‘Blessing for his coaches’ – Can ‘versatile’ talent lead Emery’s revolution?
Even though Unai Emery’s Villarreal failed to secure European football directly through LaLiga on the final day against Real Madrid, their rising star, Yeremi Pino, bagged a very beautiful goal against Los Blancos. Despite not always being a nailed-on starter for the Yellow Submarine, the 18-year-old has lit up the stage almost every time he’s been given a chance to perform.
With Premier League giants Manchester United awaiting them in the Europa League final, maybe Pino can be the one to turn the tides and secure a major trophy for Villarreal. But who is this 18-year-old winger and how does he suit Emery’s tactics?
Standing at just 1.72 metres (5ft8in) and 63kg, Pino is a small winger with flair and a low centre of gravity. Even though he is a right-footer and prefers to be deployed as an inside winger, the 18-year-old can play on both sides of the pitch, showcasing a lot of versatility despite his tender age. And while we may see him in a more central role at times, he prefers being deployed out wide.
Pino’s main strengths include pace, dribbling and high technical abilities, an eye for a goal, acceleration, agility and, perhaps the most surprising of them all, genuine defensive discipline and work rate. The last one is not always connected with flair wingers but Pino has a big impact on Emery’s defensive tactics too.
Above, you can see his player profile in which we’ve compared him to the rest of LaLiga’s wingers. Note that all numbers are percentile rankings, which will help us determine his strengths and weaknesses. One important thing to note here, however, is his game time. In the domestic league, Pino was mostly used as a substitute by Emery, racking up a total of just 886 minutes across 38 games. But, that is still enough to give us a glimpse of his profile.
Immediately, you can see that he’s an excellent dribbler, both in volume and success rate. Equally impressive is his finishing as despite not tallying too many shots per 90 minutes, Pino is extremely accurate and lethal, even outperforming his expected goals value. The thing he really excels at, however, are progressive runs, as can be seen from the graph.
While passing may not be his greatest weapon, we can see that Pino can deploy key passes, smart passes and through balls with a slight caveat of a lower volume of overall passes per 90 minutes. Defensively though, he is above-average in most of our highlighted metrics and we’ll touch upon it further down the line of this tactical analysis.
Dribbling & progression
Without a doubt, one of Pino’s greatest weapons in his arsenal is his dribbling. In 2020/21 and across all competitions, he’s registered 6.59 dribbles per 90 minutes with a 60.4% success rate, rating him as one of the more efficient dribblers in LaLiga. When comparing just the U23 players domestically, he ranks as 10th in the league.
Generally speaking, and as we’ll see in the first example below, Pino can effectively dribble from the halfway line onward but is most effective when entering the final third. Interestingly enough, as a true inverted winger, he will cut inside as he gets closer to the box and this is usually where he’ll try to beat his man to create the biggest advantage.
The graph tells us the same story. Notice the clusters of dribbles just at the entrance into the box on the left side of the pitch – this is exactly where Pino can take advantage of his flair and speed. Since fouling him in this area is mostly not an option, the 18-year-old can either win a penalty if his marker risks it or he’ll get the chance to put in a dangerous cross towards the six-yard box.
Interestingly, with 4.51 touches in the box per 90 this season, he ranks 9th overall and 4th when only U23 players are considered so his impact is surely palpable. Let’s explore a couple of in-game examples of such dribbles and see whether they tell the same story as the graphs.
In this first image below, we can see Pino in a rather standard position on the pitch, occupying the wide areas and then cutting inside and engaging in a 1v1 duel.
It’s important to note that Villarreal’s tactics ensure that the winger is isolated with his marker in large and open spaces, which always benefits him rather than the defender. Here, Pino first uses his incredible acceleration and pace to cover a lot of ground, carrying the ball at his feet. After that, he engages in and wins the duel against his marker, finishing the action with a brilliantly executed shot.
While he is certainly not a volume shooter since he’s only registered a total of 25 shots in 2020/21, his shot selection is great and the youngster has a keen eye for goal. Considering he has scored eight goals from 5.54 xG, we can conclude his finishing has been at the required level. After all, 44.4% of his shots have ended up on target, which is impressive despite a lower overall volume.
Below is a graphic that depicts all of his shots this season and we can see that almost all of his goals have come from a very similar position inside the box.
This is a direct result of his marauding runs and dribbles, both of which we’ve already concluded originate around that same area. Let’s quickly take a look at another example, this time addressing the conundrum Pino’s dribbles pose to defenders within the box.
Again, the example shows us his acceleration, pure pace, ability to shield the ball and then finally, the skill to beat his marker(s) in direct duels. This time, as Pino has already entered the penalty area, the defender has to be extra cautious and because of that, the youngster slips through the cracks and manages to deploy a dangerous pass towards the six-yard box.
And this is a perfect segway into the next section of this scout report which will deal with Pino’s passing abilities.
