Deep-lying playmakers are dying breeds in the world of football, especially ones with the skill set of Cesc Fàbregas. The significance of his departure has had on Chelsea has been stark, as Fàbregas is the only squad member trusted by Maurizio Sarri to deputise for Jorginho.
Similarly, Paris Saint-Germain have been struggling with injuries and a shortage in midfield. This prompted the rumour mill shift into overdrive with Allan, Idrissa Gueye and Renato Sanches linked with the Parisian club. However, PSG have today announced the arrival of a new midfielder who was initially linked with a move to Chelsea. Their chosen man is Zenit St Petersburg’s Argentine playmaker Leandro Paredes.
Paredes has spent this season so far in the Russian Premier League for Zenit St Petersburg. At 24 years old, the Argentine has a wealth of experience having made 113 appearances in his career spanning across the globe with Boca Juniors, Roma, Empoli, Chievo, and Zenit.
Born in San Justo Argentina, Paredes came through the youth setup of Boca Juniors and made his first-team debut at 16, before going on to play for three seasons. His performances warranted enough promise for Roma to bring him to Italy but with a shortfall of non-EU spots left to accommodate him, he was oaned out to Chievo for six months before finally landing in the Italian capital.
His first season at Roma saw him as a squad player but another loan spell, this time to Empoli, established him as a top defensive midfielder. The following season saw him become the lynchpin in the heart of Roma’s midfield leading them to a second-place finish, four points behind Juventus. Luciano Spalletti used him in a holding role in midfield at Roma, allowing him the chance to dictate the tempo of the game while shielding the defence.
“It’s a position I feel comfortable in, I’m trying to get used to it. I’m sure I can learn loads by playing alongside [Daniele] De Rossi.”
The following season saw Roberto Mancini prioritise Paredes’ signing at Zenit, which at the time was seen as a lateral move. As a result, he faded away and missed out on a World Cup squad place.
Paredes’ performances have reinginted interest from Europe’s elite and it seems to be the right time for him to experience Europe’s top leagues once again. In this analysis, I will examine the qualities Leandro Paredes brings to Paris Saint-Germain.
Leandro Paredes: the pass master
Leandro Paredes is a natural regista whose ability as a passer is exceptional. Classified as a classic number five, Paredes collects, distributes and recycles possession economically. Playing in this position requires precise positioning and intelligence. The regista’s role is to create time and space with their incredible ball skills and vision for their teammates.
Paredes’ positioning and passing enables him to create time to find openings in the opposition lines of defence. With Maurizio Sarri looking at Paredes as a potential backup to Jorginho, it only makes sense to compare both players to see if PSG are buying a player worthy of the move.
Paredes has an 87.4% pass success rate and attempts 61.81 passes per game in comparison to Jorginho who averages 94.2 passes per game with a 90.2% success rate. Considering Jorginho has had more experience playing in one of Europe’s toughest leagues, Paredes’ return isn’t shocking. If anything, it could be considered above average.
Granted, the level of competition in the Russian Premier League isn’t as immense as the English Premier League, but we’ve seen glimpses of his potential during his stint at Roma. Playing with better quality players can vastly improve the 24-year-old quickly, especially given his midfield partner is Marco Verratti.
The Argentine’s passing ability is more than just short, recycled passes, but also the ability to play long-ranged passes and through-balls to stretch the opposition. David Luiz is often seen dribbling out of defence to play 70-yard diagonal passes to Eden Hazard or Willian catching the opposition off-guard. Paredes has an incredible ability to scan the pitch and offer a similar outlet.
Notice here, Paredes receives the ball and has his head up looking for options going forward. He manages to play a simple looking pass towards the Zenit striker who then has plenty of time to play forward. Parades’ quick thinking has created more time for his teammate to choose his next option.
In the last example, we saw a glimpse of Parades’ intelligent play which is an important aspect for a regista. Paredes plays as the defensive screen in front of the centre-backs, making it his responsibility to cover his defenders intelligently in case of an opposition counter-attack. He can unlock opposition defences with defence-splitting passes and has an eye for goal which isn’t found in most creative players.
As he receives the ball, Paredes has telegraphed the entire move as he makes a forward run. After playing the initial pass, he proceeds to play a give-and-go with his midfield teammate. As the ball comes back to him a second time, Elmir Nabiullin is already making a run from deep and the Argentine’s perfectly weighted pass creates a wonderful goalscoring opportunity.
Pass it like Xavi
With his incredible passing range comes an ability to contribute to goals directly in the form of assists. The Argentine midfielder is slightly more involved in an attacking sense, playing longer and more direct passes whilst retaining a high passing rate. This also allows him to contribute in attack by playing quick, killer passes for the forwards. At PSG he will have a number of phenomenally gifted attackers who should latch onto most deliveries and convert chances.
We should also take note of Parades’ positioning in the pass map. He plays just ahead of the centre-backs, and becomes the base of Zenit’s attacks. Based off this map, Parades tends to pass out wide to his wingers and full-backs. This could be a result of the opposition playing a narrow, low block which makes it problematic for Zenit to play centrally.
