[FM23] THE CROWN OF ARAGON — FANTASISTA

Steinkelsson
11 min readDec 2, 2022

I have finally managed to complete season one, I must admit the slow burner approach is certainly adding value to the save and enabling me to fully immerse myself into the wonderful world of Villarreal.

When I wrote the introductory blog post to The Crown of Aragon series, one of the seven save objectives was to develop a new club legend. The player who I put all my faith in was Yeremy Pino, this was after modelling him against Santi Cazorla from back in 2007/08 as a Wide Playmaker.

THE SUBJECT: YEREMY PINO

The Spaniard’s early season form in this role was good, he averaged 60+ passes per game, helping to progress play from the build-up phase of play to the creation phase. The role when watching in isolation really is great at finding pockets of space to receive a pass and either link play or look to play a killer ball.

Initially I had also given Yeremy the ‘Player Instruction’ to mark the oppositions Left-Back in order to ensure we had a strong defensive solidity (In order to build any house, you need strong foundations).

After watching many a game (I am a comprehensive player), I started to believe there was a slight issue with Yeremy operating from such a deep starting place. He often only had one forward pass the killer ball through to the Advanced Forward, with the AI in this years game better than ever before, I needed to make a change.

THE FANTASISTA

The Fantasista is an icon, one which is often worshiped by his fans, hated by others, yet secretly adored. They are the symbol of all things expressive — the creative genius. As the conductor of the team, if he fails to function, the team's performance often suffers as a whole. At the height of his power no other player could come close to his natural talent on the football pitch.

The Fantasista usually possesses unrivalled technique (17), sublime close control (15) and dribbling skills (17). Exceptional vision (15) and possessed a sixth sense in terms of awareness and ability to inspire. They could both score and supply goals, and often finished amongst the highest scorers of their team along with chipping in with an abundance of assists.

I am not quite sure how this didn’t click earlier, one of my all-time favourite players from way back when, the days of Championship Manager, Juan Roman Riquelme, had donned the shirt of the Yellow Submarine. This should have been the player which I aimed to model Yeremy Pino on, as he too played under Manuel Pellegrini.

Riquelme played in 35 of Villarreal’s 38 La Liga games in 2004/05 and scored a remarkable total of 16 goals. Even more importantly, he created the situations where new signing Diego Forlan was able to score 25 goals, laying on many direct assists as well as setting others up.

Riquelme’s magnificent form all season was noticed in both Spain and the rest of the world. In Spain he received the prestigious Don Ballon award for best and most consistent player of the season. He was one of the handful of world class players nominated for the FIFA World Player of the Year award.

He could slow a fast game down; speed up a slow one; hide the ball from sight with close control; send it to exactly where he wanted it; remove opposition players from the game with a twist of his hips; see three moves ahead and be there to score. He was the perfect example of a vanished breed, a midfield maestro who could dictate any game, impose his wishes, bend it to his shape, determine the outcome through his own efforts. Undoubtedly a World Class player.

Riquelme retained fine form in season 2005–2006 and helped Villarreal finish top of their Champions League Group, knocking Manchester United out the tournament in the process. He ran the show as Villarreal outclassed Glasgow Rangers, and then outplayed and outfought Inter Milan to reach the semi-finals. Fate intervened to ensure that Riquelme’s name will always be remembered for missing a last-minute penalty in the second leg match against Arsenal, one which if he scored the momentum was with the Yellow Submarine going into extra-time, where Arsenal well and truly had nothing left to give.

THE NUMBER 10

Those of my regular followers will know that I love to reference a coaches UEFA Pro thesis from the Italian Football Federation (Characteristics of the trio in a three-man midfield — Massimiliano Allegri), this blog is no different.

Roberto Mancini in 2000/01 devoted his professional coach certification to the role of the trequartista and was titled ‘The Number 10’.

The magic of the number 10 comes from the trequartista’s feet, the player of inventiveness, the one who is capable of wrong-footing “everyone with a piece of skill perhaps he is not even fully aware of.”

Mancini highlighted that this special kind of player had to possess great technical skills and the following specific characteristics. Some of these will be demonstrated through our choice subject Yeremy Pino.

  • sublime unmarking qualities;

Pino has an incredible ability to find space, and he does so in a rather unique way. Rather than charge around the final third looking for gaps in the opposition’s structure, he will walk at an almost leisurely pace while everyone else uses up energy either looking to get on the ball, making off-the-ball runs, or retaining their team’s shape. Every other player moving faster than him means he ends up in space.

  • great basic technical skills and good applied technique quality;

The below video is taken from our home game against Elche, here Yeremy shows great technical skill, receiving the ball in the half-space facing away from goal. He uses his vision to spot the run of Arnaut Danjuma off the back of the defender and swivels on a sixpence, clipping the ball directly into the path of the Dutchman, who slots the ball away.

  • unpredictability;

This is something which I have found hard to capture in either a still or a video. Therefore, I would like to explain to what I feel makes Yeremy Pino so hard to play against, my assumptions have come from watching him in great detail. His change of speed, particularly from a standing start, is what makes him stand out, he is an explosive player — he often stands still when receiving a pass in an attempt to draw his opponent in before bursting away from them with a shoulder feint to leave them off balance.

