River Plate is historically one of South America’s powerhouse clubs. With the highly popular Marcelo Gallardo at the helm, River has consistently challenged for titles in Argentina and in South America. Since his return, Los Millonarios have returned to be one of the most feared teams on the continent.
A player that Gallardo has regularly called upon in his time at River is Gonzalo Montiel. The young defender played 1,177 minutes in the Copa Libertadores campaign, and 1,801 minutes in the Superliga season. At the age of 23, he has earned five winner’s medals, from the Superliga to the Copa Libertadores final that was played in Madrid. His recent performances have also been rewarded by four caps with the Argentinian national team. Montiel has also been linked with a move to the Serie A or the Premier League.
Already a stalwart for River Plate, he is beginning to make his mark with the national team as well. This tactical analysis will look at what makes Gonzalo Montiel the most sought after right-back in Argentina.
Positioning and roles for club and country
While playing for River Plate and Argentina, Montiel usually lines up as the right-back. Due to El Muñeco’s tactics, he essentially has been a wing-back for most of his career. Observing his heat map below, Montiel patrols the right flank exclusively, with a few forays into the half-spaces.
Gallardo has favoured the 4-1-3-2 formation, which requires the outside backs to provide the width for the team. The outside backs are also asked to rotate from time to time with the midfielders on their respective side. Montiel is also asked to do this with the national team. The Argentines lined up in a 4-3-3 in a friendly against rivals Chile.
We see Montiel receiving the ball on the right and he immediately passes to Paulo Dybala, who is making a run behind the defender. As Dybala receives the ball and begins to dribble, Montiel rotates with him and makes the run in the half-space.
After losing key players in January, Gallardo switched to a 3-5-2, and the wing-backs were strictly needed to provide the width and not rotate. Against Independiente we see a perfect example of Montiel maintaining width in this tactical scheme.
By staying wide, he forces the opposition full-back into making a decision on who to mark. If the defender steps to Montiel, it opens space up for the striker to make a run in behind. If the defender decides to hold his position to mark the striker, he allows space for Montiel to continue dribbling.
In the next section of the analysis, we will take a look at Montiel’s defensive solidity.
The Wall on the Right Flank
Montiel is very dependable in his defensive duties. The young Argentine rarely ever comes out on the losing side when it comes to duels in the defensive third. He registered six defensive duels per game and had a 70% success rate.
Analysing the above graph for defensive duels that he has won, Montiel essentially had his side locked down. From a total of 77 duels won, 63 happened on the right flank. Even when he loses the duel, he is good at limiting the damage.
Using an example from the Copa Libertadores final, Montiel is forcing Flamengo’s Bruno Henrique back into the middle third. Noticing that Filipe Luis is making a supporting run, Montiel allows Henrique to have enough space to make the pass. Once he has baited the Flamengo winger to pass the ball, the Argentine steps in to intercept the ball.
His defensive reliability is showcased with only one loss in his own third per game. Only two of those losses resulted in a shot, and only one of those shots were on target.
The following section of the scout report will dive into Montiel’s strengths in the attacking phase of the game.
Montiel’s Passing Proficiency
The young defender is also very reliable with the ball when River has possession. While there are some outside backs with high dribbling numbers, Montiel prefers to be a part of the build-up. He is one of the top passers in the league with 43 passes per game with a 78% success rate.
In River Plate’s match against Independiente, we see a fantastic example of Montiel’s role in the build-up. After Los Millonarios have gone forward with a counter, the ball is played back to Montiel who finds himself with acres of space. The two strikers have pushed the defending line back by making sacrificial runs towards the penalty area. This tactic opens up space for the midfielders to run into.
Once Montiel receives the ball, he has two clear passing options. He plays to the closest midfielder, who then switches the point of attack.
He is also accurate moving with his progressive passes. As we can see above in the passing graph, Montiel attempted 383 progressive passes and connected 320 of them. The range of his passing is also varied and accurate as well. The Argentine was more than 80% accurate with progressive passes ranging from 20 metres to 40 metres and more.
During the Libertadores final against Flamengo, Montiel has taken the ball into the middle third. As this happens, one of his teammates makes a diagonal run towards the right channel. This tactic drags the defenders away from the real passing target, which Montiel easily finds with an accurate medium-range pass.
The sequence above is a great example of Gonzalo Montiel’s forward passing ability. He averaged 14 forward passes per game, with 6.65 passes per game going into the final third.
Sharpening the skills in the final third
While Montiel is very adept when it comes to build-up play, he is lacking with his end product in the final third. His crosses per game for an outside back is two per game, and he has an average of 0.6 accurate crosses. Using the graph analysis below, we can see the 28 crosses in which he found success.
While his passing in the middle third is near perfect the story outside of that is different. We can see below that in the final third Montiel is not as accurate. He is able to connect short passes, but nothing more than that.
These numbers can be a result of the team tactics since Los Millonarios utilise the outside backs to stretch the field. It is, however, something that would have to improve should he move to a club that requires him to contribute more.
Gonzalo Montiel is an incredibly well-rounded player with a tremendous upside. A perfect blend of defensive reliability and attacking instinct, he has the ability to be a cornerstone for the Argentine defence. Regardless of his next destination, whether it is Roma or West Ham, the club he lands at will add a quality player with a lot of experience.