Sergio Reguilón is one of the biggest surprises of this season in La Liga. Before this campaign started almost no one knew the young Spaniard. Due to his strong performances during the last months, he debuted for the Spanish under 21 team on 21 March. The 22-year-old left-back has got a contract until 2020 with Real Madrid.
Reguilón was born in Madrid and already played during his youth for Real Madrid. They loaned him out to UD Logroñés when he was 18 years old. In the third Spanish league, the young Spaniard was able to develop his skills without any great pressure from the media and public. After the loan, he returned to Real Madrid this summer. This analysis will show what makes him so strong with the help of statistics.
The turning point this season for Reguilón
Julen Lopetegui took over Real Madrid this summer and the young left-back made no appearances in the league under the Spanish coach. He just played one game in the Champions League during Lopetegui’s time in Madrid. Lopetegui got sacked after the 5-1 defeat against Barcelona on 28 October 2018. The Argentinian, Santiago Solari, took over and made Reguilón his favoured left-back.
He played in 19 out of 32 games under Solari and eight of the remaining 13 matches he missed because of injuries. So, in these 32 games, he just didn’t play in five games even though he was fit. That is an amazing statistic, especially when you consider that the other left-back in the squad of Real Madrid is Marcelo.
It is doubtful how the season for Reguilón would have developed if Lopetegui wouldn’t have been sacked. Zinedine Zidane took over Real Madrid on 11 March and in his first game against Celta Vigo, Marcelo started as left-back.
Speed and stamina and how he uses these factors
Reguilón is quick and tries to make use of that quality. In defensive as in offensive situations, he leverages his physical strengths. Especially when he overlaps one of his teammates on the wing, he always does this at full speed. This aspect makes it extremely hard for the opposition to defend in these situations.
When Real Madrid win a corner, he sits on the halfway line because of his tempo. So, he is the one who should stop the counterattacks of the opposition with the aid of his pace and defensive ability.
On the other hand, his opponents on the wing are mostly quick too. So, he needs to combine his physical strength with his good positioning which will be analysed later.
However, his pace is just so crucial because of his stamina. Reguilón is able to run the wing up and down, 90 minutes long. This always provides an additional option in attack for his team and besides that, he still doesn’t neglect his defensive duties.
These aspects get visible when you look at his heatmap for this season. His heatmap from the domestic campaign is typical for a modern full-back.
Defensive positioning and the unconditional will to win back the ball
Reguilón isn’t yet one of the best defenders in one-on-one situations but he has an incredible will to win back the ball. He compensates the lack of his defensive ability with his passion and commitment. In addition, he has very good positioning. He makes 4.91 interceptions per game due to his positioning and so, he avoids one-on-one situations.
One important parameter of how he positions is the space between him and the centre-back next to him. In the image below he tries to be in the middle of his teammate and the opponent on the wing. That’s why he can intercept the long ball onto the wing. If the opponent would play the pass between Nacho and Reguilón, the Spanish left-back is also able to get the ball.
But his will to win the ball and bring his team in possession isn’t limited to just his own half. 30% of his recoveries take place in the opposing half. This is caused by his high position during the possession periods of his team and his will to win back the ball as soon as the team loses it.
Reguilón always wants to be involved in the build-up and the attacks and often asks for the ball. He plays on average 44.37 passes per game with an accuracy of 79.8%. However, the young Spaniard likes a give-and-go on the wing. In these situations, he can use his pace to get behind the last line of defence of the opposition. From there he can deliver crosses into the penalty box.
As already described, he also often tries to overlap a teammate to get into a good crossing position. Furthermore, he often plays a penetrating diagonal pass into the middle.
When he receives the ball in the wide areas he first looks if there is an option in the middle. When there is a free man in the centre, he passes the ball with power to him and pushes up to support the offenders.
As soon as he receives the ball in the wide area high up the pitch, he tries to cross the ball into the penalty area. He crosses on average 3.3 times per game, but the greatest characteristic of his crosses isn’t the accuracy (31.2%).
It is clear to see that there is an idea behind every cross and he never plays the ball into the penalty box without looking to see which options are available. In the image below, it is clear to see that the two teammates in the middle are covered. So, he plays a low cross to Marco Asensio who scores with the first touch. When Reguilón can increase his precision too, the crosses can be a lethal weapon for his team.
Like almost every left-back in the modern game, Reguilón is left-footed. He’s good with his left foot when it comes to passes, crosses or dribbles. On the other hand, his right foot is much worse. That’s why he barely uses his right foot and that causes errors because some situations can’t be solved with the left foot.
The images below show a typical situation in which he uses his left foot even though it is much easier to play the pass to Nacho with the right one. Due to his sloppy technique, the pass is bad and the opponent can intercept it.
It will be interesting to watch what role the young left-back will play under Zinedine Zidane. With Marcelo, he has got a hard competitor for the place in the team. On the other hand, Reguilón can learn a lot from the Brazilian. At 22-years-old, he is just at the beginning of his career and already put in top performances for Real Madrid.
As soon as he’s able to play with his right foot too, he’ll be a real allrounder. However, if the young Spaniard can continue his amazing development, he has got the talent to become one of the best left-backs in Europe.
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