Kerala’s puzzle — and he will continue to be so. Will he lead the team to win the ISL finals? Well, you’ll know by the time you are reading this piece! However, Luna will surely be one player that the fans will continue to love and support irrespective of the result.