04 Feb Is Dest nearly as good at Barcelona as USMNT followers had hoped? The numbers recommend the reply is ‘sure’
The total-back place has usually been one in every of sturdy competence for the US males’s nationwide team. At right-back, you have been witness to the Steve Cherundolos and Timmy Chandlers of the world; the pickings have been a bit slimmer at occasions on the left, however gamers like DaMarcus Beasley and Fabian Johnson have nonetheless introduced professionalism and infrequently thrilling play to the place. There’s sturdy skilled upside, and there is Jordi Alba- or Dani Alves-level upside: in Sergino Dest, the USMNT now has a beginning Barcelona full-back in its participant pool.
Dest’s rise from Ajax youth prospect to Barcelona starter came about in what felt like milliseconds. Let’s check out what sort of participant he’s turning into, and what he may need to supply for the U.S. and supervisor Gregg Berhalter.
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First, the timeline:
Born within the Netherlands to an American father and Dutch mom, Dest made his Ajax B-team (Jong Ajax) debut as a 17-year previous in October 2018, lower than two months earlier than Berhalter was employed to guide the USMNT. By the next July, Dest had been promoted to the senior squad; he would play in 20 of 25 Eredivisie matches for the Dutch powerhouse in 2019-20, plus 10 of 12 Champions League and Europa League matches.
Having represented the US at each the FIFA Underneath-17 World Cup in 2017 and the Underneath-20 World Cup in 2019, Dest formally dedicated to taking part in for the US early within the 2019-20 season and has since made 5 appearances for his nation. He performed most of final fall’s friendlies towards Wales and Panama, finishing 86% of his passes with eight ball recoveries.
By this level, you may say his standing inside America’s first-choice lineup had been fast-tracked. Having already performed within the Champions League earlier than his 19th birthday, he had moved to Barcelona earlier than his 20th. Regardless of rampant price range points, the Blaugrana acquired him on Oct. 1 for greater than €20 million and rapidly plugged him into the lineup. He is performed in 15 of 20 La Liga matches and performed the complete 90 minutes in 5 of six Champions League group-stage matches.
Though he has break up his minutes between right- and left-back for the nationwide team, Dest has been deployed primarily on the best at Barca, both as a result of that is the place supervisor Ronald Koeman thinks he is most succesful or as a result of Alba stays a mainstay at left-back. Dest has logged a aim and an help, however his major job has been to maneuver the ball from the second stage of the protection to the third. Seems he is fairly good at it.
(The above reveals the place he tends to take advantage of performs and progressions and, no shock for a Barcelona participant, he spends most of his time method up the pitch.)
The total-back place is a tough one to judge in a statistical sense, because it relies upon so comprehensively on the system at hand. However evaluating him to different full-backs and wing-backs in Europe’s large 5 leagues, we determine each his strengths and his particular duties fairly rapidly.
Among the many 150 big-five full-backs and wing-backs with not less than 750 league minutes this season, Dest’s cross completion charge (90.4%) ranks first, as does his completion charge into the attacking third (90.0%). No, these haven’t been long-distance passes, and sure, plenty of these passes have gone to Lionel Messi, which is to say they’re high-percentage alternatives. However his accuracy and his pace on the ball get the ball the place it must be nearly each time. He is additionally within the 99th percentile in completion charge from the center third (92.8%) and within the 93rd percentile from the defensive third (82.6%).
Dest has been glorious at retaining possession — his 12.1 possessions misplaced per 90 minutes are within the 95th percentile — and he’s greater than keen to aim one-on-ones (3.1 take-ons per 90, 55% success charge). Stylistically, he matches properly with the Kyle Walker or Ferland Mendy sort of full-back. Or sure, Alba himself.
One main motive for his excessive completion charge in attacking positions: he does not try crosses. He ranks within the 24th percentile in cross makes an attempt (1.9 per 90) and within the 14th in cross completion charge (10.5%). That is a part of Koeman’s common strategy: Barcelona try solely 14.6 crosses per 90 minutes, third lowest in La Liga. This promotes ball retention and thru brief passing patterns, take-ons and, sure, Messi, Barcelona nonetheless lead the league in possibilities created.
For a possession-heavy team like Barcelona, probably the most direct effort in protection is just not permitting the opponent to have the ball. Dest is sensible in that regard, and that is good as a result of he is received room to develop within the precise protection division. He ranks within the first percentile — the very backside, in different phrases — with 9.1 defensive interventions (outlined as ball recoveries, tackles, interceptions, clearances, blocked pictures and aerials gained within the defensive third) per 90 minutes. He averages 5.1 ball recoveries per 90 (38th percentile), however solely 0.Four cross interceptions (first percentile). He is good for the occasional tactical foul, however he was not acquired for his tackling potential, which continues to be very a lot a piece in progress.
