There’s no shortage of super talents in modern football. In fact, a new one pops out every now and then and people are often guilty of throwing superlatives at them that only make their development that much more difficult. For that reason, a plethora of “new Lionel Messis” or “new Cristiano Ronaldos” have already flown too close to the sun and only got burnt in the process.
But while Ferran Torres of Valencia should also be wary of such comparisons, he is definitely among the very elite of young starlets who are bound to take the stage by storm in the not so distant future. And yes, that is a claim that has ruined many young footballers in the years gone by but the 19-year-old wide man has shown the maturity and composure to succeed and take things as slow as they need to be.
He proved as much when he snubbed the likes of Barcelona who were offering huge sums of money to snatch him away from Valencia and is doing the same thing now by choosing to stay at the Mestalla and develop properly before heading out.
This tactical analysis will dissect Torres’ strongest characteristics and show you why the European giants have taken such an interest in a youngster who’s still at the very beginning of his career.
Torres is a forward first and foremost, having played all across the frontline so far in his career. Even though he started off as a wide right midfielder, he slowly but surely transitioned into a winger and now performs that role extremely well at Valencia.
Some of his best traits are visible when he is isolated against his marker in a 1v1 scenario out wide on the right side. He can then use his pace and dribbling to progress the ball and get into the danger zone to set up the attack.
The great thing about his player profile, as this scout report will delve into more in the latter part of this tactical analysis, is his ability to play with both feet almost equally well. Torres will often cut inside and shoot with his left but can also deploy crosses and good passes with his right as well.
Even though he is still very young and definitely not a finished product, we can already see that he is developing a keen sense of positioning and movement that allow him to both create space and get into advantageous positions on the pitch.
This tactical analysis will now turn to some of his most prominent traits and give you a more in-depth insight into them.
1v1 and dribbling
Torres is a man of many skills and abilities, that much he has already shown in the short spell he’s had on the biggest stages across the footballing world. But, his greatest asset is still his technical ability and the lethality he possesses in a 1v1 scenario and when isolated against the opposition’s defenders.
Valencia don’t really rely on the 19-year-old wide man as the main outlet for their attacking tactics, as we’ll find out further down the line of this tactical analysis, but they do use him to create an advantage and get themselves into prosperous situations on the pitch.
In that regard, Torres can be seen as a traditional winger who will take on his man and create ‘something out of nothing’ when charging towards the final third. The numbers don’t lie – Torres averages 4.84 dribbles on average in 2019/20 and across La Liga and the Champions League at the point of writing this article during the winter break in Spain.
These figures have grown as Torres has developed even further and are now on par with some of the best players in his position as he completes 50.6% of all the dribbles he attempts, meaning that on average, he successfully beats his marker just over two times per game.
But dribbling for the sake of dribbling doesn’t really give you much. When used correctly and within context, however, it’s a powerful tool in all stages of the match. When analysing Torres, we can see that he uses his dribbling in different situations and with a different purpose. With that in mind, we can see him dribble to a) Fuel the build-up and progress the ball, b) Create space and c) Create chances and direct threat to the opposition’s goal.
Let’s start the analysis of his dribbling with the first aspect and his ability to fuel the build-up play and progress the ball. Even though he is an attacking player by nature, we can often see Torres drop deeper, even going into his own half to collect the ball and help move it forward. His great dribbling ability enables him to break the first lines of opposition’s pressing tactics and bring the ball forward.
We can see in the example above how that translates onto the pitch. Torres drops deeper, receives the ball and is then immediately collapsed upon as the opposition tries to snatch the ball away in an advantageous position.
But not only does Torres beat his markers with a sudden surge of pace and acceleration but he also carries the ball forward and into the opposition’s final third where he serves it on a silver platter for one of his teammates.
This is one of the crucial aspects of his dribbling capabilities. If Valencia are stuck and pressed heavily, they can use Torres as an outlet to break the stranglehold and advance play through individual skill rather than systematically outplaying the press and playing out of the back when that option is limited or completely unavailable.
And even though this is a huge option to have on the table, Torres’ dribbling is even better used when in and around the opposition’s box. His second aspect – creating space with dribbling – is extremely effective when charging into the final third in an attempt to create an opening for a dangerous attack.
We can see an example below where Torres is confronted with two defenders in his way and while for most, this would be the end of the road or a signal to go for a less adventurous or maybe a safer option, the 19-year-old will often not shy away from going into a duel that’s seemingly rather hard to win.
He successfully navigates his way through two defenders, surging into open space that’s behind their backs and is now in a great position to send the ball to one of his teammates inside the opposition’s box.
On average, he tallies 22.84 duels and wins 43.7% of them. When talking specifically about offensive duels, those numbers are slightly lower with 9.74 on average and 41.1% won. Quite evidently, this is not something that will immediately set the stage ablaze but does show that he’s active on the ball and looks to get things moving.
