At Velez, since the age of seven, Nicolas Dominguez had to wait a long time until his debut in the Primera Division in 2017. Domínguez’s fortune changed when the former “galáctico” Gabriel Heinze, took charge of Vélez’s first team. After Heinze’s arrival, Domínguez turned into a key player in Vélez’s squad.
Three seasons after his debut in their first team, Nicolás Domínguez is being transferred to the so desired European football. Bologna paid €7,35m (£6.54m) for the Argentinian talent who is only moving to Italy in the next winter transfer window, giving him time to improve his game.
Undoubtedly, European football is certainly different from South American football. Therefore, different tactics, methods and environments can often take time to be assimilated by the talented South American players.
Nicolás Domínguez is a 21-year-old talent from the Vélez academy. Being at Vélez since the age of seven, the Argentine is heavily connected to the club. His passion combined with Heinze’s push turned him into one of the club’s most important players. This season, the player started the Superliga with “fire” in his boots. The young player scored four times in Velez’s first six games, scoring more goals this season than in the last three.
Domínguez is a box-to-box midfielder who can contribute to the team’s attacks and defensive actions. His positioning and passing abilities are very important for Vélez’s build-up and attacking actions. Additionally, his concentration, tackling and intercepting qualities turn him into an important piece in the team’s defensive moments.
However, the question is: “Does he have what it takes to succeed in Europe?”. This scout report will trace Domínguez’s profile and with the help of relevant statistics will try to answer that question.
Generally, Domínguez has a box-to-box role in Vélez’s team. However, due to his versatility, the Argentine is capable of playing different positions and different roles. As can be seen in the heatmap below, this season, Domínguez has already played in three different positions.
When Vélez plays in a 4-1-4-1 system, Domínguez’s most common position is left centre midfielder marked as a white dot in the heatmap. This is his natural position where he can really be a box-to-box midfielder.
However, in some games, Gabriel Heinze needs him to do different tasks. When the coach changes Velez’s scheme to a 4-2-3-1 his position changes as well. This season, with that scheme, Domínguez also played as a right/ left defensive midfielder and as an advanced midfielder. Additionally, his near ambidexterity makes him able to perform on both sides of the midfield.
Equally to the usual box-to-box midfielders, Domínguez covers a lot of terrain with and without the ball (as seen in the heatmap above). In possession, the Argentine is constantly searching for the ball and being the fulcrum of Vélez’s build-up. In fact, he has an impressive work rate when his team has the ball. Without a doubt, Domínguez’s actions are aimed to benefit the team and not for his personal glory.
Domínguez’s capacity of playing first-touch football with both feet makes him a valuable player to have in the initial phase of possession. By getting deeper, he is capable of aiding the centre-backs and relieves the pressure off them. The example below demonstrates this kind of situation.
Additionally, when under pressure, he usually reads the game extremely fast and passes on the first touch to another player. Along with his dynamism without the ball, his ball control and vision allow him to coordinate Velez’s build-up effectively.
Furthermore, Domínguez’s movements without the ball are not only precious for the team’s build-up. The midfielder dynamism is crucial to the team’s plays in the last third. He is also intelligent to search for the ball between the opponent’s lines and channels. As seen in the image below.
In fact, he takes advantage of this positioning in two different ways.
The first way is when pressured by opponents, he can quickly create combinations with first touch passes. By doing this Domínguez dispositions the opponents and create space for his teammates to take advantage of.
The second way is when he has space to face the goal. By facing the goal, he can shoot or create chances for his teammates with through balls.
To sum up, his constant motion makes him a hard player to mark and helps his team in the construction and the final phase.
Clearly, Domínguez is a key player in Vélez’s system not only because of his positioning but also for his passing abilities. In order to demonstrate this let’s take a look at some graphics and statistics. The example below, from this season’s game against Atlético Talleres, shows Domínguez influence in Velez’s game.
The graphic above shows passing combinations between Velez’s players. By taking a close look at it, it’s is noticeable that Dominguez (Number eight) is linked with almost every player on his team. These links mean that he made and/or received three or more passes from his teammates linked with him. Throughout this game, Dominguez provided 76 pass combinations between him and his teammates.
