Las Palmas’ 17-year-old wonderkid Pedro González López, better known as “Pedri”, officially became a player for Catalan giants Barcelona, on 1st July 2020. The future of Barcelona post-Messi has been a hot topic recently. A particular focus on recent transfer dealings and the seemingly poor direction of the club has lead to a disconnect between the fans, backroom staff, players, and the board. It has left Barcelona fans all around the world worrying whether Barcelona will face a similar recent fate as AC Milan and Manchester United have.
The swap deal between Arthur and Pjanic has rightfully upset many Barça fans, but panic should not set, and Barça will survive this tumultuous and uncertain period.
In this article, we hope to give Blaugranes around the world positivity and optimism about the future in an analysis of the prodigy that is Pedri.
The Spanish U19 international started the 2019-20 season at recently relegated La Liga 2 club, Las Palmas. He began the season as a young 16-year-old boy, and has emerged as a mature, confident, and exciting 17-year-old prodigy. Pedri has played a valuable part in Las Palmas’ season despite his age and lack of professional experience, making 31 appearances and 29 starts, which is testament to his worth to the side.
Pedri has repaid the faith of coach Pepe Mel with 3 goals and 5 assists, making him one of the standout players in the squad. The quality of his performances meant that Barcelona chose to snap him up for an astonishingly cheap €5m.
Where does Pedri play?
Pedri is an attacking midfielder who roams the pitch with free licence. Websites like TransferMarkt will tell you that he is a winger, but this borders on simplicity and gives the wrong impression of where he actually plays. The Spaniard plays in a free-roam position. He likes to occupy central areas or the left-hand half-space and will very rarely hug the touchline while in possession.
He moves to pick up the ball in between the lines and even drops as deep as the defensive line to pick the ball up. He can situate himself on the left, then the right, play as a second striker, or as a number 8, all in the space of ten minutes of play.
Some images below highlight common areas where Pedri positions himself;
The licence to free roam of course does not apply for when Las Palmas are out of possession. In this case, Pedri must work hard to make sure he returns to his station on the left-hand flank of the 4-4-2 defensive structure.
Pedri’s Stats Bomb radar (data from before the restart), immediately highlights him as a creative playmaker. His Expected Goals Assisted places him in the 84th percentile for the league, which demonstrates to us that he consistently creates high-quality chances for his teammates.
Since the departure of Jonathan Vieira, Pedri has been the primary playmaker in the team. His importance to chance creation is the reason why Pepe Mel has trusted and relied so much on him. If we also observe the Box Cross %, we can deduce that Pedri is creating a lot of his opportunities in the area via open play, as opposed to set-pieces and crosses, which is highly positive.
When looking at data like this, it is great to see a player who is ranking highly amongst his peers for such attributes. It shows that he is one of the highest performing playmakers in the league. It is also encouraging that Pedri’s Pass Accuracy is high. Usually, pass accuracy among creative playmakers is relatively low because of the added difficulty of making high risk passes in the final third and into the penalty area. So it is promising that Pedri already has such high technical precision in his repertoire.
On the whole, the data is very promising considering the fact it is his first professional season, and one he began at the ripe age of 16. Often, we see that with young attacking players, their defensive contributions are low. However, this cannot be said about Pedri. He is already showing immense maturity and work-rate in his pressing game, in which he is ranking in the 96th percentile. It goes to show how hard-working he is off the ball, and has really bought into the ethics and philosophy of Pepe Mel and the team.
The data gives us an indication of the kind of player that Pedri is, but it requires video analysis to add context and a greater understanding of his strengths and weaknesses. For example, how difficult are the chances he is creating? What kind of vision does Pedri possess, and how is his decision making? The following sections of the article will aim to give you snapshots of the youngster in his element.
Passing and Creativity
As already mentioned, Pedri roams into lots of different positions. He either receives the ball in-between the lines, or is the player who progresses the ball through the lines. It is great to watch his fearlessness and constant desire to provide a creative spark and muster chances out of nothing. At such a young age, Pedri is already demonstrating outstanding vision and awareness of his teammates’ runs and movements. Pedri also has the skill to play the perfect weight of pass.
In this example, Pedri created an excellent goalscoring opportunity with a first-time pass, which in the photo is only just approaching him. The skill required to notice the run and play the perfect weight of pass is remarkable. Not forgetting the fact highlighted; there were two banks of four in a mid-to-low-block which ordinarily cuts the most obvious passing lanes off.
The difficulty of the pass does not faze Pedri. It does not always work, but in that split decision, he saw an opportunity and grabbed it. He provides a verticality and creative element which has been so crucial for Las Palmas, and is something that in recent games has been lacking from the Barcelona midfield.
These photos are further examples of the vision and immaculate weighting of the pass. We see again examples of the types of positions Pedri occupies. His rotational play and positioning gives him the space to lift his head and make great goalscoring opportunities. These are high-quality chances being created from a variety of positions.
Pedri has a decent left foot as well. The photo shows a perfectly executed switch of play. Being ambipedal helps him to add variety and unpredictability to his movements; a trait that is often underrated and underappreciated.
