Eric Garcia at Barcelona – scout report
After an eye-opening night for Barcelona last week against Bayern Munich, in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League, the club is now looking to make a complete change to the squad. This wake-up call has forced them to make a lot of changes to the team which includes putting most of their aged yet experienced players into the market. With many rumours claiming that Barcelona is looking to bring back the 19-year-old Eric Garcia, we would perform a tactical analysis and look at how he would fit in Barcelona’s tactics and how he could play a vital role in this reconstruction of the squad in this scout report.
Garcia was one of the most talented and impressive players La Masia could have ever produced but was sold to Manchester City in the year 2017. He became one of the most vital players for City’s youth team and appeared in every single game of theirs across all competitions. It was his decision making ability which helped him stand out among the others. He also plays for Spain National team and has also been an integral part of their squad. It was in the season 2019/20 Garcia made his first appearance for the senior team and has been offered fair minutes on the pitch.
Garcia stands 182cm tall with his right foot being is most preferred but is comfortable with both his feet. On looking at his heatmap we could see the area that he loves to play which tells us how high he plays during the match. Garcia has always been confident on the ball and possesses a great ability to stay calm during critical match situations. Although he hasn’t been sound in aerial duels, he’s established himself as one of the hardest defenders to beat in the defensive duels. In this scout report, we will analyse more about his off-ball movements, when in possession, his defending abilities, and how all this would be a great asset to Barcelona.
Eric Garcia when in possession
One of the main abilities a player should possess in order to play for Barcelona or any top-class team would be their confidence when on the ball. Especially with a team like Barcelona who always tries to build their game from the keeper, it’s really important for the centre-back to be confident on the ball. Garcia has shown and proven to have such confidence when the ball is with him. Irrespective of how the opponents defend, Garcia has always performed extremely well with the ball under his feet. Below a scatter plot gives us an idea of how much he involves himself in the team’s play and his pass accuracy.
Garcia could be easily spotted on the top with the red dot, he has the second-highest pass accuracy among all the centre-backs in the English Premier League with an impressive percentage of 94.44%, which is, in fact, a great feat to achieve. We should also keep in mind that City involves their centre-backs to build up their play which means Garcia is not only a parallel passer but also makes key passes upfront. He makes an average of 73.55 passes per 90, which shows how much he involves himself in the team’s transition phase.
Upon carrying the ball forward, it’s interesting to see how Garcia makes room for himself. The young talent is wise enough to shift the entire opponent’s defence to one side and then choose to pass in the opposite direction which is often taken by surprise by the opponents. Upon receiving the ball, Garcia doesn’t move to one side, instead, he carries through the centre and leaves the opponent’s defence to guess on which side is he going to make the pass.
From the above picture we can see that Garcia first gains the space under his control and since he’s carrying the ball towards the centre, it’s really difficult for the opponents to judge on which side he would be making the pass. Not only does this delay the opponent’s decision making, but also provides him with a lot of options to pass. Now, this becomes an important skill that Barcelona could use. Barcelona builds their game in a similar fashion, but they keep rotating the passes between the midfielders and the defenders and find it difficult to fool the opponents’ defence. A player like Garcia who is not only creative but also is capable of causing danger through his passes would be a perfect solution that they are looking for in their defence.
Having analysed on how confident he is on the ball, and how he gains space to make options, we should also look at how effective his passes turn out to be. Once in the mid-third, Garcia looks to attack and only makes parallel passes when he isn’t 100% convinced by the options he has on front. This maturity of his can been seen in the pass accuracy that he has under his name.
The above scatter plot gives us an idea of Gracia’s type of passes with the circle size indicating their expected assist value per 90. Just by looking at the scatter plot, one could easily come to the conclusion that Gracia has been a very good passer and how vital his passes are. With only a few standing out of the bunch, Garcia is at the edge of the crowd with 9.64 progressive passes and an average of 7.65 passes per 90 into the final third. With so many passes up front, he still holds an amazing value on his pass accuracy which explains his decision-making ability. He also has the second-highest xA per 90 value of 0.04 which is something to be noted.
Eric Garcia’s off-ball movements when defending
Further, into this analysis, we will now look at Garcia’s off-the-ball movements while defending and how intelligently he positions himself. Garcia has never been on lack of confidence which is exhibited while he’s on the defending transition. Garcia offers support and balance to the defending department. He is very strong in the basics and positioning of himself comes naturally to him and is not something that he has to remind himself about.
