Spain has always been a country in which the amount of midfield talent available has been overwhelming. At any given time, there are a handful of promising midfielders throughout the country. Currently, Carles Alena, Federico Valverde, Riqui Puig are some of the most promising ones who are yet to be capped. However, one of the most overlooked or not very well-known names is Fran Beltran. In this tactical analysis, we shall take a look at Beltran using statistics from the La Liga 2018/19 season.
Aged 20, Beltran is a central midfielder who has a small frame at just 176cm and weighs 66 kgs. He plays as a central or as a defensive midfielder. Beltran didn’t start out on a great note with the beautiful game, saying he couldn’t stand it when he was a child. He played in the youth academy of Rayo Vallecano and just recently, joined Celta Vigo after winning promotion to the first division with Rayo. He has formed a great partnership with Lobotka in the 2018/19 season and they together formed the backbone for Rayo. With his passing, vision, ability to lose his man and tactical awareness, Beltran has grown to become a very promising midfielder at Celta Vigo.
Positional and stylistic background
Nowadays, some of the most important characteristics of a modern midfielder are being versatile and being press-resistant. Beltran is press-resistant to an extent but not the most versatile. Admittedly, he has played as a left and right central-mid both, but his skill-set limits him to midfield specifically in a central role. He is neither agile enough as players like Iniesta or Silva to be a huge attacking threat nor is he a player that drops in between the defenders to receive the ball like Busquets. He is more inclined towards Xavi and to an extent Cazorla stylistically.
As his heatmap shows, a central role is where he is deployed the most and where he has played most recently. Earlier in his career, he has played in a more offensive position, majorly on the left, or in a much defensive role, again concentrated to the left.
Strong Spanish traits
The traits shown by the greats of the Spanish midfield are ever-present in Beltran’s game. Among these, the fine passing and great vision are, of course, well-developed. He has a passing accuracy of 91% this season. The basics of good passing are well-rounded in his game. One example of this is excellently weighing the ball, both in short and long passes.
Here, in the first example, we see Rayo Vallecano making a counter-attack with Beltran carrying the ball. The best passing option is quite obvious here but the difficult part is the execution. If the ball were not struck with enough force, it would fall to the defender who is on the half-way line in the image. But had it been struck with too much force Beltran’s teammate on the left-wing may not have reached the ball or the last man in the opposition’s defence may have blocked it.
But the Spaniard hits the ball very well and with just enough force so that the ball meets his winger making the run. The slight curve added to it makes it slow down just in time for his teammate to take over.
In the next example, we see his execution in long balls. Had it been over-struck or under-struck the result would have been the same as in the previous example. This shows his proficiency in short as well as long passes.
Vision and technique
As mentioned before, the 20-year-old has great vision. Even though he played a very central and not attacking-based role in the La Liga 2018/19 season, he has 0.3 key passes per game. He also has very high accuracy in the opposition’s half with 89%.
In the example given below, we see Beltran’s vision and ability to pick out just the right pass. He can be seen on the edge of the box with the ball with a crowd of opposition players in front of him. Yet, he spots the perfect pass to the player just inside the box. This pass goes past four opposition players directly to the feet of his teammate. Most players would have opted to pass to the wings but Beltran has the ability to play great through balls and he has the confidence to try it. This confidence in itself is very, very important as it is very useful when moving to a new club or when going through a bad spell.
In terms of technique, Beltran has the technique similar to most players from Barcelona’s famed La Masia. He is a short and quick midfielder who twists and turns to get away from his marker very effectively similar to Xavi or Arthur. When playing with his back to goal, this comes in handy. One might suspect that he would be pushed off the ball easily, but he has developed and become stronger and quicker to avoid that. In his early days, he would be pushed off the ball more than now but his awareness and shielding has improved.
In the example shown, Beltran is playing with his back to the goal. He receives the pass and takes a quick touch to lose the player advancing on him from behind and another to dribble past the player who was earlier in front of him. This shows his excellent awareness and judgement of space. He manipulated the ball to move away from him after the first touch and make it easier to lose his marker. At such a young age, getting the basics like this right is very important as only then can he focus on the finer details that differentiate the great from the very good later on.
Defensively, Beltran does have good positioning and tactical sense. However, he has almost no direct contribution when defending set pieces. He is not good aerially at all. Though it may not be essential, it makes a huge difference in winning possession. He is thus deployed at the edge of the box when defending corners as he can start counters as shown in the example before. He is decent at tackling though it needs to be improved in certain aspects. His slide tackles are surprisingly effective as he showed for the Spanish team.
Fran Beltran is one of the lesser known players in world football as of now, but his excellent and well thought-out development shows that he is on a continuous upward trajectory. A very impressive young player with great passing, vision, technique, and awareness, Beltran looks to become a very good player. He would be a good fit for a possession-based attacking team such as Barcelona or Real Betis. He definitely has the potential, but now it’s up to him to determine whether he fulfils it or not.
If you love tactical analysis, then you’ll love the digital magazines from totalfootballanalysis.com – a guaranteed 100+ pages of pure tactical analysis covering topics from the Premier League, Serie A, La Liga, Bundesliga and many, many more. Buy your copy of the May issue for just ₤4.99 here, or even better sign up for a ₤50 annual membership (12 monthly issues plus the annual review) right here.