The 18-year-old Matías Palacios is called the future playmaker for Argentina. Palacios tries to copy the tactics of his idols Juan Román Riquelme and Andrés Iniesta. The number 10 won the U17 South American Championship in 2019. Palacios led his team to the title. He scored three goals. He is currently working on his breakthrough at his actual club CA San Lorenzo.

In this scout report, we analyse why Palacios is linked to Barcelona, Real Madrid and other La Liga clubs. The right-footed player stands out as he is the pivot between the offensive and the defensive. We will analyse his strengths and weaknesses.

Superb technique

A superb technique trumps not having a big range of nice-looking skills. It is more defined as passing the ball with suitable speed and with the perfect timing. Palacios has a great overview and his technique is one advantage. He has a passing accuracy of 84,23%.

In the analysis below is a typical situation for Palacios depicted. He had the ball against U17 Brazil on the left-wing.

Matías Palacios 2019/20 – Scout report - tactical analysis tactics

The young Argentinian provided a great overview while he was doubled by two opponents. He reacted quickly, so he feinted a pass into the centre. His body swerve resulted in a movement by the Brazilian midfielder. Palacios’ opponent closed the alley to the centre.

This small movement was enough for Palacios to play a cross-field pass. Palacios played 12 long balls in this game. He had an accuracy of 100% for passes, which went over a distance of a minimum of 30 metres. As Palacios was under pressure, he showed his overview. These skills put the midfielder to the top of the European scout reports.

But Palacios is also able to provide his strikers with a through-ball. In the analysis below is a situation depicted against Columbia.
Matías Palacios 2019/20 – Scout report - tactical analysis tacticsPalacios got the ball in the centre circle from the left side. The player, who played the pass, ran towards Columbia’s goal. Palacios did not follow his teammate with his glimpse, as you can see in the tactical analysis above. He was circled by three players. As a result, he made a move towards his half in order to guard a possible pressing situation.

But as the Columbian players led him without exerting pressure, Palacios switched his movement quickly. By this step, he converted a build-up play to a numerical advantage. Palacios noticed the space to play a trough ball.
Matías Palacios 2019/20 – Scout report - tactical analysis tacticsHe was not able to pass with an inside-curved ball, because this alley was marked. Palacios passed instead with the outside of his boot. He outplayed the back four with one pass.

As in the first analysis, Palacios had a sense for timing and the routes of his teammates. He did not need any time to look around.

Palacios is also a threat to the opponents’ goal. He can shoot from distance. In this scout report, we also had a look at his move into the penalty box. The analysis shows his tactics in dribbling.Matías Palacios 2019/20 – Scout report - tactical analysis tactics

Palacios got a through-ball and sprinted into the box. He crossed the route of the centre-back twice. By crossing an opponents’ route, the opponent is only able to play foul or to led him to pass by.

Afterwards, Palacios showed his technique. He just lobbed as the keeper was leaving the goal.

Creating unexpected chances

Riquelme and Iniesta stood for genius ideas. Both were able to anticipate opportunities, where other players just recognise the obvious one. They caught opponents on the wrong foot. The tactical analysis depicts a typical situation, where Palacios created a chance.
Matías Palacios 2019/20 – Scout report - tactical analysis tacticsThe young midfielder got the ball near the half-way line. Again, without having a look, he passed forward with just one touch. He decided about the rhythm.

The playmaker passed into the runway of his teammate, so he could take the speed along. Meanwhile, Palacios moved in the free space in the centre, as the game shifted to Argentinian’s right flank.

In this situation, he diverged from the player, who had the ball and gained space. Palacios got unmarked by his run towards the centre. Argentina were in a numerical disadvantage in this situation, so the probability of being successful was low. You can see this analysis below.Matías Palacios 2019/20 – Scout report - tactical analysis tactics

Palacios was getting the ball back, so he accelerated in his space. Now he attracted attention to himself. He got tripled and had one passing option on the left side.

Matías Palacios 2019/20 – Scout report - tactical analysis tactics

As you can see in the tactical analysis above, Argentina were still in numerical disadvantage. The player on the left wing is unmarked moreover, the passing route was clear. This pass would not directly lead to a threat to Paraguay, so Palacios got another idea due to his overview.

Paraguay’s last line had a lack of tiering. The back four stood in a line and hence they could be outplayed by a lob. A teammate ran a route into the penalty box. Palacios played a lob out of his sprint.

The next analysis below shows his touch on the ball inside the penalty box. He assisted an expected goal in this situation against U17 Uruguay.