From the above picture, we could see that a defender is involving himself in an aerial duel and you could spot Garcia right behind him sprinting back to cover this duel. Irrespective of the fact that duel is won or not, it’s a sole responsibility of the centre-back to cover his player and expect the second ball. Such action is expected from all the defenders but the 19-year-old does this naturally and plays with such responsibility.
When the team plays high, he moves high and marks the nearest free-man to cut down the opponent’s passing option if they lose possession. His tight man to man marking is not only found there but also during crosses and other situations of the game.
During the time of the cross, we could how tight Garcia’s man to man marking is and how he doesn’t give space for the striker and keeps applying constant pressure. Keeping in mind that Barca does perform well during crosses as they are very sound in aerial duels, but their man-marking becomes a bit poor when a player cut’s inside and dribbles, they often forget to mark the free man. This is exactly where Garcia would play a huge role. instead of looking at the dribbler, Garcia would anticipate the danger and would mark the most possible option to pass and would indirectly put pressure on the ball possessor by cutting down the passing options.
His positioning also has been vital to his performance. He intelligently fills in the gaps and make’s it really hard for the attackers to pass the ball in the gaps. His ability to read the game at such a young age is exactly why Barcelona want him back and understanding the fact of how much Garcia could offer over the years to come.
From the above picture, we could see how crucial Garcia’s interception is. He first closes down the gap and then stretches well to make the key interception in order to stop the through pass. His situational awareness and his constant habit of checking for a man behind him while on a run has helped him to make wise decisions on his positioning.
The below plot is a visualisation of his recoveries and we could see quite a lot of recoveries in the defending third by him comes either because of an interception or positioning. More importantly, we could easily spot quite a number of such recoveries inside the penalty area indicating how vital he is as a defender inside the penalty area.
Analysis of his defending abilities
Garcia has been very competitive on duels and is physically imposing. Although his stats are a bit average in these criteria, he still has influence and the ability to defend better. One of the greatest assets to Garcia’s strength is his speed which acts as a catalyst to his defending abilities. When on a counter-attack, Garcia is quick enough to sprint and close down the opponent’s space and applies instant pressure on the ball possessor.
This pace that Garcia offers in closing down the opponents is something that the ageing legs of Barcelona miss. Quite a number of times, we have seen them struggling to keep up to the pace and close down opponents quickly. Garcia not only has the pace to reach the ball quickly but also has the composture to hold himself and delay the counter so that his teammates have enough time to come back to support. With Barcelona’s wingbacks being dispossessed quite easily Gracia could, in fact, be the solution to cover the flanks.
The intelligent defender does not commit very easily and has a success rate of 55.36% in his 5.87 duels per 90. Although his reputation in aerial duels is quite low with just a success rate of 33.33%, the 182cm tall defender manages to apply pressure in the air and make’s it hard for the player who tries to head. His competitive nature and his hunger to win during duels have made him fight for the ball until the very end.
In the above picture, we could see Garcia fighting for the ball and isn’t willing to give up, in the end, he also turns out to successfully kick out the ball to slow down the game. Even though he’s physically imposing Garcia’s isn’t the defender who fouls very often. He knows when to make tactical fouls and is wise with his decisions. His positioning while taking a man on 1v1 situation is worth noticing. He forces the attacker to dribble away from the goal and reduces the threat and then wins the ball.
His responsibility grows huge when once inside the penalty area and this pressure is very well handled by the Spanish International. He remains calm and is crystal clear of what he’s going to do.
We could spot quite a few numbers of defensive duels that he has won are from crucial areas on the defending third. He has won 18 duels in zone 14 and 13 inside the penalty area which is something to look at. All this indicates how good and reliable his decision-making ability is. His only concern would be his performance in aerial duels. He has lost 10 out of 14 aerial duels inside the penalty box which acts as an area of concern but given what Garcia is capable of, he will surely improve on it over time and would become a complete player.
Being a La Masia product alone meets the requirement of why Garcia would be a perfect choice in the reconstruction of the squad. At such a young age, he has gained a lot of experience and has played with some world-class footballers in England which means Garcia would be full of confidence. He has been training under Pep Guardiola which is an additional reason which justifies that he ready to be seen the Barca colours.
Instead of going behind players with a huge money tag, Garcia would be the best option for Barca to choose as his display of game is much more than just a 19-year-old and he would be a very good long term replacement. Having played with legends as said before means he really would not demand much time to settle in Barcelona but would rather get into action immediately and make the difference. Garcia in Barcelona would be a very good move from Barcelona’s point of view, but if the deal doesn’t happen Gracia would still have a promising future.