If Barcelona are ahead in La Liga this season, that’s can largely be explained by a fabulous front three: Lionel Messi as usually (21 goals, 10 assists) his partner Luis Suarez (15 goals) and the improving of Ousmane Dembélé (8 goals) assisted by Jordi Alba (7 assists). However they had a huge problem since Dani Alves departure which seems resolved this season by the Portuguese fullback Nelson Semedo. After the preseason games, the question was who will figure as right back in the starting eleven. In the first two months Valverde hadn’t the response, he finally found it while Sergi Roberto was injured, Semedo came in and took the ascendant on the Spaniard. In this analysis we will look at his performances
After Dani Alves’ moved to Juventus, Luis Enrique didn’t buy a right-back. He used Sergi Roberto as right-back but his performance was not so top. We remember how bad he was in his first game in the Spanish Supercup 2015 vs Athletic Bilbao (defeat 4-0). To replace the Spaniard coach, Barcelona hired the experiment Ernesto Valverde, and his backpack he had a Portuguese fullback who just had 2 fantastic seasons with Benfica (43 matches, only 8 yellow cards in Primeira Liga). At his arrival, Nelson Semedo had a clash with Neymar in instance of depart. Semedo, 24, had just joined Barca from Benfica when he came to blows with Neymar during a training session on the club’s tour of the United States.
Neymar reacted angrily to a challenge from Semedo as Barca prepared for an International Champions Cup match against Real Madrid in Miami, with the forward having to be held back by Sergio Busquets as he attempted to confront the defender in front of TV cameras
The current season
This season the former Benfica defender is clearly the number one for the post in Ernesto Valverde’s mind. He has 15 appearances in the Spanish first division and 4 in UEFA Champions League.
This season, Barcelona is #1 in possession. He completes 45.73 passes per 90 minutes, the Portuguese has already reached 686 passes in fifteen Liga games with 92% of success, whereas last season he had registered only 88%. He found the target twice with 2 shots (50%), he already equalized his last season number. The right-back has a good touch, he has succeeded 13 dribbles yet.
He usually stay high no matter who is the principal opponent
But we talk about a defender, the first thing which comes in mind is how he defends. Statistics prove that, his defensive contributions is also important than his offensive assistance.
In one side, the catalan dribbled past less 0.2 per game. In other side Sergi Roberto is 0.9 and Alba concede 1 per game. Even Vinicius had some trouble to dribble him.
With 1.2 tackles per game, 1.2 interception added, the Portuguese is solid in his foot. And when he has to go in the aerial duels, he is not so bad. With his 1.77m he wins 0.8 duels per game whereas Sergi has 1.1 on avergae and Jordi Alba shorter than them doesn’t even win one per game.
His association with Dembele caused troubles. For example, Against Levante, Dembouz was very impressive throughout. His chemistry with Nelson Semedo was astounding. Playing on the right, both are very quick and agile. Many times, Dembele slid the ball between defenders just as Semedo overlapped him. This caused a number of problems. Such a play resulted in Messi’s goal. In the image shown, we see the advanced position Semedo is in. He pulls the ball back through two defenders and Messi finishes the job.
His connexion with Malcom vs Real Madrid in Copa del Rey disturb Marcelo a lot. The brazilian committed various positioning mistakes. All this despipte the constant pressure of the main weapon of the Casa Blanca renaissance.
Solution as left-back
In their last game at San Mames, against an intrepid Athletic Bilbao, he played on the left side. It wasn’t the first time this season. Unfortunately, he was the one who lost possession the most (3) of the match despite having completed 85% of his passes attempted. Anecdotally his only goal with his club came from his left foot vs Girona on 27th January.
Comparison to Sergi Roberto
His duel with Sergi Roberto is tight. Able to play in the midfield, the Spaniard has played more than him (17) and has assisted more (5) more precise at passing (91%) and more determinant in the final third 15 key passes for the number 20 while the number has only 3. We can explain it by the fact that the former is a product from La Masia has more affinity with his teammates than the latter. However when Semedo plays directly to the penalty area, Sergi Roberto prefers play in support. Never mind, when Barcelona has to make a Remontada, he is always in the scoresheet.
Judging his evolution Nelson Semedo offers the guaranty on his side. Mature with his 25 years old, we expect he will keep his or and why not upgrade it. With the Portuguese national team, things aren’t fixed yet. The manager Fernando Santos has confidence in Cedric Soares, the former Southampton player despite his recent troubles (moved on loan to Inter) but the old man can change his starting eleven before the last round of UEFA Nations League.
Meantime, he brings satisfaction on the flank. However he has to improve some skills such as his faculty to intercept (Sergi Roberto is far ahead with 32 interceptions, whereas he registered 19) and his placement in the offensive phases – 2 times in offside vs Athletic Bilbao.