Pedri’s potential could be the power-boost Spain need – tactical analysis
There were several surprising calls made by Luis Enrique for the Spain squad for EURO 2020, with Sergio Ramos’ omission leading the way. It was quite notable that among all the discussion around who should and shouldn’t have made the squad, there was hardly any surprise that Pedri, of Barcelona, had been included. This is perhaps the best indicator of just how meteoric a rise the 18-year-old has had in less than 12 months – this time last year, he was still playing for Las Palmas in the Segunda Division. The 18-year-old made 52 appearances in all competitions for Barcelona last season, and impressed Enrique to the extent that he has already been capped four times for La Roja, even before the start of EURO 2020. While he is not expected to start for Spain at the tournament, Pedri offers something different to the rest of the squad, and he could be an interesting ‘differential’ option for Enrique to consider at the tournament. This analysis will be a scout report of how the 18-year-old could be a very effective player for his national team at the upcoming Euros.
Before looking at Pedri’s potential role for Spain, it is instructive to have a look at his player dashboard from last season to try and understand what he has been good at. We can see that he spend the majority of his time on the left from his heatmap, playing as one of the two number 10s in Barcelona’s system. It is quite impressive that he ranks so high for multiple metrics despite this being his first season in La Liga and for Barcelona. Pedri got into the box quite frequently, as can be seen from his percentile rank for touches in the box per 90, while also having a high number of deep completions, smart passes, key passes and through passes per 90. This indicates that he was involved across the build-up for Barcelona, while a percentile rank of nearly 85% for passes per 90 also shows how he was heavily involved in the play. He is also very good in terms of carrying the ball over long distances, and this is another way in which he can be a very useful tool for Enrique’s Spain side at the tournament.
This offers a potential clue as to what his role could be with Spain, where he will try to drop deep to help in build-up and ball progression, while also trying to stay between the lines during more sustained spells of possession, and looking to offer a goal threat by making late runs into the penalty area.
The 18-year-old will often drop deep during Spain’s build-up phase, from where he will either attempt quick first-touch passes to teammates in space, or try to drive upfield with the ball himself to progress play.
Here, he drops deep to receive the ball from Aymeric Laporte, and with a Portuguese player closing him down immediately, he is able to lay it off to Jose Gaya with a one-touch pass, and immediately turn and spin beyond his marker to potentially receive the ball in space.
Pedri is capable of affecting the play without touching the ball as well – despite being just 18 years old, he already has fantastic movement off the ball, which helps create space both for him and his teammates, and this is another trait that will be very useful for La Roja at EURO 2020.
In this instance, Pedri once again drops deep to potentially receive the ball from Laporte, with a Portuguese player following him.
However, when the Manchester City defender opts to pass out wide to Gaya, Pedri immediately turns and spins in behind again, which allows him to charge into space and offer a potential passing option for Gaya.
This is one of the most impressive traits Pedri possesses – the ability to change direction quickly, which often leaves opposition players a step behind and enables him to move into space to receive the ball.
The Canary Island native will also be able to impact the game further up the pitch through this skill, which come in handy in a team where, surprisingly, there is a slight lack of dimunitive creative midfield players.
Creativity, ball-carrying and passing
Pedri has usually been played as the number 10 by Enrique for Spain, and it is likely that he will continue to be deployed there whenever he gets on the pitch at these Euros. From this position, he tends to drift into the left half-space, and it is again extremely impressive that he is already adept at finding space between the lines at such a young age.
We can see how the 18-year-old receives the ball in space between the Portuguese defence and midfield here, and he is immediately able to turn and run with the ball at the backtracking defenders.
This is another trait that is quite impressive, as Pedri is able to carry the ball for quite some distance upfield, which usually also has the added benefit of drawing opposition players towards him and opening up space for teammates.
This image is the immediate aftermath of the previous one – the 18-year-old has managed to run deep into the Portugal half on the ball, drawing three Portuguese players to him…
…which eventually leads to an easy switch out from Fabian Ruiz to Ferran Torres on Spain’s right flank with seven Portuguese players concentrated on the opposite half of the pitch here.
Another example of his ability to ghost into space to receive possession with the space and time to turn and assess his options.
His aforementioned ability to make quick movements is vital higher up the pitch as well, as we can see below.
Pedri draws the Kosovan player towards him with a move towards the player on the ball, before darting in behind him and leaving him in his wake.
This has the potential to be vital for Spain given that they are likely to come up against teams who will sit deep and defend – Pedri’s ability to potentially draw players out of these defensive blocks and create space to run into could be the key to breaking them down.
Another example of his ability to carry the ball over long distances is shown below, as he is also then able to play in Torres for a good chance.
Note how he has again drawn players towards him which helps create the space for Torres to run into – this is another vital aspect which Spain can utilise, especially in moments of transition, as Pedri can help them get up the pitch rapidly.
The 18-year-old is likely to keep it simple in terms of his passing, playing short, quick passes to teammates around him while also having the vision and ability to hit slightly more direct passes when needed to.
One example of this can be seen above, where Pedri notices Alvaro Morata’s run into the box and plays a perfect pass into his path, but the on-loan Juventus striker was unable to capitalise.
Looking at Spain’s squad for the tournament, it is striking to see the lack of creative playmakers in the list – this, from a side which famously played without a striker for many matches around their 2010 World Cup triumph, with the likes of Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas, David Silva, Santi Cazorla and Juan Mata, among others, featuring heavily during this time. Pedri could very well turn out to be a difference-maker for this Spanish squad in that respect, while he will definitely be a huge weapon during offensive transitions, as he can easily carry the ball upfield before finding teammates in space. We do not expect Luis Enrique to include him in his starting XI, but he is certainly ready to contribute whenever needed, and this could be a tournament where we could see a true star emerge if he gets enough playing time.