Matías Palacios 2019/20 – Scout report - tactical analysis tactics

Palacios dribbled inside the penalty box on the right wing. He could play the apparent pass to his teammate, who is unmarked in the penalty box.

But Palacios could not provide the ball for a shoot, because his teammate was too far in the box. If Palacios would play the ball forward, so his teammate could directly shoot, but the defender would get in between.

If he would play direct to his teammate, his teammate had to control the ball. This action would give the defender enough time to tackle and to prevent the finish.

Instead, Palacios made a stepover. Followed by two touches, he got behind the last line. Now he was able to play a pass into the backfield, which is vastly more difficult to defend. In average, he dribbles successfully for 67.22%.

Another situation, which shows his understanding is below. U17 Argentina played against U17 Paraguay in the final.
Matías Palacios 2019/20 – Scout report - tactical analysis tacticsIn this situation, the defender of Paraguay tried to clear the ball wide. But due to his less technical abilities, he just hoofed the ball. It felt down at the penalty box marking. Most players would try to control the ball or to pass it through to a teammate.

Palacios took a quick decision and shot the ball with a sideways scissor-kick. He scored with a precise shot into the lower right corner. The opponent keeper did not expect that and hence he was staggered by. His expected goals were 2.13 for the tournament, but he outscored this statistic with three goals. In average he is expected to score 0.1 goals per game.

Palacios can create an unexpected moment. It does not matter if he creates, assists or finishes, he has the technique to produce something unexpected. Next to these skills, he is also able to build-up the game as a playmaker.

Dropping to build-up

Palacios is an offensive-thinking central midfielder, who participates actively in the build-up. The heatmap below depicts his action scope.

Matías Palacios 2019/20 – Scout report - tactical analysis tacticsAs you can see, he stays most of the time in the opponent’s half. Palacios pulls the strings in the offence. He likes moving to the half-spaces, especially on the left side to milk his distance shooting, when he enters back to the centre.

He also drops deep onto the wings in his half to gain some space and to integrate himself into the build-up. The analysis below shows, how Palacios acts if his team has possession in its own half. Argentina had a throw-in on the right wing.
Matías Palacios 2019/20 – Scout report - tactical analysis tacticsHe came towards the player, who does the throw-in. Subsequently, he got the ball and play it forward with his typical outside of the foot pass. By his action, he shifted the game from the narrow zone into space. He overplayed three Brazilian.

Matías Palacios 2019/20 – Scout report - tactical analysis tacticsIn this analysis above, Palacios dropped to the position of the right full-back. Here he could play a part in the build-up. After he got the ball, he played a pre-assist. He changed his position to the full-back positions six times against U17 Brazil.

All in all, Palacios integrates himself also into the build-up. This fact is important for becoming a modern number 10.

Offensively, Palacios already advanced to the professional level, though he does not have a big impact in his defensive work. Here he can be more active.

Doubling correctly

Palacios is responsible for creativity in the offensive, but at least it could be helpful to support your team with your defensive tactic. This tactical analysis shows a doubling situation.
Matías Palacios 2019/20 – Scout report - tactical analysis tacticsBrazil’s player shifted to the sideline and in the direction of Palacios. Palacios’ teammate covered the centre and the deep passing line. He should anticipate the situation.

Firstly, he should move forward to cut the space. They would still cover the deep passing line. The pressing tactic has a higher probability to be successful by this rearrangement.

Secondly, he should slow down to be more flexible in his moves. Palacios pressed with too much speed. The Brazilian outplayed him with one feint.
The next analysis shows a similar situation. This time, Palacios played on the inner side of the doubling.

Matías Palacios 2019/20 – Scout report - tactical analysis tacticsThe Argentinian left full-back forced the opponent to move to the centre. The full-back did not push the attacker to the sideline, as this would result in a one-on-one situation. He recognised Palacios in the centre. They created a numerical advantage.

Contrary to the first defensive tactic, Palacios played on the inner side. He should close the passing line, which points directly to the goal. But Palacios did not run in a curved shape, so the passing line stood open.

So, the Brazilian player used it and played a forward pass, which outplayed both Argentinians. The defensive tactics of his teammates were depending on his defensive behaviour. Palacios has here some room for improvement.


We analysed in this scout report Palacios’ playmaker abilities. He can create chances due to his technique. The chance against U17 Paraguay, which he initialised and created is allegorical for his advanced level.

Before he is moving to Europe, he should improve his defensive skills. Moreover, he should also gain some practice experience at CA San Lorenzo.

Philipp Von Friesen
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