Based in the Buenos Aires neighbourhood of La Boca lies one of the biggest sports clubs in Argentina. While they have a variety of different sports teams, Boca Juniors is known for its football team. Boca has not been relegated since getting to the first division in 1913 and has won 34 league titles along with 13 domestic cups. Continentally they have amassed 12 titles between the Copa Libertadores, Copa Sudamericana, and have had success at the Intercontinental Cup.
They have been able to achieve this success with an incredibly strong academy. Players such as Carlos Tevez, Fernando Gago, Éver Banega, and Rodrigo Bentancur have gone on to have strong careers in leagues such as the EPL, Serie A, and La Liga. One of the recent players to have just come out of Boca’s youth ranks is Nicolás Capaldo. Having only made his debut in February of 2019, Capaldo has quickly established himself as a regular for Boca and Argentina. At the young age of 21, he has already won the Argentine Superliga and qualified for the Olympics.
The way that the Santa Rosa native has come onto the scene has alerted a few European clubs. This tactical analysis will look at what makes Nicolás Capaldo a mainstay for his club and country.
Positioning and Tactical Versatility
Capaldo plays a similar tactical role for club and country. He is able to comfortably line up in any formation, whether it is a 4-4-2, 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1. The young midfielder is used primarily as a box-to-box player. His midfield playing style is clearly evident looking at his heat map.
As a naturally right-footed player, he is more comfortable on the right. However, the nature of his position means that he will find space in the centre and on the left as well.
In the next section of the scout report, we will take a closer look at Capaldo’s contributions to the attack.
As a box to box style midfielder, Capaldo plays a part in the build-up and he also can finish chances. In the previous season, the midfielder attempted 26 shots, with 69% accuracy. He was able to score three goals in the process. Looking at the analysis of his shots, most of them including his goals were just inside the penalty area.
The reason for his ability to shoot inside the penalty area is his movement off the ball. This is on display early in the pre-Olympic match against Chile. As Julian Alvarez dribbles from right to left, Capaldo moves in the opposite direction.
This tactic allows Capaldo to find a pocket of space between four Chilean defenders while creating a passing option for Alvarez. This space allows the midfielder to score his first international goal and put the Albiceleste ahead early in the match.
For a midfield player, Capaldo’s dribbling is relatively low compared to his peers. Registering 2.48 dribbles per game and successfully completing 1.14 dribbles per game, it is clear that dribbling isn’t Capaldo’s strength. Where he does shine is with his passing ability.
Capaldo’s Passing Range
The Argentinian’s distribution is his strength going forward. Although his average of 25 passes a game doesn’t rank too high in the league, his 76% success rate does. Capaldo’s tactical role as a midfielder mainly sees him as a facilitator between the defenders and forwards. He averaged nine forward passes a game, while also attempting 106 progressive passes in 2019. Using his ball progression analysis below, we can clearly see his range from the middle third.
During the Copa Libertadores match against Caracas, Capaldo has just received the ball under no pressure. This gives the midfielder time to look up and decide where his next pass should be. Noticing he has no close passing options due to Caracas’ defensive shape, Capaldo plays a diagonal ball across the field. He is able to accurately connect his pass to Sebastián Villa on the opposite flank.
Capaldo’s tactical role also means that he is active defensively as well. The following sections of the analysis will examine his defensive contributions.
Counter-pressing & Recoveries
Nicolás Capaldo has a relentless work rate when it comes time to win the ball back for his team. The majority of his defensive success in transition is through counter-pressing. Registering a total of 201 recoveries in transition, Capaldo instincts are incredibly important after his team loses the ball. Looking at his recoveries graph, it is clear that his 134 counter-pressing recoveries were spread throughout the field.
We can see Capaldo’s defensive intelligence during this moment in Boca’s game against Caracas. The ball was cleared high into the air and Capaldo is the nearest Boca player to it. As he approaches, the young Argentinian has looked at both the ball in the air and the opposing player.
He has also scanned to see two of his teammates approaching as well. Using this information Capaldo arrives just as the opposition player begins to settle the ball. All he had to do is slow the attacker down so that his teammates successfully reclaim the ball. Instead of flying in and trying to win the ball, he made the correct defensive decision.
In the final third he was able to follow up with 11 shots after winning the ball back. Going into further detail using the graph below, he would mostly counter-press on the right side or in Zone 14 in the final third. This would allow his teams to resume their attacks in dangerous positions.
Nicolas the Warrior
The legendary AC Milan defender Paolo Maldini once said, “If I have to make a tackle, then I have already made a mistake”. Nicolas Capaldo won 55 defensive duels, with only two slide tackles in the defensive third in 2019. It is clear that the young Argentine thinks similarly to Maldini’s defensive philosophy. These tackles were just a fraction of the 28 duels he won in Zone 14.
Looking at his averages per game, we can see how high Capaldo ranked in defensive duels won and his success rate. Above we can also see how reliable the midfielder is with the average losses per game. Notice his dangerous losses per game is the league’s best amongst field players.
During the Boca Juniors match against Union Santa Fe, we are able to see Capaldo’s defensive patience on display. As the attacking receives the ball, Capaldo is immediately pressuring their first touch. Instead of diving in to try and dispossess the attacker, he stays on his feet to push the attacker back.
While his tactics aren’t glamorous, his decisions allow Capaldo’s teammates time to solidify the defence as the attacker loses ground. The end result is that Union Santa Fe has to start its attack over and Boca retains their defensive shape.
Using his losses in the defensive third, we see with further detail how reliable he is. Only two shots allowed after losing a duel and those came from the right flank. Six lost duels in Zone 14 and only one lost in the penalty area highlights the difficulty attackers face against Capaldo in the centre.
Although Nicolás Capaldo’s career is just getting started, he could easily be the next big thing out of La Bombonera. His performances have alerted Lazio, and his skill set would serve him well in Italy. The young Argentinian midfielder is one to keep an eye on as his career progresses.