Txus Alba scout report: 18y/o midfielder leading the next generation of LaMasia stars
Barcelona never sleep and neither does their production line of top talent, regardless of what the media are trying to present. Even though Ronald Koeman claims the Catalans can’t compete with Europe’s best such as Liverpool, Bayern Munich or Chelsea, the truth is there is still a lot of talent in their ranks.
Continuing our LaMasia series, today we’ll do an analysis of a Juvenil A player, Jesús Alba Ramos, better known as Txus Alba. So this tactical analysis will serve as a scout report on the youngster, identifying some of his main traits within Barcelona’s tactics.
Txus Alba is an 18-year-old midfielder currently playing for Barcelona’s U19 squad or rather, the Juvenil A team. His natural position is that of a left central midfielder or an attacking midfielder and his traits complement such an offensive role. Txus boasts excellent close control, awareness, vision and a vast range of different passing techniques.
Similarly, he is very aggressive both on and off the ball, often choosing to attack space or simply advance play either through passing or running in possession. All of these characteristics are very synonymous with LaMasia midfielders, and so is his stature.
But Txus is also unique in terms of his aggressiveness and proactivity. He will attack and exploit space, as we’ve mentioned, but is also a willing and accurate shooter. This tendency to make late runs from the deep or simply position himself around the edge of the penalty area for long-range shots is a very interesting weapon in his arsenal.
Now, this tactical analysis will dive deeper into some of his main characteristics.
Close control & technique
LaMasia youngsters, especially midfielders, are often defined by how good their technique is. Interestingly, analysing so many of them, it’s become apparent most are very similar in the way they control the ball. Usually, that will be in a sequence of one or two touches at most before a pass is released as Barcelona encourage rapid but short distribution when recycling possession.
This technique is ingrained in the youth categories so Juvenil A are no different. What makes Txus special is that he is extremely proactive on the ball and will divert the play forward with almost every move. When receiving possession, he will make himself open and position his body on a half-turn so he can immediately turn and face the play forward.
Above, you can see him drop deeper to receive and immediately turn once the ball reaches his feet. Notice how he turns by twisting his body and essentially letting the ball slide across it in one fell swoop. This allows him to use just a single touch to reposition himself and start running towards the opposition’s goal before releasing a pass that breaks the lines.
This is something we’re used to seeing with players like Riqui Puig or Gavi; young LaMasia graduates who have incredible technical and close control. Txus is no different and this half-turn has become a signature move of his over the years.
The youngster uses it to shield the ball during an under-pressure situation and/or to quickly advance up the pitch. You can see a very similar situation down below as Txus again receives on the half-turn and then twists to face the play forward and progress via his runs. As you’ll see further down the line of this scout report, the midfielder loves to run in possession before deploying piercing passes.
But this technique is extremely useful when both under pressure deep in his half and when receiving in pockets of space between the lines. We should also mention that his dribbling is incredible and he can eliminate markers with just a couple of switch touches of the ball.
Here, the ball bounces back to him and he zig-zags quickly to dance away from the marker and give himself more space to work with. Of course, such actions can be risky since losing the ball could mean immediate danger for his team. However, due to his excellent close control and mastery of the ball, it’s a very calculated risk.
What’s also very important to note is how he times his distributions too, especially after executing such dribble moves. Often, the thing that troubles most young players is decision-making, especially when they’re very technically advanced and skilled. However, while he can get carried away at times, Txus quickly dispatches the ball once the advantage has been secured.
Take the next image as an example. The youngster beats his marker around the halfway line and then after running horizontally into space, immediately deploys a long-range pass over the top and into his teammates higher up the pitch.
We can also see that close control during dribbling that we already discussed in this analysis. Txus is very quick on his feet, with or without the ball, and he can move it rapidly, changing directions and fooling the marker.
But what is arguably most impressive about Txus is the wide range of passes he can deploy, which we’ll touch upon next in our scout report.
Passing range & progressive carries
Another trait that symbolises LaMasia players is their passing ability. Barcelona as a club value such players highly and it’s almost a requirement that youngsters who have any hope of breaking through to the senior team have excellent if not elite distribution. Txus has an enviable range in his passing, from short and rapid combinations and long switches to line-breaking vertical passes that find space between the lines or behind the opposition’s defence.
One of the most crucial pass types is the line-breaking vertical pass as that’s the one used the most to unlock deep blocks. Txus is a player who’s not afraid to go for those far riskier options as is usually very accurate in distributing them. Below we can see him actually break three lines of the opposition’s defensive structure in a single move.