Pushing play out wide seems the only option but most importantly the Argentine is passing with purpose. His intention is to try and shift the opposition’s shape and eventually find spaces between their defence, utilising the pace of the Zenit wingers and strikers.
Jorginho and Leandro Paredes play in similar positions for their respective teams. Paredes plays slightly higher, but that is due more to the nature of the opposition than the team’s natural playing style. Regardless, the prevailing factor is both teams run play through their defensive playmakers.
In this UEFA Europa League match against Slavia Praha, notice how Leandro Paredes picks up the ball in midfield and starts examining the gaps between the defence as the retreating defenders try to move into position. Aleksandr Kokorin makes a run which creates a diversion, allowing a clear path for Paredes. He threads a perfectly weighted pass that lands right at the feet of Kokorin, who slots it into the back of the net for a Zenit win.
Playing at his own pace
Being the centre-piece of Zenit’s midfield, Leandro Paredes is able to dictate the pace of the game by quickening and slowing down play at will. Having a tempo-dictating midfielder allows a team to control possession and break down the sort of stubborn defences that PSG face on a weekly basis.
In this example, we can see Robert Mak unable to find a way down the byline with their opponents crowding out the left side of the pitch. The ball is passed back to Paredes, who looks to switch up play and pings an accurate diagonal pass to the right-winger. Mak has acres of space to run into, causing the opposition to open small cracks as they try and reshuffle into position to prevent the attack from the opposite side. Notice the gaps opening up for the Zenit players to attack into.
The second coming of Frank Lampard?
Registas aren’t known for their goalscoring ability but Paredes, has a knack of scoring timely goals as was evident during his time with Roma and Zenit. He can deliver from set-pieces and has an incredible long-shot ability which PSG could use. The Parisian team solely rely on their front three for goals and the Argentine adds an extra goal threat from midfield.
Not only can he shoot from range but he has the ability to play one-touch football and dance his way into the opposition box and walk the ball into the net. This can be an extremely useful skill with the likes of Neymar, Edinson Cavani, Kylian Mbappé and Marco Verratti are all very skillful on the ball and can interchange passes in tight spaces.
Safe-guarding the defence
Defensively Leandro Paredes is alert and is aware of his surroundings most times. His initial positioning in and out of possession is acceptable and combines his effective positioning with a controlled aggressive play style. This allows him to intercept and put opponents under pressure to misplace their passes. However, he can learn to taper his aggression as he is prone to leaving spaces in behind when pushing forward.
Thomas Tuchel’s philosophy revolves around using the midfield to supplement the front three. He usually lines up in a 4-3-3 using the half-spaces to distract the opposition in midfield and create space on the opposite side. The central midfielder drops into the full-back’s position while the full-back pushes up. The winger then drops into the half-space, confusing the oppositon and giving the full-back a free run or a diagonal pass option to switch play and put the opposite winger in a one-on-one situation.
Parades may need to adjust to the pace of Ligue 1. He may be able to get away with lingering on the ball in Russia, but the French top flight is less forgiving.
Paredes’ high-octane pressing high up the pitch causes the opposition to be caught off-guard. More importantly, the Argentinian playmaker moves back into a defensive position once he wins the ball back.
Not only can Paredes press, but his ability to shield the ball from the opposition shows his composure and ability to hold possession under pressure. He manages to sustain a brief period of pressure, find space and turn to find a wonderful lob pass to the left-winger.
Coupled with his controlled aggression is his capability to intercept and tackle. He averages a decent 4.07 interceptions per game, but as mentioned earlier with more playing time and participating in a stronger league Paredes can improve his positioning and become much more efficient defensively.
His anticipation has allowed him to get away with the odd positional mistake. Not only can he intercept, but his tackling is equally adept.
The playmaker makes 7.01 recoveries per game on average proving to be an extremely hard working and adept player when the team needs to be defensive. Paredes could turn out to be the perfect partner for Marco Verratti given their individual qualities. Both of their skill sets intertwine and complement each other: both possess incredible ball retention skills, and a blend of creativity and work rate.
The final piece
PSG’s recruitment department have been hard-pressed to find adequate additions to reinforce their midfield given the lack of quality alternatives willing to move in January. However, the signing of Paredes seems to make sense for both parties involved.
The Argentinian playmaker is young and has experience playing in Europe with Roma and Zenit. He fits Thomas Tuchel’s style of player and will slot right into midfield. With the Champions League progressing into the later rounds and injuries mounting, PSG are desperate for new midfielders with experience and quality to compete on all fronts. This signing gives Thomas Tuchel a natural partner for Verratti and Christopher Nkunku, although the latter may move to Arsenal.
Marquinhos, Thilo Kehrer, Angel Di Maria and Dani Alves provide extra options but are not natural midfielders. We have already witnessed PSG struggling by playing Alves and Draxler in central midfield. With one day of the transfer window still remaining, the Parisian club have a few more hours to recruit just one more piece of the puzzle.
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