Pervis Estupiñán 2019/20 – scout report
Few expected one of the brightest attacking and defensive talents of this La Liga season to be Pervis Estupiñán. The left-back spent last season earning promotion with RCD Mallorca on loan but moved on to another newly-promoted side in Osasuna and has been a hit this campaign.
Impressing with his offensive threat whilst showing defensive responsibility, Estupiñán has caught the eye both in Spain and abroad. He has also caught the eye on an international level, earning a first cap for Ecuador in October given his fine form.
This tactical analysis will provide a scout report of the Osasuna defender, on loan from Premier League side Watford, in his performances in La Liga and the Copa del Rey. By providing analysis of how he fits into Jagoba Arrasate’s tactics, one of La Liga’s brightest talents can be understood.
One of the most important features of Estupiñán’s game is simply his engine. With incredible stamina, he is capable of covering immense ground up and down the left flank which allows him to be such an active player in both defensive and offensive strategies. The importance of Estupiñán to Arrasate’s approach cannot be understated given the reliance of this side on their wide play, particularly down the left.
As can be seen from his heat map, he primarily sticks to the wide areas and will not be found cutting inside and is rarely caught covering centrally in defensive terms. Instead, he will stick to the byline, both when defending and attacking. With Osasuna packing central areas and preferring to give freedom to few players out wide, this is possible and easy to achieve with the central areas so well-stocked that there is no need for him to drift centrally at any time.
He is given almost free reign down this left flank, with Kike Barja often switching flanks or drifting into a more central role when in possession, and rarely providing much defensive cover. This means that on many occasions, Estupiñán is given the entire wing to himself. This suits his game, allowing him space to exploit with his pace and dribbling to take players on and get forwards as much as possible.
As reflected in his role in the side, Estupiñán’s greatest contribution to the team is when getting forwards. Here, two key elements combine in order to provide Estupiñán with a rounded attacking profile which allows him to be so dangerous. These, in particular, are his positioning and movement, both with and without the ball, and also his deliveries with his impressive crossing.
Estupiñán is often given the whole left flank to roam freely, with Osasuna often looking to hold the ball on the right before switching to the left to allow the full-back to attack with space. He would often do this and is never afraid to take on opposition players, including against Real Madrid‘s Dani Carvajal as shown in the example above. Despite being a full-back, he is the player with the 10th highest number of dribbles this season at 125, more oven than attacking heavyweights like Vinícius Junior, Martin Ødegaard and Iñaki Williams. In fact, Real Betis’ Alex Moreno is the only player to have carried the ball further than Estupiñán, who has progressed the ball 86.32m with the ball at his feet this season.
Equally, he is not a player who lacks end product. With 3.85 crosses and a completion rate of 34.1%, only Sevilla’s roaming wing-back Jesús Navas, formerly a winger, has recorded more than Estupiñán’s 128 crosses this season. He also ranks well for his completion rate and is one of Osasuna’s key attacking outlets in this regard. This has been a key element of why no La Liga side has scored more headed goals than Osasuna this season, constituting 29.4% of all of their goals scored.
Defensively, Estupiñán is also reliable. This is aided by his impressive reading of the game. Rather than a defender who will get stuck into challenges, Estupiñán relies on intercepting moves before they become a threat and ensuring that the attack cannot progress. No full-back has completed more interceptions than Estupiñán’s 150 this season, and it’s easy to see why when looking at examples like that above against Alavés. Having pressed high to follow Aleix Vidal, Vidal turns to gamble on the ball over the top and beating Estupiñán by putting him on the back foot, but the Ecuadorian keeps his cool and steps up to cut out the pass and immediately starts a counter-attack.
While Estupiñán is clearly a talented player, he does have some weaknesses, many of which are to be expected from a player of his age at just 22 and his experience, having played just two top-flight games in Europe before this season. Many of his faults come from sloppy play and a lack of concentration, perhaps even an excess of confidence and lack of experience, as will be explained here.
Here, in this first example against Sevilla, he is too slow to make the move. While, as explained previously, he is often given the full left flank to exploit, he can struggle when coming up against teams that double up on him or defending in a low block. Sevilla did just that by defending deeper, and Estupiñán hesitated for just too long. Rather than attacking Navas or looking to play an immediate quick pass, he drew himself into a trap in which five players closed in around him and he had no viable passing option.
It must be said here that Osasuna’s approach of allowing him so much freedom on the left can lead to this weakness. When he does pause for just a moment and requires an escape route, there are rarely easy passing options to allow him out. That is part of why he ranks so highly for the number of possession losses per game at 13.24, with almost a third of that figure coming in the opposition half.
More concerning is a similar issue, when Estupiñán shows poor decision making when under pressure and looking to attack from his own half. As can be seen in the first image from this example, He will occasionally use too much pace to get away and find himself without options. Losing the ball in this position is particularly dangerous due to Osasuna’s rigid structure and lack of pace at the back which means that he is rarely sufficiently covered. As such, a failed pass can open up to provide a huge gap in the backline which can be exploited by rival attackers.
With his loan spell at Osasuna expiring this summer, it will certainly be intriguing to see what is next for Estupiñán. He possesses incredible potential and is a real threat when going forwards without being easy to compromise defensively. However, he is better suited to a smaller side, who will give him great freedom from the off and allow him the kind of space to operate in that Arrasate has given him at Osasuna.
Attacking against more defensively open sides also suits him, and moving to a bigger club could present him with a new challenge to be more dangerous against sides who are prepared to dedicate more resources to stopping him and sit deeper to prevent him from being able to run at them in the same way.
Despite that, Estupiñán has caught the eye for a reason at Osasuna. His rounded and mature performances do have faults but they are ones which will be cut out with time and greater defensive cover. For any side looking for a left-back this summer, Estupiñán could be an exciting addition.