This kind of influence is only possible due to his reliable passing skills.
Let’s take a look at Dominguez’s numbers. The Argentine, over the past four seasons, has an average of 49.11 passes per game. His overall passing success rate is 84.4% which is impressive and above average for a midfielder in the Superliga. Although his long passes are not on the same level, he averages 3.56 passes per game succeeding in 63.5%, that kind of passes are much harder to execute and usually have lower success percentage in general. In fact, let’s not forget the Argentine does all these kinds of passes with both feet. The image below demonstrates an accurate long pass with his weaker foot.
Finally, let’s take a look at his passes to the final third, the ones that create chances for his team. In this case, he averages 8.66 passes per game with a success rate of 75.2%. Definitely a pleasing success rate. The image below shows us one of this usual final third passes.
To conclude, it is easy to comprehend why Nicolás Domínguez is a key player in his team’s build-up. He is a reliable player to pass the ball. In fact, he has a high chance of keeping the ball in your possession and reach the opponent’s goal.
In the past three seasons, Domínguez’s direct impact on goals scored was very poor. In fact, his goals in the last three seasons equal this season’s four goals. Indeed, not even his assists are attractive. He has a career total of eight goals and five assists in 6161 minutes on the field. However, his 54 shot assists which can tell us that this low assist numbers may not be entirely his fault.
Comparing these total numbers with this season’s there is a significant improvement. Domínguez has 0.59 goals per game and that’s pretty good for a player that usually plays far from the goal.
What’s really impressive is that Nicolás Domínguez’s goals this season are all different. So far this season the Argentine has a conversion rate of 40%. Also, it is not mere coincidence because Domínguez was able to finish in three different ways. Three of these goals came from his attacking runs near the area. He got into a 1vs1 situation with the goalkeeper and finished with class. Including a left-foot shot to the top right corner that can be seen in the image below.
It should be noted that Domínguez stays close or enters the box to finish crosses/back passes sometimes. With his head, this season, he scored once and provided a difficult save to Lánus’s goalkeeper. With this in mind, he also had some good quality shots from waiting close to the box.
With these kinds of approaches to the area, he will probably continue to score and assist more. That will make Bologna fans ask for his early arrival.
Defensively wise, Nicolás Domínguez is also a key player for Vélez. His commitment to defensive actions is impressive. This season he has 10.67 successful defensive actions per game. Also, his defensive duels success rate sits at 64.2%.
Domínguez likes to tackle his opponents while they run with the ball, as demonstrated in the image below. In fact, he has a sliding tackle success rate of 72.7% so far. Conversely, these sliding tackles can be a little dangerous to his team. Having in mind that European football aggressiveness is softer than in Argentina this can be a problem when he is playing for Bologna. This season in just six games he gathered four yellow cards and one red card.
However, his aggressiveness on the ball also reflects in many interceptions and recoveries for his team. Regarding only this season, Nicolás Domínguez has 45 interception and 69 recoveries. These kinds of numbers are also a consequence of his excellent reading of the game. The Argentine is capable of predicting the opponent’s plays and has good levels of concentration.
His willingness to pressure the opponents, react to the ball loss and to loose balls is incredible. When his team is pressing the opponent higher up the pitch his aggressiveness is a major asset. In fact, that surely has an impact on 39.1% of his recoveries being in the opponent’s half.
Vélez had a rough start of the season but they managed to turn it upside down. Domínguez was clearly influential in their latest four wins. The Argentine seems motivated to elevate his game in order to prepare for his winter transfer to Europe. Domínguez will surely keep improving his game and gaining experience to be prepared for Serie A.
His success in Europe depends on many variables and it is very hard to predict. However, if he keeps working hard and improving his game, he is surely on the right path. Recently his hard work was noticed by the Argentine national team who called him for his first two international appearances.
To sum up, the transfer to Bologna is going to be the hardest challenge in Nicolás Domínguez’s career. He will face difficulties such as adapting his aggressiveness to a more patient defensive/attacking approach. Nevertheless, his success in Bologna can be a direct path to Europe’s biggest clubs.
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