Bryce Dunn –
In this week’s edition of Liga MX by the numbers we look at Pumas, who started matchday 7 with a new coach, the beginning of Hirving Lozano’s European adventure, Mexico’s answer to their full back problem. Finally, we take a look at Lucas Zelarayan’s important attributes for Tigres.
Pumas Went into Matchday 7 Without Francisco Palencia
It finally happened, and the Pumas board had enough of the young coach, Francisco Palencia, after a run of poor results that goes all the way back to the 2016-17 Clausura. The side are now under the control of former youth coach Sergio Egea. Unfortunately, his reign started with a loss to relegation battling Veracruz. But how did Egea set his side up in a bid to change their fortunes?
Egea set up the side to play very narrow on matchday 7. Most of the traffic came through the centre of the pitch with Pumas making very little use of the space on either flank. This was the complete opposite to Palencia whose style was always described as direct, but at the same time also made more use of either wing.
Whether Egea was simply trying to set up the side to pick up a point and ‘stop the rot’ as they say this may have been the case—I do know one thing though, Pumas looked terrible. Unless Chilean striker Nicolás Castillo is on a mission to get them three points, then they seem to be clueless in attack. We will keep an eye on the set up in the coming weeks as Egea does his best to turn their fortunes around.
Hirving ‘Chucky’ Lozano
The young attacking midfielder has made quite the start to his PSV Eindhoven career, and in my recent Mexico vs Panama World Cup Qualification preview I tipped him to be the match to watch. In his first three appearances, he has scored three goals, one assist and a man of the match award.
In a world where we are keen to see midfielders with high pass completion rates, it may disappoint some to view only a 68% rate from ‘Chucky’, but it has to be remembered he is a player that thrives on counter attacking football played at a high pace. He is most often seen on the left flank charging rapidly towards the right back from where he can cut inside.
El Tri central Defender Face Off – Jair Pereira vs Hugo Ayala
Pereira of Chivas has had a fine season so far even if his side have struggled after winning the Clausura last season. Hugo Ayala of Tigres has also been in fine form, and his side have not just conceded a goal less but are also 14th places higher in the table.
When comparing the defensive stats, there isn’t a great deal between the two players. Ayala was winning on pass accuracy and interceptions per game but Pereira on tackles and clearances. Both are candidates to make the 2018 FIFA World Cup squad, and Osorio may favour Tigres’ defender Ayala. Tigres have opted for three at the back most of the campaign, unlike Chivas which stick with a more traditional four. Though predicting Osorio’s line ups are a challenge at the best of times.
The Argentine was linked with a move away from Tigres after matchday 7. But Tigres were able to hold on to the midfielder.
While we have seen sides like Monterrey find success with less of the ball; instead of hitting their opponents with quick counter attacking play, Tigres are the opposite. They prefer to control the game, have the majority of possession and create chances when higher up the pitch. This means you require players with the ability to place accurate passes. Zelarayan is one of the best in the league at this as seen below.
Against Puebla, his pass completion rate was 98.5% which is incredibly impressive and is exactly what Tigres’ head coach Ricardo Ferretti would want with this style of play. His passing accuracy wasn’t a one-off as against Queretaro he re-acted similar numbers.
These passing figures by a centre back would obviously be easier to achieve due to having more space and being under less pressure, but in a congested area like the opposition’s half, this takes skill and composure. 83% in this part of the field is difficult for other players to rival. Two goals in five appearances also add to his value within the Tigres side, who will be glad that they were able to hold on to the midfielder.
Bryce Dunn is a Northern Irish football writer and Podcaster. Bryce hosts the popular Bundesliga – Gegenpressing Podcast, which is the most in-depth English-speaking Bundesliga Podcast available and Golazo an English-speaking Podcast covering Mexico’s Liga MX on the Futbolgrad Network. He is an avid Liverpool FC supporter, who enjoys researching German and Mexican football clubs whether they are part of the elite or the lower divisions. Follow Bryce on Twitter @BryceDunn11.