One of the big teams that play in the Argentinian capital of Buenos Aires is Racing Club. They were able to appoint the highly regarded young Argentine coach Sebastian Becacecce in January. Racing went unbeaten since his arrival, securing 10 points in their last 7 games. This resulted in the club from Buenos Aires finishing in fourth place, securing a place in the Copa Libertadores.
A key player for Racing and Argentina’s recent Olympic qualification is Matías Zaracho. The Racing academy graduate’s style of play is one that made his club and country tick.
In this tactical analysis, we will analyse what makes Zaracho such a key player for Racing and Argentina.
After January Racing began to play in Becacacce’s favoured attacking 4-3-3. On paper, it could look like a 4-1-4-1. This had Zaracho lining up as one of the two attacking mids. Below we see the starting eleven against Estudiantes.
However, looking at the average positioning from Racing’s match against Estudiantes, we see that the 4-1-4-1 turns into a 4-3-3. We see Zaracho (28) positioned himself between the right-winger and the forward.
In the next section of the scout report, we will look at what makes Zaracho a key player offensively.
Movement off the ball
Zaracho is a player that never really stays put for very long. Analyzing his heat map, we can see that he tends to roam the centre of the pitch. Upon further inspection, the young Argentine is incredibly active going from the middle third to the attacking third. Being right-footed, he gravitates a little more towards the half-space on the right.
This movement generates space where Zaracho is able to receive the ball. In the last calendar year, he received an average of 26 passes per game. Some of these passes happen when he either drops deep to collect a pass from the defenders. Higher up the field, Zaracho can be found combining with his teammates.
In the recent Copa Libertadores match against Estudiantes de Merida, we have a clear example of Zaracho’s movement to receive a pass. The midfielder checks into the half-space behind the two defenders. With the right-back staying wide, Racing is able to utilize this tactic to create space in the middle. Zaracho is able to receive the ball, and play to his teammate, continuing Racing’s possession.
His movement also helps him score goals. Zaracho typically times his runs into the box and is able to be an option for a cutback pass. Of the 6 goals he scored for club and country, 5 were inside of the penalty area. Using an analysis of his shots, we can see this in further detail.
Against Estudiantes de Merida, I have highlighted Zaracho as he and his teammates begin queuing up in the penalty area. Beginning closer to the edge of the area, this tactic allows Zaracho to remain unmarked as he begins his run.
As the defender’s attentions are turned towards their marks and the ball carrier, Zaracho positions himself between two defenders. Due to his arrival in the box completely unmarked, Zaracho is able to score unopposed.
Matías Zaracho’s is an incredibly sharp passer for both club and country. He ranks highly in the Superliga with 38 passes per game, completing 87% of those passes. Zaracho’s range and accuracy in key areas are also worth taking a look at. Proficient with shorter combinations, as we can see with the smaller rays, the larger rays indicate longer passes connected.
Zaracho is able to round out his passing game with 7.56 forward passes per game. Always looking to be efficient with his attacking play, he is able to find teammates in the penalty area with forward passes. Using Zaracho’s progressive pass analysis, we see that his passes come from the centre of the field towards the box.
Matías the Hunter
Regardless of the coach, the tactics in transition is to counter-press, and Zaracho’s hidden talent is his defensive capability. When his team has just lost the ball, he is one of the first players trying to recover the ball. He registered an average of 7.29 recoveries per game and 4.74 counter-pressing recoveries per game. These numbers place him among the best attacking players in the Superliga.
Analyzing his recoveries across the entire field, Zaracho is incredibly active when it comes to his defensive duties. Totalling 222 recoveries across the field, 97 were in the middle third. Due to his smaller frame, Zaracho is very crafty defensively.
Against Venezuela in the pre-Olympic tournament, we see how the midfielder will use his teammates to win the ball back. As Yeferson Soteldo is being driven back by the Argentines, Zaracho is tracking the play. Being one of the covering defenders his role is being the second line of defence if his teammate is beaten.
Once he notices that Soteldo is being forced back Zaracho senses the opportunity. He approaches the Venezuelan on his blindside and pokes the ball away from him towards one of his teammates.
In the final third, Zaracho is the best attacking player in the league when it comes to recoveries. He totalled 79 recoveries in the final third, with 57 being the result of counter-pressing. The majority of his defensive work is done in Zone 14. This area is just in front of the penalty area most favourable to produce dangerous attacks. Zaracho’s instinctive ability to recover the ball in this zone is incredibly beneficial for his teams.
While not necessarily a weakness, the young Argentine does not carry the ball as much. He tends to lean heavily on his movement off of the ball and passing ability to get the job done. In the final third alone he successfully completed 41 dribbles.
Although his dribbles are quite sparse on his dribbling analysis, we can find some positives from this. Zaracho was able to follow up some successful duels with a shot, 20 in the previous year.
Additionally, another positive is that Zaracho did not put himself in a position to lose the ball while dribbling. Analyzing his losses, however, there were more misplaced passes than duels lost. This also tends to help his counter-pressing. Zaracho loses the ball dribbling, then it is harder for him to get back and defend quickly. When he does not connect a pass, he is able to read the play and place himself in the best position to counter-press.
Argentina has a wealth of young midfield talent that is emerging from its domestic league. Matías Zaracho is easily in this group of gifted players. His performances have caught the eye of clubs such as AC Milan and Borussia Dortmund. An accurate passer that does not shy away from defensive duties, Zaracho has the ability to thrive in either the Serie A or the Bundesliga.