Sergio Gomez 2021/22: The young Spaniard becoming Anderlecht’s most influential player – scout report
When thinking about left backs that have come through La Masia in the past, the first name that comes to mind is probably Jordi Alba. Another is probably Alba’s probable long-term replacement in Alex Balde. Sergio Gomez is not often remembered by the Barcelona faithful; however, he may have been the one that got away for the Blaugrana. Gomez left Catalonia for North Rhine-Westphalia, joining Borussia Dortmund in the winter of 2018. After only two senior appearances for die Schwarzgelben, Gomez was sent out on a 2-season loan to Huesca. His performances impressed RSC Anderlecht enough to spend just over €2 million to bring the young Spaniard to Brussels last summer. Fast forward half a season, and this deal looks to be one of Anderlecht’s best ever transfers.
Sergio Gomez has become one of the first names on the team sheet for Vincent Kompany, with this tactical analysis and scout report piece looking at the strengths and weaknesses of Gomez’s game, as well as what makes him such a key player for the capital club.
When looking at Sergio Gomez’s heat map in this seasons Belgian First Division A, you might be confused. While Gomez is a left-back, he is heavily involved in the attacking third for Anderlecht, as illustrated above. In fact, most of his time during matches is spent in this area. In Vincent Kompany’s 4-4-2 system, Gomez is most often playing behind Lior Rafaelov, who will afford him the space out wide by drifting further inside during matches. This allows Gomez to make plenty of overlapping runs to the byline, allowing him to whip in dangerous crosses with his deadly left foot. Let’s start by looking at what makes Gomez so dangerous in attack.
Crossing in the final third
When looking at Sergio Gomez’s attacking stats compared to other fullbacks in the league, it is very impressive. His 4.43 crosses per 90 ranks him in the 97th percentile for all fullbacks in the league, while his key passes per 90 of 1.22 ranks him in the 82nd percentile. That is also without considering he has been directly involved in 15 goals for Anderlecht this season (5 goals & 10 assists).
Above is a prime example of what Sergio Gomez offers Anderlecht in the final third. Gomez plays a quick one-two with Lior Rafaelov and is able to accelerate past his marker into the space in the 18-yard box. He is then able to quickly look up and spot the late run of Yari Verschaeren into the box and play a wicked far post cross for Verschaeren to run onto and tap into the empty net. These one-twos and overlapping runs are commonplace for Gomez, with him and Rafaelov having an almost telepathic understanding.
Once again, Gomez finds himself in a very similar situation, this time making an overlapping run past Verschaeren who feeds the ball into the space in front of him. Gomez is able to run onto the ball and send another first time cross into the path of Rafaelov, who slots the ball past the Seraing goalkeeper.
I could go on for hours about Gomez’s crossing in the final third, but without a doubt, this may have been his best cross this season; even though it did not result in a goal. Gomez is able to spot the run of Christian Kouamé and is able to play a wicked cross in between the two centrebacks for Kouamé to run onto. Kouamé makes great contact, but the goalkeeper is able to make an even better save to prevent a goal for Anderlecht. A lot of the attacking chances come from Anderlecht’s left-hand side, and it is very easy to see why.
Finally, while Gomez is clinical from crosses after making overlapping runs into the penalty box, he is just as good when making underlapping runs. Here, the opposition left-back gets pulled out of position covering the wide player in possession. This allows Gomez to make an underlapping run into the box and play another first time cross to the far post for Kouamé to tap in.
While without a doubt crossing in the final third is Gomez’s key attacking attribute, it is not the only attacking attribute that he has at his disposal.
Another strong attribute of Sergio Gomez’s games when attacking and in possession is his dribbling ability. Graded against other fullbacks in the Belgian league, Gomez is in the top percentage in multiple dribbling categories. His 2.29 dribbles attempted per 90 and 1.22 dribbles completed per 90 rank in the 80th and 78th percentile respectively for fullbacks in the league. His better than average dribbling ability for fullbacks also has helped him win fouls in dangerous areas often for his side; with his 2.14 fouls drawn per 90 ranking in the 94th percentile in the league.
In the phase of play above, Gomez has won back possession in the attacking third. After winning back possession, he is able to dribble past the first defender into the open space. He then takes on a second defender and is able to touch the ball past the defender before being taken down; resulting in a foul being won and a free kick for Anderlecht in a dangerous area.
Gomez is also able to utilise his dribbling ability from wider positions more towards midfield as well, not just the attacking third. In the phase of play above, Gomez is isolated 1v1 against the opposition defender out wide. The one Anderlecht attacking player is able to drag the defender out, allowing space for Gomez to come inside. Gomez is able to dribble past the opposition player; while using his bursts of acceleration to make a weaving run towards the 18-yard box. He is then able to play a one-two with an underlapping run and create a great chance for Anderlecht.