All of this matches with Barcelona’s defensive profile in the mean time. Like loads of possession teams, the Blaugrana get caught a good quantity on counter-attacks; they’re seventh in La Liga in pictures allowed per possession (0.10), however they’re sixth worst in xG allowed per shot (0.13). Dest’s stats seem to very a lot be a product of the system, for higher and worse. When requested to use extra strain, it looks as if he can — he averaged 11.2 defensive interventions per 90 final season with Ajax and 13.Four with Jong Ajax the season earlier than.
Nonetheless, Koeman desires to construct from the again and hog the ball, and Dest is a beautiful piece on this regard.
Berhalter desires to do this stuff, too. Because the begin of 2020, the U.S. has performed 5 friendlies, three towards vastly overmatched CONCACAF opponents (Trinidad & Tobago, Panama, El Salvador) and two towards extra strong foes (Wales, Costa Rica). Towards the previous, they romped by a mixed 19-2; they struggled offensively towards the latter, beating Costa Rica 1-Zero and drawing 0-Zero with Wales.
– The U.S. overwhelmed the three overmatched foes with strain and possession. They possessed the ball 64% of the time, accomplished almost 88% of their (largely brief) passes, made greater than 50 ball recoveries in every match and allowed simply 9.Three passes per defensive motion. (For context, solely three big-five teams have allowed fewer than 9.Three PPDA to this point this season: Leeds United, Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich.)
– Towards Wales and Costa Rica, the offense disappeared, however the ideas remained: 61% possession, 88% completion charge, 49 ball recoveries per match and a frantic, Ajax-like 8.6 PPDA.
Berhalter is doing a strong job of creating his meant ideas — granted, towards largely sketchy competitors — and he is doing it regardless of having but to essentially slim down the participant pool. In these 5 matches, as an example, he is performed 11 completely different full-backs for not less than a handful of minutes — everybody from potential regulars like Dest, Boavista’s Reggie Cannon and the Colorado Rapids’ Sam Vines, to less-tested kids like Atlanta United’s George Bello and the LA Galaxy’s Julian Araujo.
Barcelona’s American duo Sergino Dest and Konrad de la Fuente go face to face within the “extra more likely to” problem.
It is thrilling, then, to consider what is perhaps attainable with a steady, really first-choice lineup. It is also thrilling to appreciate that, along with Dest, the possession-and-pressure theme is fairly fixed with the teams plenty of the members of this potential first-choice lineup play for.
– Winger/attacking midfielder Christian Pulisic — Chelsea: The Blues’ possession charge has been greater than 60% for Pulisic’s total tenure, and new coach Thomas Tuchel, who labored with Pulisic at Borussia Dortmund, is a PPDA true believer.
– Winger Giovanni Reyna — Borussia Dortmund: BVB have the very best possession charge (62%) within the Bundesliga and are second in PPDA (10.3), and regardless of having simply turned 18, Reyna has already logged greater than 1,500 Bundesliga minutes with the membership.
– Midfielder Weston McKennie — Juventus: McKennie arrived with new supervisor Andrea Pirlo, who’s rapidly turning Juve into a contemporary possession membership: they’re second in Serie A in possession charge (58.6%) and first in PPDA (9.9).
– Defensive midfielder Tyler Adams — RB Leipzig: The Crimson Bull machine has rapidly turn into an avatar for contemporary soccer, and flagship Leipzig are presently each glorious (Adams scored the profitable aim to ship them to the Champions League semifinals final season) and possession dominant.
– Goalkeeper Zack Steffen — Manchester Metropolis: Steffen performed for Berhalter’s Columbus Crew SC and has now made eight appearances for Pep Guardiola’s Man Metropolis. Secure to say, he is aware of what’s required of the trendy sweeper keeper and play-out-of-the-back intentions.
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Loads of others within the participant pool are employed by both heavy-possession or heavy-pressure sides: defenders like John Brooks (VfL Wolfsburg), Cannon (Boavista), Chris Richards (TSG Hoffenheim on mortgage from Bayern) and Aaron Lengthy (New York Crimson Bulls), midfielders like Julian Inexperienced (Greuther Furth) and Brenden Aaronson (FC Salzburg), attackers/wingers like Jordan Morris (Swansea on mortgage from Seattle Sounders FC), Timothy Weah (Lille), Konrad de la Fuente (Barca), and so forth.
The lineups the US discipline when the actual matches start — Olympic qualifying in March, the CONCACAF Nations League finals in June, the Gold Cup (and maybe the Olympics) in July, World Cup qualifying within the fall — will boast an growing quantity of not solely younger expertise, but in addition tactical familiarity.
Dest will nearly actually be an enormous a part of Berhalter’s plans. When he signed with Barca, he informed Football4cast, “You wish to play each recreation towards the most effective opponents and see the place you are at proper now along with your improvement. I feel there’s sufficient room for me to enhance, however I’m on an excellent [path] and I like these video games.”
With every stage he is superior — from the Dutch second division to the Dutch first division to La Liga — his cross completion charges have improved, and his anticipated help totals have remained regular. He may not be Alba or Alves but, however he is assembly the problem. That ought to be excellent information for each his and the USMNT’s future.