analysis | 2016-03-07
Aymeric Laporte might be the centre back Barcelona needs
The Basque is Barcelona's main target next summer, we discuss if he has what it takes to play at the club where being a centre back is the hardest
Aymeric Laporte’s legs didn’t shake for a second when, at 18 years of age, Marcelo Bielsa made him debut for Athletic’s first team at Haifa for a Europa League match. On that day, he wore the number 38 on his shirt. Three seasons later, now he wears number 4 and became the leader of the Basque defense. A spectacular progression that placed him in the crosshairs of top-level teams like Barça.
Name: Aymeric Laporte
Birthdate: May 27th, 1994
Birthplace: Agen, France
The Basque player in 5 main points
1- Ball playing is his strongest point. Laporte shows confidence with the ball and assumes the responsibility of starting plays with ease. His left dominance allows him to play wide with the wingers or the midfielders, which makes it difficult for the opponents to block his passes.
He can also play short towards the midfielders or pivots to overcome the rival’s first pressing line, something that is constantly demanded at Barcelona.
His pass efficiency percentage is incredible considering the background of his team itself. Shown here is his comparison with other world class centre backs in European football:
Laporte has an inferior pass completion rate compared to them, but stands out by the number of passes completed per match.
Besides that, there’s a very important aspect in my opinion and in which the Frenchman excels: the concept of dividing. This football concept consists on trying to goad opponents into pressing by a relatively short distance and, immediately after, performing the pass. With this asset, other players can be free of pressing and, thus, the marking of a partner. Or for short, Laporte manages to open one or more pass lines.
2) When it comes to defending, Laporte has ground to improve. He suffers when facing forwards with pace attacking behind his back, but is smart enough to avoid these situations. When he goes for the challenge, he’s reliable and wins most of the times. Surely his past in rugby has played its part.
He also must polish his timing. In football, we understand timing as falling back defensively, making the opponents doubt and slow their pace in order to wait for others to arrive. He must apply this concept more frequently and become quicker.
3) Aerial capabilities is yet another skill that’s worthy of highlights. He’s strong at it and occasionally scores.
4) Laporte shows reliable understanding of the game. He knows when to play carefully and when he has to be more aggressive, mixing short and long balls according to what the match and the situation demands. Besides that, he’s well endowed.
Back to the comparison with other great centre backs in Europe, he has a long-pass ratio similar to Piqué’s, the player that, without a doubt, is the greatest in this area at the moment.
5) Despite his youth and his shyness outside the field, he emanates character and hierarchy among his teammates. Being 21 years old and, in the context of a club used to the Europa League and being in the top half of the League table, this is an argument to consider. These aspects leads me to believe he will have high mental fortitude and importance within the squad of any team he plays in the future.
How would Laporte fit at Barcelona?
Even if what makes football magic is its unpredictability, in my opinion, Aymeric Laporte could fit quite nice in the Blaugrana back line.
He gathers most of the strengths the Catalonian team has been looking for a long time for its defense. Laporte builds nicely from the back confidently with the ball at his feet. His left preferences allows him to play in his natural side and in a much cleaner angle, be it with the winger or the wide midfielder. This vastly increases the possibility to pass the ball through defenders.
In a hypothetical coexistence with Piqué, the rivals would not have a chance to play around the centre backs with combinative plays, because both of the game starters would have enough quality to avoid it. Laporte manages to divide and open pass lines when the rival’s pressure is well structured.
Finally, the Basque-Frenchman was raised in a club philosophy very similar to the one of La Masía, knows how to deal with his responsibilities and has the aptitudes to be a leader. His experience in La Liga and European competitions is a big plus in case he's signed.
Among his weaknesses, he needs to improve how he manages the space behind his back. He must try and get better at “turning” and minimizing the possibility of rivals facing him with space. Sometimes he goes past the line in defensive interventions. That makes him rash, and leaves him with no choice to reach his rivals when they are past him. He has to learn when the plays allow him to attack, and when it doesn’t.
Except for the difference in the natural differences in experience between them, we can conclude that Laporte would be the equivalent of Piqué on the left side, with similar virtues and weaknesses. This forces us to remember that the Catalonian has consolidated himself as one of the best centre backs in the world, sharing the defensive line with players of very different profiles, great correctors like Puyol once before and Mascherano nowadays. Piqué has shone playing along with less technical players that are way faster and capable of covering his back, opposite traits of Laporte.
This generates doubts about the compatibility of both in high profile matches, because if we analyze the virtues and flaws of the two defenders as a whole, we observe that partnering Piqué with a complementary profile like Mascherano turns out in a complete combo, while playing him along Laporte implies a huge gain in quality of build-up plays (what would make it even harder for the rivals when pressing, for example), but they’d also be more vulnerable in defensive transitions.
Only the future knows where his next club will be, but it is undoubtable that, at this moment and at his age, he has managed to achieve something very few have: for the big clubs to fight over him. Aymeric Laporte has the world of football bowing to his calm and elegant talent.
Anything wrong? Send your correction.
WRITTEN BY: Xavier Codina
Die hard Barça fan and football lover specially interested in tactical analysis, Xavier also writes for Perarnau Magazine and Banquilleros.