Sergio Canales, a player who passed by Real Madrid, that’s what comes to mind when we see Sergio Canales playing. Especially when Quique Setien signed the Spaniard midfielder who struggled in San Sebastian with Real Sociedad. Sergio Canales is another product in a long line of technical midfielders that have flourished when given the opportunity in La Liga.

At his arrival at the club, Quique Setien wanted a technical midfield, he had Andres Guardado, he brought this season William Carvalho to solidify and Lo Celso to support the attack. However, between them, he has an attacking-minded midfielder who excels this campaign.

In 2010/11, he was one of three men bought by Jose Mourinho, he became a back-up player to Mesut Ozil and Kaka who were the playmakers in the Real Madrid’s 4-2-3-1. His time at Madrid didn’t take before long he went Sociedad on loan and definitively transferred after 15 games with the Casa Blanca. After two seasons on the side of the Basque region (150 games, 12 goals), he went to the south of Spain in the tremendous city of Sevilla. A key player of the Quique Setien’s 3-5-2. This analysis will use statistics to look into the strengths and qualities that the midfielder bring to Real Betis

Versatility

This campaign the Sevillan coach has experimented with a number of systems. Usually, he uses a back-three either in a 3-5-2 or in 3-4-2-1 and particularly a 4-3-3 against Real Madrid at home. No matter the system, the team practices possession-orientated football with the second-best percentage in possession in La Liga behind Barcelona with 61% per game. One of Canales’s biggest capabilities is his versatility. Naturally, he’s a number ten with the time he’s played on the flanks, and more recently he plays like a number eight like Luka Modric. His versatility gives Setien an option to make numerous tactical changes to his starting XI in the function of the opponent.

Sergio Canales - Real Betis - La Liga - tactical analysis - analysis - statistics
Here in the 3-5-2. He was alongside Carvalho and Lo Celso vs AC Milan
Sergio Canales - Real Betis - La Liga - Tactical Analysis - analysis - statistics
Real Betis set up in 3-4-2-1 formation

In the 3-5-2 system, Sergio Canales plays inside with two others, more often it is William Carvalho and Andres Guardado, sometimes the Portuguese is dropped to make the place for Lo Celso. In the 3-4-2-1, he usually occupies the right-flank.

Sergio Canales - Real Betis - La Liga - tactical analysis - analysis - statistics
Here as right-winger in a 4-3-3 vs Real Madrid

Always between the lines

One of the most underrated and most overlooked aspects of great midfielders is their positional-awareness. You can often hear analysts talking about this but not all may be completely familiar with the term. In general, you can divide players into those who are focused almost solely on the ball, and those who scan the unoccupied and run into it to overload threat to the opponent by creating attempts.

Sergio Canales - Real Betis - Liga - tactical analysis - analysis - statistics
Against Valencia, he caused a lot of problems to the Los Che midfield by his position. Valencia were playing with a double-pivot so there was enough space behind them for Lo Celso to receive the ball and re-orientate the offensive phase.

Canales’s pace and experience in playing at both central midfielder and attacking midfielder allows him to better play between the lines and always be in good positions to receive the ball from his partner. When he receives the ball, the nearest defensive midfielder and the defensive line, he forces the back-four in front of him to withdraw.

Rush behind the lines

What we’ve have seen more this season is the liberty he has to run behind the lines. This skill allows him to be implicated in several Real Betis goals, however, his numbers are not at the level of expectations. He has only six goals and two assists. It is his best season in terms of decisiveness.

Segio Canales - Real Betis - La Liga - tactical analysis - analysis
His appeal behind the line broke the defensive line and equalised for Real Betis vs Real Madrid.

Another key asset in Canales’s repertoire is his dribble ability. His ability in one-on-one situations is quite adept for a top club’s rank. He uses his skills to good effect by completing his ball-carrying, and often tries to dribble around his opponent. According to the statistics website Opta, he has completed 35 dribbles which represents 71% success.

Sergio Canales - Real Betis - La Liga - tactical analysis- analysis - statistics
Another run behind the lines. Here against Sociedad.

During last month, he had a very good week. He scored against Real Madrid, Real Sociedad and in this game, he added another assist to his tally, after leading the counter and allowing Loren to equalise for Los Beticos and scored in the 92th minute to punish Girona.

The midfield leader

He also stabilises the defence with eight interceptions yet and 16 good tackles (64% of accuracy), numbers that even rival some elite defensive midfielders. No doubt his performance against vs Girona (3-2 win) was the best so far this season. The Girona midfield suffered against him. He completed the most passes (81) in the match with 90% of success. Dangerous, he was fouled twice. He was also important in recuperation with 13 recoveries and two interceptions.

When you take into consideration that Canales left Real Sociedad having averaged 85.1% pass accuracy during his last year in the Spanish championship. He also averaged 1.2 key passes and 1.8 shot per 90 minutes when he played with the former club of Griezmann. He has improved.

This trend continued when he arrived in Sevilla. He can pride himself with an 89% passing accuracy and an average of 50.9 passes completed per game. His long balls have dropped a bit to 4.2 per game (2.8 accuracy). However, a 2.2 shots – usually outside the box suggests that his huge impact on the game is still very much present in the fullest.

Real Betis impressed in Europa League, with a good contribution of Sergio Canales. One goal, 1.4 key passes per game and 88.2% success pass. The verdiblancos are in the 16nd round they have already made a remontada in their first leg vs Rennes (3-3) with a great contribution of Diego Lainez. and we expect to see them in the next round because they play good football.

No clear sky yet with La Roja

Sergio Canales is not so young (28 years old). This age should be the peak for any athlete. He gains more experience in playing regularly in La Liga and the Europa League. However, his place in national team is not secure yet with the concurrence of more experimented Saul Niguez, Koke, Dani Ceballos, Thiago Alcantara. We don’t see him compete for the role of deep-lying midfielder while Sergio Busquets and Rodrigo own it.

Conclusion

With Joaquin and Andres Guardado getting older, and the extension of Ernesto Valverde’s contract with Barcelona, Quique Setien seems more than ever linked to the sevillan club. Canales has the opportunity to become the leader of this region of the pitch. His future at Real Betis is secure with Lo Celso and Wiliam Carvalho all under 25 and already they have good trio chemistry, thanks to the Quique Setien philosophy.


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