As Ronald Koeman takes charge as the FC Barcelona coach, he pitches that it will be a revolution. After the 8-2 lost against Bayern, Barca hit rock bottom, in Pique’s words. What worse can happen to Barca after what they have suffered for part some years? The Worse is yet to come. The 8-2 didn’t change anything significant. The board is still out there and how come Koeman can’t look at the biggest problem in Barca’s squad? FULL BACKS!!
The type of football that Cruyff built and FC Barcelona played, full-backs play a major role in it. The new generation of football teams has one thing in common, versatile and dominant full-backs. Barca was gifted as Dani Alves dominated the Right-back position for them for years. The left-back was first dominated by Abidal and then Jordi Alba. But now, neither Barca has Alves, nor does Alba is the same. There is no reason why new full-backs should be on first priority this transfer season.
Barca Times covered the left-back position in a separate article. This article will solely focus on the right-back position and the potential candidates that FC Barcelona can target for the right back position.
Post Dani Alves era
Dani Alves was undoubtedly not just the best Right-back FC Barcelona had, but he was among the best right-backs to ever grace the pitch. He was a dominant player who liked football at his feet. He was a type of player who young full-backs try to emulate. Not just his dominating figure in attack, his defensive contributions were also excellent. He efficiency was a thing that many few players ever beat. With all this, his partnership with Messi was an added incentive.
As Dani Alves left in the summer of 2016 for Juventus, Barca was left with a void which was near impossible to fill. FC Barcelona acquired players like Aleix Vidal from Sevilla and promoted Wague, but no one worked out. Barca signed Nelson Semedo from Benfica in 2017, but his inconsistency has cost Barca big time. The only player who has slightly worked out at the right-back position has been Sergi Roberto who should be playing as a midfielder.
Great Full Backs are a guarantee of success. Bayern won the champions league, where Kimmich and Davies dominated every team. Liverpool’s Alexander Arnold and Robertson had a fantastic year in their champions league campaign last year. So, Its time high time FC Barcelona starts to look at full-backs. With Messi starting as an RW and shifting to a No 10, the right-back position holds extra importance.
Here are some Right Back options which Barca can approach to replace inconsistent Semedo and makeshift Semedo.
Potential Right Back Options
Looking at the best right-backs out there, they are more likely to reject Barcelona than join them. Most obvious options would be Alexander Arnold of Liverpool or Achraf Hakimi of Inter or even Kimmich of Bayern. But the players mentioned above play a significant role in their respective teams and are unlikely to join us.
So, here are the potential candidates FC Barcelona can approach realistically.
Looking into the potential replacements for the right back position, João Cancelo should be a priority for FC Barcelona. The Portuguese right now is the most viable option to go for FC Barcelona. No, he will be easy to buy because he plays as a 2nd choice right back at Man City, but also looking at his stats in comparison with Semedo gives optimism.
Semedo and Cancelo both are 26 years old. Semedo has played around 600 more minutes, but Cancelo has an edge above Semedo. In the last three seasons, Cancelo has xA of 0.13, which is more than Semedo’s 0.07. Cancelo’s dribbled past percentage is 20% less than of Semedo. The only areas where Semedo leads Cancelo are Successful pressures and a minor lead over Pass Completion Percent. Cancelo also leads from a significant margin from Semedo when we look at Passes into the final third and Progressive Distance Covered.
When we talk about the right back position, we can’t forget Sergi Roberto. Roberto is forced to play in the right-back position, and he has done well. He looks more balanced while playing and is rarely found out of position. Here is a data viz from Total Football Analysis.
Cancelo should be a no-brainer for FC Barcelona as we take a look at this data analysis. Taking a look at the defensive duels, Cancelo averaged 8.18 per 90 minutes with 63.54% success rate in 2019/20, compared to Roberto’s 4.61 and 60.48% and Semedo’s 9.01 and 58.63%. Overall, Cancelo would be a mix between the two with Semedo’s defensive ability and Roberto’s passing skills. The current Barca needs stability, and Cancelo can provide that.
Talking about the best bet for the future, Sergiño Dest of Ajax is one of the best options for the right-back position. With a young age of 19, Dest is the next big thing. He has been impressive for Ajax and has provided four assists in 20 matches in his breakthrough season.
Ajax’s history with producing young players have been quite remarkable. With a philosophy instilled by the great, Johan Cruyff, Ajax has given players like De Jong, De Beek and Dest is next in line. Dest played for the youth academy for Almere City FC till 2012 and joined Ajax as a youngster. His debut for Ajax came at the start of 2018/19 season, and from then on he has impressed as a right back. Here are two radar charts from @GoalAnalysis comparing Dest and Semedo.
When we look at Dest’s Radar, it feels like he is more of a winger than a defender. But that is how new age full-backs work now. He is an attack-minded full-back who contributes more in his attack than the defence.
Looking at the data analysis, we can see that Dest is a better player overall despite being just 19. With an xA of around 0.12 and Key Passes of 0.52 as compared to 0.07 and 0.37 of Semedo, Dest looks to be evolving.
The one thing he lacks is the defensive capability. But taking account his young age of 19, it is something which can be easily taught and added to his overall gameplay. Here is what Ronald Koeman said in an interview with Catalunya Radio about Dest before he was appointed the Barca manager.
Sergiño Dest is a winger for teams like Barcelona. He’s one of those offensive full-backs who is fast and is comfortable with the ball. He has a great future on any team.
One of the highly underrated right-backs who is constantly performing at the big stage, Ricardo Pereira, after looking at other options, can be the 1st choice. 26 year old, Pereira joined Leicester from Porto in the summer of 2018 and became an instant hit. Here is a data analysis comparing Pereira to Semedo in the last 2 domestic seasons.
Looking at the above data analysis from the past two domestic seasons, Pereira holds an edge above Semedo. He leads Semedo with a higher xA of 0.13 as compared to Semedo’s 0.06, which proves he contributes to the attack. With more successful pressures of 6.44 as compared to 4.33 of Semedo, his defensive ability is excellent. He also leads Semedo with a lower Dribbled Past Percentage and a better Dribble Success rate.
As Evident, he is less dispossessed than Semedo. The only thing that he lacks is his Aerial capability which can be understood due to his small height in comparison to Semedo. Overall, Ricardo Pereira can be an excellent option for Barca if they approach him. He will also be a cheap option. The only thing hindering this transfer can be Leicester’s dependence on him and his latest injury which looks like he will out till October.
A New Right Back should be on 1st priority for Barca if they have to compete at the highest level. Semedo has been inconsistent, and Roberto prefers to play in the midfield rather than at the RB position. Since Dani Alves left, we are still looking for a permanent fix, and it should come now rather than delaying it.
Cancelo is the best option who Barca can target. He can be included in a swipe deal for Semedo which looks like a fair offer. Dest is 19, and it doesn’t feel like he will be open to joining Barca at such a young age. He needs more time at Ajax and will improve himself. But, with time, his value will also increase as well as the competition from different clubs.
Pereira can be a surprise signing for FC Barcelona, but he is an upgrade to Semedo. He can be a great player, and his performances may improve partnering with Messi on the right. But, he has his injury which rules him out for around October which means it looks unlikely Barca approach him.