Adios, Levante. Hola, Madrid: Why 24y/o “assist-producing machine” will get a major move
2020/21 has been a fascinating season for La Liga so far. Not only do we have a proper race on our hands but there are so many emerging talents, it’s getting difficult to keep track of all of them. The best thing about it, however, is the fact that not all play in the biggest clubs like Barcelona and Real Madrid, but with some grooming, they could indeed make the next step in their careers.
One such talent is definitely Levante’s Jorge de Frutos, the 24-year-old winger who’s been turning heads week in, week out in Spain. This tactical analysis will be a scout report on the young forward, aiming to identify his strengths, weaknesses and use analysis to see how he benefits Levante’s tactics.
Jorge de Frutos’ role is that of either a wide midfielder or a natural right-winger. At Levante, he can play both positions equally well and sometimes fluctuates between roles mid games. Looking at his preferred positions and heatmap below, we can see the data confirms our thesis.
The 24-year-old is highly active on the flanks and if needs be, he can be deployed on the left side of the pitch as well. His heatmap shows us that there’s equal activity both in the deeper and the higher areas too but this is more due to his work-rate than efforts to aid the build-up. De Frutos is excellent on the ball but he doesn’t drop deeper to progress even though he could be doing that more often.
Among other wingers in La Liga, there are not many who are as invested defensively as the young Spaniard, which can also be seen in his player profile dashboard below. De Frutos engages in more defensive duels per 90 minutes than almost 80% of all other wingers in the league and is also above-average in his execution and success.
Tracking back and aiding the defence is a formidable weapon in his arsenal because it transitions well into Levante’s attacking tactics. De Frutos will often make the interception that starts the counter-attack or will simply recover the ball high on the pitch, opening the door for a quick entrance into the box.
And that’s where he is most dangerous – either when he’s running at the defence with pace or just using his elite movement and poacher instincts to finish inside the area. However, by far his most impressive trait is his creativity.
De Frutos tops the charts when it comes to expected assists per 90, almost cracking the top 10% in that category, and is also a dead-ball specialist with decent dribbling abilities. This tactical analysis will now delve deeper into his most important attributes.
Chance creation & creativity
With six assists on his account in La Liga this season and nine across all competitions according to Wyscout, De Frutos is among the most creative wingers in Spain this season. In fact, he’s only two behind Marcos Llorente’s tally of eight, who’s leading the line in that category. But it’s also quite impressive that he’s recorded those figures from only 3.74 xA per 90, which puts him in third place in the league when compared to other U25 players and 18th overall.
However, the big caveat here is that he’s been a part of the starting 11 in La Liga on only 12 out of 27 occasions (43%), which puts him at a disadvantage when comparing him to other players with more consistent game time. When it comes to per 90 minutes figures though, De Frutos’ 0.38 assists is the best score in the whole league in 2020/21.
Below is a graph that will show us all of his assists so far in the season in more detail.
What we can clearly see from it is that the vast majority of them come from the right side of the pitch and follow a certain pattern. De Frutos likes to run with the ball down the flank and then deploys sharp passes into the box that connect with his teammates.
Looking at his stats and style of play, it does seem like he prefers long balls more so than the majority of other wingers in La Liga. This is inevitably connected with his key passes and assists as a very high number of them result from long balls. De Frutos is averaging 0.89 key passes per 90 this season, good enough for 9th place in the standings.
There are generally two types of passes he makes when assisting if we discount the dead-ball situations from corners and free-kicks. De Frutos will either deploy a cut-back following a good run down the flank or will send a low driven cross towards a teammate inside the box.
You can see a perfect example of such a run above, which is followed by a sharp pass towards the penalty spot inside the box. De Frutos is highly effective when running at the defence, either in transition or just using his pace to beat the marker, and can then deploy these precise balls that find their marks in dangerous zones.
Most of his assists seem to follow that pattern and are a byproduct of his great ability to run in possession and identify where to put the ball once he reaches the final third and/or the box. You can see another example below, this time against Granada, where De Frutos once again arrives into the box with pace before delivering the pass to his teammate.
That particular example is almost identical to the one that preceded it and it’s no coincidence either. The data in the initial graph and the eye test confirm this is a pattern in both his movement and decision-making.
However, we also have to mention his defensive contribution which is directly tied to his chance-creation. De Frutos is among the most hard-working wingers in La Liga and the numbers confirm it as well.
The 24-year-old is in the top 20% among attacking midfielders and wingers in all of tackles (in all three thirds), tackles won, shots blocked, tackles + interceptions and clearances. His challenges do seem to result in fouls quite often but they’re also the perfect gateway to transitions and quick counter-attacking tactics.
We can see a great example down below as De Frutos breaks Levante’s defensive structure to make an interception high up the pitch. He continues running with the ball with pace until he reaches the box, where he’s ultimately fouled to win a penalty for his team.
Interestingly, this is not an isolated case either. The young Spaniard is in the top 1% in La Liga when it comes to defensive actions that lead to both goal-scoring and shooting opportunities. Similarly, he is brilliant at drawing fouls that result in such scenarios as well, either granting Levante penalties or set-pieces in favourable positions.
