After coming through the youth ranks of Argentinos Juniors, Nehuen Perez signed a six-year-deal for Atlético Madrid. The central defender was sent out on loan to Argentinos Juniors for a year but was recalled after just sixth months as he impressed for Argentina under 20. He is yet to make his official first-team debut for Atletico.
This summer, he got sent out on loan again. This time his destination was newly-promoted FC Famalicão. The Argentine is a regular starter for João Pedro Sousa’s side and has played very well. He impressed Lionel Scaloni, manager of the Argentinian national team, as well which resulted in a place in the squad for the friendly match against Uruguay.
Pérez has only played as a right centre-back this season and likes to defend with a lot of space in his back. Famalicão play, especially against weaker sides, a high defensive line which opens up a lot of space in the back of the defensive line. Against stronger sides, they sit a bit deeper but Famalicão still play a medium-high defensive line when playing against stronger sides. In the heatmap can be seen that Pérez stays in his position very often and does not drive forward that much.
Playing a high defensive line requires good communication and anticipation, as well as being aware of your surroundings. Pérez is always aware of his surroundings and makes sure to focus on indirect play rather than direct play. This means that he does not only watch the ball but he keeps an eye out for his surroundings as well which helps him in covering runs in-behind from the opponent.
The only weakness of Pérez positioning-wise is that he does the same thing over and over again when the opponent has a chance to cross the ball. He always positions himself near the front post and he does not keep an eye out for strikers that drop back towards the penalty spot. In the image down below, it does not lead to a dangerous situation. However, it has led to dangerous situations in other games.
As already mentioned, it is vital to anticipate well when playing a high defensive line. In the image down below, a pass is played into the attacking midfielder of Portimonense. Pérez sees this coming from far and is on time to intercept the pass. This is something that Pérez does very often. The Argentine makes 5.24 interceptions per 90 minutes and 60.8% of those interceptions came from passes of the opponent.
When Pérez defends far from his own goal, he always chooses for an aggressive approach to try and intercept the ball immediately. Most of the time he does this very well, but it can be risky as well as he is playing far from his own goal and there are often not a lot of Famalicão players behind the ball.
Pérez often chooses for another approach when defending a 1-on-1 duel. He is more patient and calm and waits until he sees the chance to recover possession. The young centre-back does this very well and is hard to get past. In the sporadic times that he does get dribbled past, Pérez is fast enough to correct his own mistake.
Per 90 minutes, the Argentinian central defender has 2.31 1-on-1 defensive duels. He only wins 22,5% of these duels but this can be explained as Famalicão play a high defensive line which is more difficult than playing in a team that plays a low defensive line. This does not mean that Pérez is bad in 1-on-1 defending. Per game, Pérez gets dribbled past 0.4 times. If these numbers are compared to Rúben Dias, Ferro and Edmond Tapsoba, it can be seen that Rúben Dias gets dribbled past 0.4 times per game, Ferro 0.9 times per game and Tapsoba 0.8 times per game. It can be concluded that Pérez does well in 1-on-1 defending as he performs better than Ferro and Tapsoba and performs as good as Rúben Dias in this aspect.
Playing a high defensive line can also be a reason to use the offside trap. Famalicão use the offside trap and they, most of the times, succeed. Pérez plays a crucial part in this and seems to communicate very well. These tactics can be risky, but the defenders of Famalicão communicate very well and are nearly always on one line. When Pérez steps out, the other players need to follow and step out as well. In the image down below can be seen that Famalicão does very well to stay on one line and that Grimaldo is played offside.
Another example of his good anticipation is his way of defending. As Famalicão play a high defensive line, there is a lot of space to make runs in behind. Pérez tries to anticipate by standing with his feet towards his own goal while keeping aware of his surroundings to see if any players make a run in-behind. By doing this, Pérez does not have to turn before he can start sprinting. Most of the time, the danger has passed before it is even there because Pérez has covered the run immediately.
Combining his ability to defend well in 1-on-1 duels, his pace, his anticipation and his positioning (standing with his feet towards his own goal) makes him a good defender and hard to beat.
Taking a look at his aerial duels, there needs to be some explanation first. Sousa’s side is relying on the pace of Pérez and normally Roderick Miranda, Patrick William or Riccieli (who play next to Pérez in defence) are tasked to win the aerial duels while Pérez needs to follow the run in-behind if it is being made by the second striker.
This leads to Pérez having 3.33 aerial duels per 90 minutes with a success rate of 53%. The only players that dominate Pérez through the air are players that are taller than 1.90m. The central defender loses 66.7% of his aerial duels against players that are taller than 1.90m.
Comparing these stats to a player that is considered as being very good through the air, Edmond Tapsoba, it is seen that Tapsoba wins 56.5% of the average 3.88 per 90 minutes. Based on statistics, Tapsoba is slightly better through the air than Pérez. It can be said that Tapsoba is six centimetres taller than Pérez which is probably why Tapsoba is slightly better through the air.
Pérez feels comfortable when he receives the ball and his passing is one of his strengths, besides his anticipation and his ability in 1-on-1 defending. The central defender likes to break lines with his passing and tries to do this often. Once again, an analysis is being made of his stats in comparison to the stats of Rúben Dias, Ferro and Edmond Tapsoba.
Taking a look at the number of passes to the final third, Pérez has fewer passes to the final third than Rúben Dias, Ferro and Tapsoba and he has less accuracy. Per 90 minutes, Pérez gives 7.16 (55,3%) passes to the final third, while Rúben Dias gives 7.85 (73%) passes to the final third, Ferro gives 7.23 (74,1%) passes to the final third and Tapsoba gives 7.3 (71.9%) passes to the final third.
The Argentinian defender gives 5.27 long passes per 90 minutes. 71.4% of those passes are in the opposites half and 64.8% of those passes are vertical. 75.4% of Pérez’ long passes in the opposites half are accurate, while 64% of his vertical long passes are accurate. Pérez has made five long passes to the box as well and all of them were accurate.
Pérez is a decent passer, does well in aerial duels, is good in 1-on-1 defending, is quite fast and is aggressive far from goal. However, he still needs to improve in his positioning when the opponents cross the ball and he needs to slightly improve his vertical passes as well. The Argentinian defender deserved his place in the Argentinian national team and it will be interesting to see how he performs at Atlético Madrid next year.