Passing & positioning
Passing might not be among Pino’s greatest weapons but when combined with some of his other traits, it makes for a deadly tool at his disposal. We’ve already seen from the initial player profile graphic that despite not being the biggest volume passer, the 18-year-old is still effective in some of the most important passing metrics.
For instance, with 1.43 through balls (37.3% accurate) and with above-average percentile rankings in both smart passes and key passes, Pino is becoming a player skilful at setting his teammates up as much as finishing the actions himself. Of course, we shouldn’t forget that with only 32.14 passes per 90 minutes, he is not a volume passer and in general, can still be risk-averse in most situations.
Looking at his passes graph above, we can see that his passing can be safe but is also used in lay-offs and quick combinations out on the flanks. One other thing we have to note here is the occasional long pass switch, which still seems to be a considerate part of his passing tendencies.
Overall, with an 82.8% success rate, we can say that he’s fairly confident in possession and won’t give away the ball carelessly that often, which speaks volumes about any young, flair winger such as himself. Usually, this is exactly what young players struggle with the most but Pino seems to be mature on the ball, especially for his age.
Let’s now look at a couple of examples that can tell us more about some of his riskier types of passes. We’ve already mentioned in this tactical analysis that Pino likes to be deployed wide but once he starts one of his runs, we can often see him in much more central areas and especially positioned between the lines.
The image above shows us that perfectly. Notice how Pino starts out wide but will then cut inside in an attempt to beat his markers. But we’ve also pointed out earlier that situations like this one when he can combine his dribbling with the passing are especially dangerous for the opposition.
After cutting inside and essentially disposing of two defenders in a flash, Pino deploys a piercing through ball into the feet of his teammate. Again, while this is certainly not the norm and the youngster still can’t do this on an everyday basis, it’s a weapon in his arsenal that shouldn’t be ignored and can only grow with time.
Here’s another example, this time from a much more central position but with a fairly similar outcome.
Following one of his mazy runs where he beats multiple markers to the ball, Pino unleashes an excellent pass behind the opposition’s backline. Simply recognising the space that can be exploited and then executing it at such a high level is a trait not many 18-year-old’s can proudly say they have at their disposal.
Finally, this scout report will finish with a quick overview of Pino’s contribution to Villarreal’s defensive tactics. In general, they are a team that fluctuates between a high press and a mid-block and the youngster is a hard worker in both systems. On average, he engages in 26.08 duels per 90 with a success rate of 47.8%.
When we break it down further into defensive duels specifically, it’s still impressive and commendable – 7.66 defensive duels per 90 with a 48.1% success rate. Before jumping into the in-game examples, let’s observe his defensive duels map from some of the latest games that offer enough of a sample.
What we notice here is his work rate in Villarreal’s half of the pitch. The youngster won’t always press as high and be successful at it but tracking back and maintaining the structure is certainly a part of his repertoire. Of course, his success rate will vary from game to game but with almost 50% of his duels being successful on average, we can conclude that he plays a big part in ensuring the flank is not breached.
But when and if he’s asked to press high, Pino will gladly do it and will generally stick well to his man once the second line of press is activated. Emery has him either as part of the front two in a 4-4-2 or as part of the second line in the wider areas. In any case, with 3.98 interceptions and 3.56 recoveries per 90 minutes(50% in the opposition half), there’s an argument to be made about his tremendous work rate.
We can see an example of that defensive discipline in the following image.
Pino starts off from a much deeper position but sticks to his man and follows his run into the final third. The important thing to note here is that after the ball has been moved onto the backline, the youngster ensures the previous carrier is held in his cover shadow so that he’s no longer a viable option for progression.
From that position, he can either push on or settle in Villarreal’s block, depending on what the tactics in that situation demand of him. If he’s tasked to press higher, as we’ve already established in this tactical analysis, he will gladly do so.
Our final example shows us Pino pressing high and doing the role of the ball-tracker in the first line of defence. But even more importantly, it’s how he gets back into position and holds the line once the ball has been recycled towards the flanks that’s impressive.
While none of the examples have shown defensive contribution that’s out of this world, sometimes it’s doing the basics right and simply ensuring the coach’s tactics don’t suffer because of the poor work rate of decision making.
Pino seems highly disciplined and mature, both off and on the ball, which is a rarity for such a young player.
The future certainly seems bright for the 18-year-old winger. In the words of Nando Martínez (as relayed by CA Posts), a coach who has already seen and analysed his profile, Pino is a ‘blessing for his coaches’ because he does everything right. Even Emery has called him a ‘versatile’ player, a quote that was relayed in that very same report by CA Posts, so everything indicates he could go far and lead the coach’s revolution if he continues developing this way.
The next challenge might be tonight against Manchester United. Villarreal weren’t always able to emerge victorious against the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid this season but they can still end the campaign on an incredible high.