The final aspect of his dribbling is closely related to the second one and could be put under a similar category but in this scenario, Torres looks to take on his marker in a 1v1 situation and create an opening for himself that can pose a direct threat to the opposition’s goal.
We can see an example below as he receives the ball in the final third and after a silk touch, gets it beyond the defender and into space. He then proceeds to use his pace and acceleration to get past him and soon, come eye to eye with the goalkeeper.
Unfortunately, this specific chance ends with a missed shot on goal but it still showcases his ability to create chances and directly threaten the opposition with his deadly skills on the ball. With such excessive dribbling, however, come the fouls from the other side of the pitch.
As a result, he suffers 1.32 fouls on average in 2019/20 but that’s the price any great dribbler has to pay and the figure is bound to go up as he develops even further.
Passing and crossing abilities
Torres’ passing abilities are decent but just like everything else in his arsenal – not nearly a finished product. When we crunch the numbers, the figures don’t really stand out particularly in the grand scheme of things.
We’re talking about a player that averages 25.83 passes in 2019/20 with 80.1% passing accuracy and on the face of things, that doesn’t really seem all that impressive, does it?
When put into context, however, it gives a much clearer picture. Torres is a wide right midfielder and a right-winger by trade and the nature of his player profile, as will hopefully be made clearer by this tactical analysis, often involves risk-taking and smart passing rather than opting for the safer option.
As a whole, Torres averaged 60.34 actions in 2019/20, completing 54.3% of them and apart from dribbling, passing and crossing are two other huge aspects of his play. Generally speaking, his passing is mostly highlighted when he’s reading the game well and knows how and when to deploy a piercing ball to one of his teammates and when he’s dropping deeper to assist the build-up and progress the play by involving other players on the pitch.
The former aspect is best seen when Torres is in and around the opposition’s box. Notice in the example below how he reads his teammate’s movement well and knows where to deploy the pass to cut open the other team’s defensive block.
This puts his teammate in a direct 1v1 situation and yield Valencia their goal in a high-stakes game in the Champions League. Of course, just seeing the sequence unfold and recognising the need to deploy that pass is just as impressive and executing it.
Generally, Torres is deadlier the closer he gets to the goal and as such, he only sends out 1.79 passes into the final third with 76.7% accuracy as opposed to 3.71 passes into the box with 51.6% accuracy.
While the accuracy is lower, granted, it still means that he successfully deploys just under two balls into the box and into the feet of his teammates, which is an impressive figure in itself.
Finding openings when there seem none is also a worthy skill in his overall arsenal and it can be seen in an example down below. This time, Torres is on the other side of the pitch since he can play well with both feet and his teammate – despite being in a favourable position – seems well marked and the channels leading towards him seem sealed.
The 19-year-old Spaniard still finds a way to squeeze the ball through to him and puts him in a clear-cut chance to threaten the opposition from inside the area.
But we have also mentioned that Torres likes to drop deep and this is sometimes a part of a bigger picture and Valencia’s overall tactics. In modern football, the full-backs are a big part of the attacking actions, sometimes more so than the defending ones.
Torres will often be seen receiving the ball around the middle of the pitch and then drifting inside to drag markers and create space for a potential overlap.
You can see that exact sequence down in the example below as he carries the ball towards the middle channels and then deploys it into the path of his sprinting teammate who’s on the overlap.
Another part of Valencia’s tactics that played a key role in Torres’ development seem to be piercing balls into the final third and/ or the box with wide players often supplying their teammates in the process.
As a result, Torres has gradually improved his product in that category and has become a great supplier of both crosses and passes. We’ve already tackled his figures when it comes to passing the ball and his crossing is not far off either.
In 2019/20, he averaged 3.23 crosses with 35.2% accuracy. These can be regular crosses from the flanks into the box or crosses from deeper areas and into the feet or head of his teammates. One such example can be seen below as Torres sends a pinpoint ball to one of Valencia’s players and it ends up rattling the post rather than going in but still showcases the Spaniard’s ability quite well.
And while his numbers don’t seem otherworldly, and let’s not sugarcoat them too much since they really aren’t at this stage in his career, they do show steady improvement throughout the years.
For instance, in 2017/18, he averaged 21.4% and 67.9% accuracy for crosses and general passing respectively, 27% and 77.8% in 2018/19 for the same figures and now, in 2019/20, he sits at 35.2% and 80.1%.
Quite clearly, he is a player who’s growing steadily and is bound to continue doing so as time goes on. And we should not forget we’re talking about a player who can only boast with a total of 1505 minutes under his belt in the ongoing campaign in La Liga and the Champions League combined and at the moment of writing this tactical analysis.
Off the ball movement
Maybe the most underrated of Torres’ traits is his clever positioning and intelligent off the ball runs. Getting into advantageous situations due to his own technical ability is rather impressive but the 19-year-old is also mature enough to read the game well even when he’s on the receiving end of a pass.