And interestingly enough, despite having excellent control, as we’ve mentioned, Txus will sometimes use a very heavy touch to get some distance between himself and the ball and then run with it forward with pace. The following image can give us a good example of this.
This kind of technique can be risky as overhitting the ball might result in losing possession but it’s also good for quick separation from his markers, as can be seen below. Txus controls the ball with a heavier touch, quickly advancing past the opposition player next to him.
After creating some distance between himself and his marker, the 18-year-old can deploy a piercing through ball that sets up his teammate in the other team’s box. When initially scouting the player, this gave the impression of poor control in certain situations but when used deliberately for separation, it can be an effective tool.
Take the following image as another example, this time against Bayern Munich in Europe. Txus receives the ball from the deep and then uses a heavy touch to move away from the oncoming opposition players and essentially re-position himself better.
Once he can open his body to make the right-footed pass towards the left flank, he deploys a good ball that finds its mark off-screen.
But even when in deeper areas of the pitch, Txus remains calm and accurate, despite not always choosing the safest option in possession. This is also where the distinguishable one-touch LaMasia passing shines the brightest.
In the next image, Txus receives the ball from his goalkeeper and in a couple of swift touches of the ball, immediately recycles possession out wide, out out of the opposition pressure. In a single move, the pressing squad is bypassed and Barcelona can advance up the pitch.
This is a sign the 18-year-old is good under pressure and has both the vision and the skill to successfully bypass heavy marking and also find solutions to difficult scenarios.
But it’s here that we also have to mention his carrying ability. Txus is a great progressor of the ball and he does it via both passing and running in possession. Often, those two traits can be seen in a single sequence, as we have already alluded to in this tactical analysis.
Usually, he will use close control to either beat the marker or just access the space to run into. Then, he’ll advance with the ball as much as he can before deploying a good pass towards his teammates, just as pictured in the following example.
While the initial position he was occupying didn’t offer him a good angle to find the pass, Txus runs with the ball and then deploys it once ready and better positioned.
Again, here, he receives the ball and his first instinct is to carry it forward before releasing a pass once he’s ready and in a position to do so.
Simply knowing when is the optimal time to do so is a huge trait for such a young footballer. But Txus also has weapons in his arsenal that are not necessarily present in every LaMasia graduate.
Even though we’re used to seeing Barcelona midfielders who are technically extremely gifted and have exquisite control, they are often missing the final product. While Txus is not an elite goalscorer just yet, he is someone who’s very willing to participate in attack and has even, at times, been deployed in the forward line.
Just by observing his heatmap and action map below, we can see this tendency to move up and make those short bursts into space behind the opposition’s defensive line.
It helps that he is very fast on his feet and when in full sprint, he can cover the whole pitch in a short amount of time. Sure, he may not be as pacey as some of the best wingers or strikers but Txus uses this to his advantage both on and off the ball. On the ball to create separation by using the heavy touch technique we discussed and off the ball to effectively attack and exploit space.
Below is a great example of a transitional phase in which Txus runs from within his half to follow up a counter-attacking sequence. Even if he doesn’t get the ball here, he can still be used as an outlet in such scenarios.
We’ve also seen on the heatmap that these bursts through the half-spaces are something he often does. The following image demonstrates that perfectly. Txus may not hold the width like a winger but he can underlap and then position himself according to the full-back/winger’s needs.
Here we see him burst forward and in-behind the opposition’s back.
Of course, while that has its own merits, at the end of the day it’s the final product that counts. Luckily, Txus is not afraid to let loose and try his luck from inside or outside the box. Our final example shows him arrive from the deep and finish his mazy run with an excellent shot on goal.
These sequences are very important as Barcelona usually don’t have many players with such traits in their midsts. However, by adding a midfielder with a real goal threat, they would surely be diversifying their tactics and overall outlook of their attack.
Txus Alba is in so many ways the prototype Barcelona midfielder but perhaps crucially, he also adds a unique flavour and a twist to a brilliant, if not somewhat predictable, LaMasia arsenal. At 18 years of age, he is starting to profile himself as a huge talent breaking out of his shell.
However, with so many talented midfielders already in and around the senior and B teams, it remains to be seen whether he truly makes it. The talent is there, that much no one can deny. But in modern football, talent is nowhere near the only ingredient for success.