  • ability to serve the strikers with ease in various ways;

The above image taken from our Europa Conference League Final victory over Feyenoord is a great example of how Pino has serviced our Advanced Forward, time and time again.

Yeremy receives the ball in a pocket of space between the defensive and midfield line and plays a 45-degree pass into the abyss behind the backline. The Advanced Forward doing what he does best, chases down the pass and fires the ball past the keeper.

Just to show you the frequency of the above pass, I have filtered the in-game analysis for Yeremy. The above shows key passes (yellow), unsuccessful passes (orange), and progressive passes completed (black). See how the Trequartista is mainly operating in the half-space, using the pocket as a base for playing the same style of pass on repeat.

  • predisposition to dribble and individual play;

The above has to be one of my favourite goals of the season, Yeremy receives the ball from deep, before progressing play by going on a progressive run (dribble). He then plays a sweet one-two with the Advanced Striker, before playing a precision 45 degree pass through to the Support Striker who scores the goal.

  • poor attitude to the defensive phase.

The player role description of the Trequartista states the following.

While similar to the Advanced Playmaker in that he aims to drop into the holes between the opposition's midfield and defence, the Trequartista does far less defensively and simply drifts around looking for space when his team is not in possession.

A prime example of this can be found in the below image taken from a game against Real Madrid. Firstly, I would like to draw your attention to Arnaut Danjuma and his defensive positioning, you can see he has Nacho in close proximity, this is not the case for Yeremy who has let David Alba drift inside un-marked.

As play progresses on Asensio cuts the ball back to Alba who is in a position on the edge of the box to pick up the pass with both time and space to do whatever he pleases.

A nice statistic to compare the two roles of Danjuma (Inverted Winger) and Yeremy Pino is the possession won per 90. The Inverted Winger (8.72 per 90) is winning 41.5% more ball than the Trequartista (6.16), who is living up to the role description.

SEASON ONE

The above visualisation compares all creative wingers in La Liga against Yeremy’s outputs, the radar shows that the Spaniard is outperforming players in La Liga who are playing in similar areas of the pitch and of a similar role.

In fact, he is outperforming all metrics apart from Crosses Completed (we don’t want him crossing the ball) and his pass completion rate (expected given the fact we want him to be trying to play those high-risk balls on a frequent basis.

Thats not to say that he is all waste, looking at the detailed statistics, Yeremy finished La Liga ranked in second place for open play key passes. He was sandwiched between Pedri and Vinicius Junior, both players have a higher pass completion rate than Pino who finished at 75%.

Yeremy did however finish as La Liga’s best player in terms of open play expected assists. This metric measures the likelihood that a given pass will become an assist. It rewards players who pass into dangerous areas, regardless of whether the receiver takes a shot or not.

The below shows how goal contributions (goals and assists) were shared amongst our best XI. Yeremy Pino finished in second place with 13 goals and 10 assists.

Whilst I am happy with this, I would like to see him secure a greater number of assists compared to goals scored, although I would like both outputs to be stay in the double figure realms.

I am also hoping that the tactical tweak to the right-sided wing-back to Complete Wing-Back on Attack will help to contribute to this target. This change will provide an overlapping option for Yeremy on an increased frequency, providing him with another progressive outlet, or enable him more time/space to pick play his killer pass as the CWB will provide the defensive unit another problem.

LA FURIA ROJA — THE NATIONAL TEAM

Does Spain really hold football’s greatest number in high esteem?

Whilst Spain is now blessed with a plethora of highly technical, diminutive playmakers, prior to this current golden generation the country arguably hadn’t produced that stand-out superstar in the role – something that is in stark contrast when viewed alongside other Latin countries such as Brazil, Italy, France and Argentina who can boast the likes of Zico, Baggio, Platini and Maradona…the list could go on and on

Culturally, the country wasn’t as obsessed with the essence of a 10, looking back at an analysis of the mental attributes within the ‘Furia Roja’, you will see that spirit (Determination), work ethic (Work Rate) and teamwork were the truly valued attributes. Two of these work rate and teamwork are attributes which do not hold high value for our Fantasista.

Furthermore, whilst there was an appetite in Spain for players of vision and high technical quality, conversely it showed that the country wasn’t consistently producing their very own top-notch mediapunta – the Spanish term for the number 10; or simply, the Diez, the historical preference was to obtain these by transfer.

Currently Yeremy has four caps for the national team — none of which have come during my tenure as Villarreal Manager. Pedri has been both Luis Enrique’s and Roberto Martínez’ preferred choice, the 20-year-old has scored eight goals across 2022/23 and contributed with 11 assists.

THE FUTURE

Looking at Yeremy a season on from the start of the save, he has learnt the player trait ‘Runs With Ball Often’, I wanted him to take advantage of his dribbling ability (17) and flair (16).

He is now training to develop the trait ‘Tries Killer Balls Often’ before I look to start him on his next trait.

The above shows Yeremy’s progression across the year, he has improved the on the following attributes: dribbling, finishing, first touch, technique, composure, off the ball, vision, acceleration, and balance.

The beauty of finishing La Liga in fourth place and securing Champions League football, we have agreed a bumper new five-year contract with Yeremy Pino, worth £16m.

I am looking forward to seeing how he performs next season, along with if we can sustain our position in La Liga and secure another top four finish.

--

--