Of course, that pace with which he drives into enemy territory with the ball is an excellent transitional weapon as well. In the final image of this section of the tactical analysis, you can see De Frutos receiving the ball in his own half but then advancing up the pitch in just seconds.
Interestingly, he nutmegs his first marker and then beats the second before combining with one of the teammates to continue the attack. While he seems to be a volume dribbler as well, albeit not an extreme one, his execution and decision-making in such situations still need a bit of work.
Shooting & movement
De Frutos has scored only three goals in La Liga this season but that doesn’t exactly do him justice. Of course, three goals is a low figure for a winger but the Spaniard is more of a creator than a finisher after all. But while there is certainly room for improvement in that area, we have to say the 24-year-old is very impressive in the box as it is.
Compared to other wingers in the league, De Frutos is way above-average when it comes to touches in the penalty area and while he’s by no means a volume shooter, his precision is excellent.
Below is a graphical representation of all of his shots this season with the size showing us their xG as well. Finally, the stars represent goals.
We can see that there is a reason why De Frutos’ shots are so precise and frankly, he should start scoring much more sooner rather than later. The Spaniard’s shot locations are excellent and he tends to let loose inside the box and generally from close range on that right side of the pitch.
This is also confirmed by relatively high xG values accompanying most of those efforts, suggesting that indeed this boasts well for the future. But how exactly does he get into those positions in the first place? The trick is in his movement prior to those shots.
Even though he’s not a finisher by trade, De Frutos is showing poacher instincts that could become a huge part of his arsenal if they’re groomed and developed properly. Let’s analyse a couple of in-game situations next.
Here, against Real Betis, De Frutos moves into the box from a slightly deeper position and manages to leave the defender flat-footed by a quick change of pace. There are generally two ways he beats his man. He’ll look to move beyond their field of vision, either utilising their blindspot or just simply bursting past them.
In the above example, the defender moves one way to block the attacker’s progression while De Frutos skips past him in the other direction. This was another huge opportunity for the young winger to score but sadly, he missed a golden chance to rattle the inside of the net.
The next example is very similar. Valencia’s Mouctar Diakhaby is drawn into the same trap as De Frutos moves in one direction before quickly changing it to send the defender the wrong way, thus successfully creating separation.
The final example of this section of the analysis will show us this type of movement in more detail. Above against Athletic Club, De Frutos uses the same technique of shimming to one side before changing the direction of his run in a split-second to fool the defender.
You can actually see down below how his marker is once again left flat-footed or rather, putting his weight onto the left foot so he can’t react as quickly as De Frutos can. This is the type of body orientation and movement that we usually connect with world-class poachers.
If he can get into those situations more often and then capitalise on them more regularly, the 24-year-old could turn into a lethal winger in the near future.
Rarely any young player can comfortably say they have no weaknesses. De Frutos himself could still improve in a couple of areas too, specifically in his overall involvement in the build-up phase and some decision-making in terms of dribbling.
Here, we’ll focus on the former aspect. Before we do so, however, context is important when trying to identify both strengths and weaknesses of a player. Levante’s tactics play a huge role here and while they want to be a proactive team that’s positional and dominant on the ball, they still float in limbo between that and a more direct team.
Because of that and the fact that De Frutos is not a regular starter, his involvement in the build-up has been limited by outside circumstances. That being said, he is not the type of player to drop deep and ease the progression but will rather receive the ball higher up if possible and then get it into the box.
We can see as much from some of his recent pass graphs, which are above. Overall, he only averages 24.6 passes this season in La Liga, which puts him around the bottom 20% of wingers in La Liga and confirms our initial thesis of overall involvement. When he does attempt passes, usually they are short spells of possession where he lays the ball off or finds a nearby teammate if there’s no clear path to advance via his runs.
Alternatively, should he find himself in possession deeper on the pitch, De Frutos will often go long in an attempt to either clear the ball or find a teammate higher up the pitch. Again, this is also a byproduct of Levante’s tactics but there’s still no escaping the fact the 24-year-old is no build-up machine either.
The next two images will tell us more. In the first one, you can see De Frutos receiving a pass in the opposition’s half and immediately laying it off to his teammate for a quick and effective combination.
This does indicate he has it in his locker to link-up in tight spaces but it mostly consists of short and simple combinations which are almost always followed up by a decoy run into space higher up the pitch.
Down below once again – De Frutos receives the ball in the opposition’s half only to quickly lay it off to a teammate nearby and then bursts into space. This is not a weakness per se because it’s dictated by the team’s tactics but it could limit his adaptation to some more positional clubs out there that are gunning for his signature.
With 67.8% passing accuracy, the build-up phase is clearly a weakness but nothing some training and further development can’t fix.
Jorge de Frutos is one of the biggest talents in La Liga this season. After all, Marca even called him an “assist-producing machine”. It really does feel inevitable that he will eventually leave Levante for greener pastures and join a club at the very top of the pile in the near future with Real Madrid heavily linked to getting him back, again reported by Marca.
The way his season is going, this campaign might be his last in these current colours.