Cristian Portugues Manzanera, better known as “Portu”, is a Spanish player who has been active at Real Sociedad in the attacking midfield.
A graduate of the Valencia Academy 2010 season, he did not participate much with the first team there and had only a few minutes during two games under his name.
He made a great appearance when he played for three seasons in the Girona team jersey, as he was an important element there between 2016 and 2019 where he participated in 115 games, recording 29 goals and making 17, and performed impressively thanks to the possibilities of speed and skills.
It seems that these capabilities caught the attention of Real Sociedad officials early this season to contract the 27-year-old with a contract for five seasons, during which he participated in 27 matches between the league and the cup so far, recording 7 goals besides providing 8 assists to his colleagues.
Regardless of the language of numbers, Portu is an important element in the ideas of Real Sociedad Coach’s Imanol Alguacil, as he is always on the right side of the offensive side in a 4-1-4-1 manner.
This tactical analysis will demonstrate the importance of Portu, in the style of Real Sociedad playing and how it contributed to the team having the third-strongest offensive line in the league after Barcelona and Real Madrid where they scored 45 goals.
Style of Play
When watching Real Sociedad matches, it’s unlikely for Portu’ plays to catch much of your attention as he doesn’t have any outstanding specific strength, but rather he has many good things that make him a suitable winger for many teams.
But if one had to mention a feature of the playing style inside team tactics, it is the accuracy of the short pass in the middle of his team at the stage of the transition from defence to attack by 3.2 per game.
Imanol always uses a bipartite method on both sides of a 4-1-4-1 or 4-4-2, and in both cases, Porto is located on the right side.
We cannot classify him as a “prolific winger”, although the majority of his moves are on the right side of the attack.
Cristian has a rate of 76% (medium passes), in addition to his success in passing the decisive balls by 4.9 during one game, as the second player in the team after Martin Odegaard who reaches 5.4 during one game.
In addition, he can make assists through crosses from the right side, of course, as is his custom with 78 crosses.
When his team uses reverse pressure and the ball is snapped in the middle of the field, he quickly moves inwards to become a second striker as the ball is received well.
Real Sociedad team often uses the ideas of reverse pressure, where the pressure begins in the middle of the opponent’s pitch, and here we can analyse the role of “Portu”.
The fast winger moves in the half-space between the left-back and the left centre-back of the opponent, facing the goal with his ability to score.
Here we can see Portu is shown on the right side of the Real Sociedad attack line, beside Brazilian striker Willian Jose, in an attempt to apply pressure on the defence line of the Granada team during the build-up phase of the attack.
Portu is trying to cancel out passing lanes by pressing the nearest defender while waiting for the opponent’s error to pass in the case of building the attack in relation to Granada, which made the goalkeeper turn to the longitudinal ball.
You can see his role when Real Sociedad defend in a mid and a higher block below and both have him block the passing lanes in an attempt to snatch the ball away and start a quick counter.
The same idea is repeated with Cristian positioned on the same line with the left-back of Granada, in the implementation of the idea of a man to a man during the process of building an attack for the opponent, as there are no solutions for the player who is building the attack.
Below, you can actually see how defence quickly turns to attack when La Real catch their opponent in a trap and take the ball away. Portu is immediately off towards the final third and the Granada box.
He received a pass from his teammate to face goalkeeper of Granada and eventually succeeded in scoring the goal for his team. That attack was repeated frequently in the confrontations of Real Sociedad this season.
The team leave Portu lurking among the opposition’s defensive line or just have him in a position where it’s possible to instantly hit them on the counter. You can see another example below.
When Real Sociedad cuts the ball in the middle of the field, the team rushes to the opponent’s penalty area, as seen in the second goal against Granada.
The ball is with Odegaard who is trying to advance quickly, and here we must observe the movement of Cristian in the movement of the space in order to give a solution to longitudinal pass towards the opponent’s goal, and that appears in the first picture.
Portu always moves vertically when his team has the ball in the stage of transformation, is well-located in the right place, creating for himself in record time and this is due to his high speed in the rush.
Here we notice Cristian moving forward to become a solution for Adnan Yanuzai to receive the pass, and despite not passing the ball to him and going to the left side of the attack line, he continued to advance to take a place in the Mallorca penalty area.
Portu became the outright striker in this case, waiting for either the cross or the ball to bounce back from the goalkeeper, as happened in this shot for Porto to score his third team goal during the match.
Portu, becomes the “free man” in the Real Sociedad system, attacking the space in the opposing team’s line of defence thanks to his speed and his audacity to advance, with or without the ball.
Efficacy in the final third
Portu is one of the most influential players in Sociedad in terms of impact on the offensive side, as he managed to score seven goals and provide eight assists in the Spanish League from a total of 45 goals for his team.
He is the most influential player on the offensive side, beating Mikel Oyarzabal, who has contributed 14 goals this season.
Perhaps this is due to the way he plays, because of his distinguished positioning in the event of pressure on the opponent during the build-up play, as we can see in the team’s match against Barcelona at the Camp Nou.
It is common knowledge that Barcelona uses short balls to build up, and here Real Sociedad were pressing in a man-to-man shape again, with Portu observing French defender Clement Lenglet to reduce solutions to Ter Stegen.
Due to his awareness and great positioning in defence, Barcelona made a mistake, and Portu started a dangerous attack for his team from the right front because of his speed in moving the ball, and we note his transition to the team from the state of defence to the state of attack.
Cristian’s moves, whether vertically or in a longitudinal way with pace, give him an edge over the opponent’s defender in reaching the ball, especially behind the opponent’s back.
Here we notice at the beginning of the build-up of the attack, Cristian was positioned on the shoulder of Real Mallorca’s defenders, with the aim of receiving a vertical spin ball from his team.
We note that Christian turned to the far right when the ball went to Ahin Munoz, the left-back, to receive the cross, which happened, and passed a decisive pass from one touch, which Alexander Isaac scored the goal as a result for Real Sociedad.
Once again it was his decision making and his excellent positioning that made it possible for him to receive this pass. He recognised exactly when to peel off the defender and create space for himself, making himself available for the pre-assist.
As we’ve seen from multiple examples now, this is something he does extremely well and is definitely one of his big strengths.
Portu has an expected Assists of 4.9 (xA) per game during its side’s encounters this season, besides his 29 key passes, it shows itself distinctively by playing in the spaces behind the opponent’s defensive line.
In addition, Cristian has a shot accuracy of 1.19 per game, perhaps because the majority of corrections are from inside the penalty area of the opponent.
Besides, he is the most contributing player in scoring and making goals within the team, to become the most effective player in the final third, having a contribution rate of 0.71 per game.
Cristian often uses his speed to rush and reach the last third of the field. Of course, he is defective in weak air intrusions because of his height of (5.9 feet), but he makes up for it with the audacity to rush and station well when his team owns the ball.
Portu, may not be the most prominent player in the composition of Real Sociedad in the La Liga, but he is very influential within the offensive team system as the game maker is the most prominent in the team. Since he provided 8 assists, he is currently the second-best assisting player in the league after Lionel Messi, who has 12 assists.
Cristian is a system player in the first place as we exampled in this analysis in the form of a scout report, taking advantage of his strength, which is simple passing, to help his team in turning the ball from defence to attack, as well as his effectiveness in the final third of the field.