When looking at his heatmap from the 2019/20 season, we can see his tendency to stay wide and also occasionally drop deeper and more centrally when the situation requires such actions.
Generally speaking, Torres is extremely fast and that helps him play a part in both aspects of Valencia’s tactics that revolve around piercing through balls, as we have already mentioned. It has to be noted that this is not the only thing their tactics are based on but it’s still a big element in which Torres can thrive.
We’ve already done an analysis of him deploying the passes but often he is actually the one receiving them as well, as a result of his tendency to position himself on the shoulder of the defender and out wide, waiting for the right moment to leave him in the dust, as you can see in the example below.
On average, he made 2.39 progressive runs which is quite telling of his overall preference to run with the ball but he is just as effective when running without it. Sometimes, that can be a sprint from the deeper areas as he knows the ball will be fed into him eventually.
We can see that in the next image as Torres sends a pass towards the middle but still continues his run forward, beating his marker and then finally receiving the ball after a short sequence around the middle of the park.
This shows that he’s constantly on the move, knowing when he can create an opening by utilising his pace well and surging into open space while the action is currently taking place away from him.
Interestingly enough, and maybe even most importantly, his movement in the final third is often used as part of Valencia’s tactics to shift the opposition and create space by dragging markers and moving the pieces across the board.
Torres will often be the player in between the lines for his team and he will position himself according to the players surrounding him. In other words, he will look to slot into the open space depending on where his markers are situated or he will look to manipulate their movement himself by attacking a certain part of the pitch regardless of whether or not the ball is actually fed into him.
This is that much more impressive when we take into account that Torres is still a work in progress and can get even better. Movement and manipulation of it is a skill that’s highly underrated and also difficult to execute.
And yet, the youngster seems like he already understands the concepts behind those tactics quite well. It will be interesting to see it develop further.
Defensive contribution and weaknesses
The final aspect that we’ll look into in this tactical analysis will be the defensive contribution and the weaknesses that are present in Torres’ player profile. When he’s off the ball and Valencia drop into their defensive shape, the 19-year-old winger will often remain higher up the pitch but will look to start the press alongside with his forwards.
Usually, this is done once certain pressing triggers are activated so when the opposition tries to gain access to their full-backs or the right centre-back ventures forward or is braver on the ball, Torres will often engage and put some pressure on the ball-carrier.
We can actually see this in the example below as the youngster succeeds in regaining possession by taking the ball away from the opposition’s defence.
But the interesting part is in the way he retains possession and then aims to keep it. His exceptional close control and technical abilities enable him to get the ball and then keep it away from the defenders by dancing around their tackles, as can be seen above.
This can become a crucial part of Valencia’s tactics if polished enough and would allow them to instantly turn defence into attack and strike from favourable positions immediately upon regaining possession. This particular sequence above, however, ends with Torres losing the ball but the opposition’s build-up was still stopped as he forced a thrown-in.
But Torres’ defensive contribution goes beyond that. He will regularly track back and cover for his teammates when the opposition is surging towards their goal. This can be seen in 2.63 interceptions he made on average and 3.77 recoveries with 41.3% happening in the opposition’s half.
That, paired up with his ability to send accurate passes to his teammates, is a deadly tool to have in transitions, as can be seen below. Torres first intercepts the long pass from the other side of the pitch and uses his pace to quickly cover some ground and send a ball into space for his team-mate.
But his technical abilities also help him in defensive duels as they allow him to control the ball under pressure and then escape with it with his dribbling. Interestingly enough, Torres engages in 5.56 duels on average in 2019/20 across La Liga and Champions League, winning an impressive 55.9% of them.
You can see an example of how he uses his technical abilities to safely regain possession and restart the build-up from the back below. After Valencia get the ball out of their box, he wins the race against the opposition players, gets to it first and then proceeds to dribble his way past two of his markers to send the ball back to his defender’s feet.
And he’s quite successful at that, averaging only 10.05 losses with 27.4% happening in his own half. But there are things that he will definitely have to improve on if he’s to become truly world-class.
His final product, for instance, still leaves a lot to be desired. And sure, four goals and five assists from La Liga and the Champions League combined is still a decent return, especially with only 0.21 xG and 0.78 shot assists on average and 3.58 and 13 in total respectively, but with only 1.6 shots on average with 44.4% on target, his overall presence in the final third will have to get better.
Ferran Torres truly seems like an outstanding talent that’s bound to become evolve as time goes on. And more importantly, his feet are still on the ground as he’s determined to succeed at Valencia, at least for now.
With many European giants such as Barcelona, Liverpool and Real Madrid prowling around, however, it remains to be seen exactly where his future lies. One thing is certain, though, and that’s the fact that we still haven’t heard the last of him.
Remember the name.