As shown, Gomez is by far one of the best of the attacking fullbacks in the whole Belgian First Division A. Most would then think that his defensive abilities need work when in fact, that is quite the opposite.
Defending in and around the 18-yard box
For a young, attack-minded fullback, most would think the defensive side of Gomez’s game is still raw and needing improvement. While in some aspects that is correct, Gomez is actually a very good defender in and around his own 18-yard box. His good reading of how the play develops means he is rarely caught out; with him not frequently being accused of ball watching.
Above shows a prime example of Gomez’s ability to read how the play develops well, and not get caught ball watching. Club Brugge are in possession and in a dangerous area on the edge of the penalty area. Instead of joining his other defenders and getting caught drifting inside; Gomez is able to check his back shoulder and see the unmarked Brugge player at the far post. He is able to close down the space quickly, and head the lofted ball away from danger, which allows Anderlecht to reset their defensive shape.
This next example actually occurs in the same match. A free-kick is played into the box by Club Brugge and punched away by the goalkeeper. The ball drops nicely to the feet of the Brugge player, who is able to get a snapshot off. Gomez is able to read the flight of the ball as it is falling to the opposing player and step into the line of fire. As a result, he is able to block what may have been a late winner for Club Brugge.
Finally, in 1v1 defensive battles near the defensive third, Gomez once again is strong and resolute in these situations. In the phase of play above, the Seraing attacker is attempting to use his pace to get past Gomez and send a cross in from the byline. However, Gomez stays big and is able to position his body so that he is not beaten for pace down his outside. As a result, Gomez is able to stay with his man and block the cross out for a throw-in.
While Gomez is strong in different defensive moments near his own 18-yard box; the aspect of the defensive side of his game that is by far the strongest is his pressing ability. As opposed to other full-backs in the league, Gomez is one of the best when it comes to pressuring opponents in possession of the ball. His 19.86 pressures per 90 ranks in the 98th percentile for his position, while his 5.81 successful pressures per 90 ranks in the 94th percentile. What does this mean? Sergio Gomez is a pressing machine.
In the phase of play above, Beerschot are in possession, and Anderlecht are attempting to keep Beerschot pinned in their own half. The defender in possession opts to play the ball out wide to the fullback who is, at present, free. Sergio Gomez notices this and quickly closes down the opposition player, forcing the ball to be kicked out off of him after he closes down any possible passing lanes.
Above shows a similar situation. RSC Anderlecht turn the ball over in midfield, which forces the Anderlecht players to press. Though Gomez is marking the player behind him, he still decides to engage the ball carrier. He tries to angles his press so that it blocks off the passing lane for the opposition player, but the pass makes it through. Though noticeably frustrated he did not win back possession; Gomez does not give up and continues to press, this time closing down the new ball carrier and forcing his pass out of play.
A final example shows exactly why Gomez excels when pressing in areas higher up the pitch. The Charleroi defender plays a pass to the winger on the near touchline who has space. Gomez decides to leave the space in behind and press the player receiving possession. If the pass is completed and then played in behind, Anderlecht are in trouble, however, Gomez angles his run so that the passing lane is cut off. This allows him to block the intended pass and deflects it into the path of his teammate, with Anderlecht then setting off on a dangerous counter-attacking opportunity.
Getting caught out of position higher up the pitch
With all the strengths to Sergio Gomez’s game, he does still have weaknesses. Though not necessarily glaring, one of the major hiccups in his game is occasionally getting caught high up the pitch when the ball is turned over in midfield. Though he normally has cover behind him to prevent attacking players from running in on goal; it could be a significant weakness at a higher level.
The phase of play above perfectly illustrates what happens when Gomez gets caught too high up the pitch in transition. Gomez attempted to pressure the opposition ball carrier after losing possession, but gets dribbled past, leaving acres of space down his defensive flank for the opposition to run into. It also takes him totally out of the defensive phase, leaving his other defenders to do extra work while waiting for Gomez to get back into position.
Earlier, it was brought up that Gomez does really well when pressing to close off passing angles. While that is true, there are also actions like the one above. He comes out of his position to close down the player in possession, leaving space in behind. However, the passing lane is not fully closed off, allowing the ball to be played into the space left behind by Gomez.
Without a doubt, the impact that Sergio Gomez has had on Anderlecht has been immense. While a second season in the Belgian capital would be good for his development, it is inevitable that Sergio Gomez will move to a bigger league in the not-so-distant future. The Premier League seems a likely destination, with Manchester United apparently rivalling Southampton for Gomez’s signature. What is for sure is that Sergio Gomez will continue to improve, and in the process, become one of Anderlecht’s most influential players; just as this tactical analysis and scout report has shown.