Pedri could improve the consistency of his first touch. The chances he creates are taken perfectly with good control and body positioning, but we would see even higher output if he perfected it, helping him to be sharper with his actions.
The inevitable next step to a more competitive league will likely see him receive even less space in-between the lines, so improving this will be of enormous value to his all-round game.
Pedri’s rotational play and free-roaming makes him impossible to man-mark. That being said, he often finds himself being aggressively pressed and surrounded by the opposition team as they recognise the danger of allowing him too much space to operate. Pedri uses his low centre of gravity, sharp change of direction, and quick footwork to evade danger.
He carries the ball well and is reasonably good at protecting it by the way he manipulates his body and has good close control. The below sequence of photos shows a typical phase of play for Pedri. On this occasion, he takes the ball from deep and looks to penetrate space with his dribbling. He notices that he is surrounded and rather than go for broke, and risk a dangerous counter; he turns back on himself to essentially recycle the phase of play. Pedri does not stop here, though, he sees a gap to exploit in a similar way that a running back in the NFL is always seeking spaces to make the most of. What makes this attack so great is that he is direct and aggressive.
Pep Guardiola, when talking about Iniesta’s greatest quality, said that the importance of attacking the centre-backs is crucial to make them step out of line to disorganise the space and solidity of the defence. Pedri is the type of player who Pep would love to coach; an inside-forward or midfielder who commits men and proves a nuisance to the opposition’s solidity through there verticality and intelligence.
This example shows composure and calmness. He is excellent when he is standing a player up face to face, but also has a great ability to play with his back to players through feints and quick turns.
He could have probably played the pass to the man in between the lines, but this is the kind of player Pedri is; he assumes responsibility. He wants to be the man on the ball, making things happen rather than delegating creative responsibility. At the end of this, what you have is great work by Pedri but no support from the team. In this example, they don’t have numerical superiority, so they can’t make the most of the centre-back’s vacant space. Pedri released the ball as he should in this situation, but the pass was too tricky to make.
Pedri has shown great flair and personality in his game. His recent assist against CD Lugo was nothing short of astonishing, straight out the Neymar book of skills. Words fail to describe it, so make sure to head to our twitter account to see for yourself.
Pedri has the flair and excitement which will have Barça fans on the edge of their seats. Still, it is the previously aforementioned passing and technical qualities which impress us much more than any skill moves.
Pedri’s style of play can lead to overturns of the ball, but the Spaniard does not shirk his responsibilities to win the ball back quickly. If we refer back to the Stats Bomb radar, we see that Pedri ranks in the 96th percentile for pressure regains, what does this mean? Well, it shows us that Pedri presses often and is mostly very effective at it. His work rate and understanding of when and where to press is impressive. This should encourage Barça fans. He will bring energy and desire, which will surely make him a fan favourite, alongside proving valuable should the manager want to counter-press high up the pitch.
Phase 1 above – Ball moving out wide is the trigger for Pedri to close down the receiver as fast as possible.
Phase 2 above – Pedri shadow presses and blocks the passing option behind him as the rest of the team are covering all other passing options. The trigger to press was led by Pedri and ultimately proved very sensible. It is clear the right-back has limited composure or ability to break Pedri’s press which causes him to panic as he attempts the worst pass possible, indicated by the red arrow. The ball is easily intercepted, leaving Las Palmas in a great position to counter with five men high up the pitch.
Pedri is not a natural goalscorer. As discussed already, he is the playmaker who creates opportunities rather than someone who is finishing chances or getting into positions to score. The shots he takes from distance are a little tame and rarely threaten. This could be something he develops, but stylistically he is not the kind of player who we see scoring 10+ goals in a season regularly.
Physically Pedri is understandably fairly lean still. He has shown good protection of the ball and offensively his balance and sharp movement has meant it has not been a huge issue. He could be more aggressive in duels, but I am sure this will come with time, and as he continues to grow both physically and as a player.
Hopefully, with the visual aids and descriptions, it is clear that Pedri is not an out and out winger. Instead, he’s rather a creative playmaker or attacking midfielder who plays in various zones, but most prominently in the central or inside-left channel.
His style is dynamic and multi-faceted. He shows outstanding technical ability and consistency for his age; a fearless attitude and confidence which is a joy to watch. For a 16/17-year old to play 30+ matches in his first professional season is testament to his capabilities and skillset. He has all the tools to be a future star.
To reiterate sentiments at the beginning of the article, the Barcelona board has taken a lot of criticism recently, so let’s take a moment to appreciate the significant piece of business in securing the signing of Pedri so cheaply.
When we consider the price tags placed on other teenagers, this is a smart move. Youth like Pedri, Trincao, Puig, and Fati, should inspire hope and excitement to all Barça fans that the future is secure.
Barça must now decide what to do with Pedri. He is still only 17 and rushing him may stunt progression. We think he can make the step up with a loan move to a La Liga club where he is allowed the same freedoms as at Las Palmas.
We will end with the thoughts of the man who has worked with Pedri most closely this season whose sentiments we share;
“Pedri is a great player. Barça has been very clever and has taken a pearl, the future Iniesta”Pepe Mel
Written by James Beagley – @GenZscouts