Leicester City look like they are finally putting the chaos of the last couple of seasons behind them, and moving towards a more structured and stable approach to their football. Appointing Brendan Rodgers towards the end of the last season was one such move, and securing the permanent signing of Youri Tielemans was another.
The Belgian midfielder was coveted across Europe, but the Foxes acted decisively to nab one of their top targets. They have also looked to solve a long-standing problem by signing Ayoze Pérez from Newcastle United. The Spanish attacker could be a very shrewd addition, and as this tactical analysis scout report will show, he will help fill a literal hole in Leicester’s attack next season.
Pérez is a 25-year-old forward from Tenerife, in the Canary Islands. He started his career at local club CD Tenerife, eventually playing in Spain’s Segunda División and winning the Breakthrough Player and Best Attacking Midfielder awards at the end of the 2013/14 season. This piqued the interest of several clubs around Europe, and Pérez reportedly rejected the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona and FC Porto to sign for Newcastle United for a fee of £1.5 million.
The forward had a significant impact at St. James’ Park over five seasons, ending up with 42 league goals and getting into double figures in each of the last three seasons. Leicester ended up paying around £30 million for the Spaniard, giving Newcastle a hefty profit, but Pérez is probably the perfect fit for Rodgers’ style of play, making the fee largely irrelevant in an age where lesser players have moved for much higher amounts.
Style of play
Although described as a striker in some dispatches, Pérez is an attacking midfielder, playing in the line behind a striker. He can play across the forward line, but does his best work coming in off either flank. His heatmap for last season shows this –
One of Pérez’s most impressive traits is his intelligence. His positioning, passing and movement all speak of a player who understands the game extremely well, and a lot of credit for this should go to Rafa Benitez, under whom the Spaniard had two extremely productive seasons. In his role as an attacking midfielder, Pérez usually attempts to play attackers in on goal with intelligent passes –
According to Wyscout, he had a pass success rate of 77.3% last season, which is good considering he was playing for a Newcastle side which played a direct brand of football. Despite this, he only notched two assists in the whole of last season.
Another impressive aspect of his play is his movement off the ball. Pérez looks to find space in and around the box, and his runs are well-timed to take advantage of any space that might be available.
A related attribute is his anticipation; as the images below will show, Pérez is good at following up on chances inside the box, and this has led to quite a few goals for the Spaniard from fumbled saves by goalkeepers –
This does make Pérez a slight anomaly for an attacking midfielder – one who is a ‘fox in the box’ but does a lot of his best work outside it. He posted decent goalscoring numbers last season – 13 goals in all competitions from an xG value of 10.3, and he averaged 1.5 shots per 90 minutes. This does show that Pérez gets into goalscoring positions fairly regularly, and getting 10+ goals from an attacking midfielder is extremely useful for any side.
He is quite competent at dribbling as well, which is a crucial skill for an attacking midfielder in today’s game, where they are often tasked with breaking through the opposition’s defensive lines. Pérez averaged 4.2 dribbles per 90 minutes, with a 58.8% success rate –
Of course, an attacker cannot just be evaluated on his attacking contributions anymore; there needs to be some defensive work done as well to be the ‘complete’ player. Rodgers will probably employ some form of a pressing system at Leicester, and so Pérez’s addition will be a welcome one – the Spaniard made 3.5 interceptions/90 minutes last season, and 4.1 ball recoveries/90, 51% of which were in the opposition half. Once again, it is not just the numbers, but the intelligence with which Pérez operates that makes him so valuable –
Leicester have struggled to find an effective replacement for Shinji Okazaki ever since their 2015/16 title-winning season. The Japanese international himself left the club on the expiry of his contract last month, while Kelechi Iheanacho, who was signed to be that attacking replacement, has been a flop. The Nigerian has managed just four league goals in two years at the King Power Stadium, forcing the Foxes to rely even more on Jamie Vardy.
Pérez’s arrival will help take some of the goalscoring burden off Vardy’s shoulders, and his versatility means that Rodgers could conceivably field a side with Vardy, Pérez and James Maddison, which would increase their goal threat by leaps and bounds. This transfer looks like having solved a long-standing issue for Leicester, and if Pérez can show the same productivity as he did at Newcastle, Leicester could achieve something special in the next couple of seasons.
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