Rodrigo De Paul is an outstanding player and at 26 years old is entering his peak. He has been at Udinese since 2016 playing just over 140 league games for the Italian side. In those four years he has scored 24 league goals whilst registering 23 assists. Out of those 47 goal contributions 30 have been in the last two seasons. Evidently showing he is entering his prime. Leeds are heavily linked with the Argentine. According to Fabrizio Romano, The deal is said to be worth £31 million. Which is a very reasonable price for the talent he is. This article is an in depth look at De Paul’s play style along with how he will fit into Bielsa’s Leeds side.
Style Of Play-
De Paul is a centre midfielder who has played a variety of positions across the midfield for Udinese. Mainly he has been used as a right sided centre midfielder. Graphic one shown below is overlaid on his heat map this season. As you can see his heat map is mainly on the right side of the pitch. With his average position just to the right of the centre circle in the opponents half. This gives us an understanding of where he has played this season and where he will be used for Leeds. The smaller dots followed by lines represent De Paul’s assist locations and the bigger circles are his goal locations. Although more of a creator than a finisher De Paul registered 7 goals this season over performing his 5.72xG. His shot locations below showing he is quite clinical inside the box. Being especially dangerous inside the box in the right half space, providing two assists from this location as well.
Around his average position in the above graphic is his passing sonar. Bigger the segment the more passes played in that direction. It showcases how De Paul focuses on moving the ball forward. As the majority of his passes are either sideways or forward. He is always trying to create by moving the opposition around to disrupt their defensive shape. This is why Rodrigo hardly passes backwards. De Paul is a very creative player, but creativity comes with risk. He lost possession more than any other player in Serie A per 90 last season. However he also created 17 big chances, the second most. This led to him racking up a huge 7.99xA (expected assists) in the league, the 5th most in all of Serie A too. In the end he underperformed his xA after only getting 6 assists. Although his teammates missed some wonderful opportunities which is why is xA is much more telling.
De Paul is excellent at moving the ball into the box. Out of all Serie A central midfielders Rodrigo De Paul had the second most key passes per 90, 0.78, and the second most passes to the penalty area with 5.35 per 90. Demonstrating his ability to get his teammates into dangerous positions to capitalise off. The below image is an example of this.
The image shows De Paul with the ball at his feet. Once again in this right sided centre midfield position where he likes to operate. The Juventus defence are playing a well organised line on the edge of their box. A Udinese player makes a darting run in between the two centre backs. In behind the left centre backs blind side. This is when De Paul plays a perfectly timed De-Bruyne esque through ball into the oncoming run.
The image above shows the excellently weighted ball and the position it put the striker in. Unfortunately he made a mess of it resulting in a save. But, De Paul’s dangerous creativity was keeping one of Europe’s best defences on its heels.
He isn’t just a threat from open play either. His delivery from set pieces are a particular threat. Three of his six assists have come from set pieces as graphic one showed. Two from corners and one from a free-kick. This, coupled with the addition of set piece target man Robin Koch. Could make Leeds a new found danger from set pieces in the Premier League.
Rodrigo De Paul’s real talent is progressing the ball up the pitch. He does this is a very high rate ranking himself among Europe’s elite. The above graphic shows players who move the ball toward the opponents goal via a progressive pass or a progressive run. Only 13 players in Europe’s top 5 leagues rank highly in both metrics, shown by the pink dots. These include players like Messi and De Bruyne. De Paul ranks just outside the top ten for progressive passes which is very impressive. However it’s his progressive carries that really bring him into his own. He ranks in the top 5 for progressive distance carriers. Progressing the ball an incredible 527 yards per 90, as the radar below shows. De Paul is a very keen dribbler too who loves to have the ball at his feet. He really excels in tight spaces, weaving his way out of trouble. De Paul also excels at drawing fouls and was fouled 2.2 times per 90 in the league.
The segment in blue in the above radar shows successful pressures. This is a pressing action that led to the team regaining possession within the next 5 seconds. As you can see Rodrigo De Paul ranks in the top 25 percentile in this category with 5.93 per 90. This is an important attribute to Bielsa. As Leeds have a very organised high pressing system and press with extreme intensity. De Paul’s stats here are impressive as Udinese hardly press, with a PPDA (passes per defensive action) Of 16.5. Compare this with Leeds PPDA of 6.36 and you can instantly see the shift in defensive strategy. Udinese let the opposition complete more than two and a half times more passes than Leeds before committing a defensive action. Even though Udinese did not employ a high pressing strategy. De Paul still showed he was a willing presser and gives us reason to believe he can adapt defensively.
The images below are an example of De Paul’s attitude when pressing. In the first image Roma have just taken a corner. De Paul’s anticipating where it will go before it has even been headed and starts to move. Udinese win the header and send it back to Roma’s furthest back defender. The second image shows his relentless pursuit Of the ball. He uses his body well to force the defender one way. Before shutting down all his passing angles and going in for the tackle.
De Paul is rewarded for his aggressive press. Winning the ball back and setting off as the third image below shows. He unfortunately cannot make a chance out of this. Unrewarded for his great defensive effort as he is shrugged off the ball.
De Paul VS Hernandez-
Rodrigo De Paul is Pablo Hernandez’s long term replacement. He is being brought in to be our new number 10 and take the creative responsibility away from Pablo. Below are the heat maps of both players. De Paul covers more of the pitch but you’d expect that as he is almost ten years younger than Pablo. Although he covers more ground the heat-maps are essentially identical. This shows how similar they are positionally. The similarities don’t stop there though.
Below are two graphics from a website called smarterscout. Which compares players at a benchmark level. These statistics are all at Premier League level. The two players are indistinguishable in so many ways. Their attacking output is almost the same with De Paul only bettering Hernandez’s 94 by 1. Their ‘pass toward goal’, ‘receive in box’ and defending quality are all incredibly similar too. De Paul does better Hernandez by a mile with his dribbling ability coming in at 91. His ‘ball retention’ is double Hernandez’s at 43 too. Hernandez does rank better in ‘disrupt’ and ‘recover’. This is more due to the systems they play in rather than the individuals themselves. So in a Bielsa system I would expect De Paul to replicate these too if not better them.
Despite playing in a mediocre midtable Udinese team who were averaging 15% less possession in a much less attacking system. Rodrigo De Paul still managed to put up a similar output with Hernandez. They both scored 7 league goals. Despite Pablo having 4 more assists their xA was only 0.03 different as well. With Hernandez achieving the marginally better 8.02xA.
How will De Paul fit into Bielsa’s side-
As already spoken about De Paul will be Hernandez’s replacement. He will slot into the number ten role as our most attacking central midfielder. Leeds focus on building up their attacks on the right. With the addition of De Paul and Rodrigo potentially playing on the right wing this will not change at all. Leeds will still look to overload the right side of the pitch. Before switching to the isolated Harrison if they cannot breakdown the opponent on the right. This will suit De Paul very well, our system in general will fit the Argentine like a glove. The more De Paul is on the ball the more chances are created seems to be the pattern. Although Leeds will not average over 60% possession across the season this year. We will still average more than 50% which is more than De Paul had at Udinese. The more we have the ball, the more touches he can get to try and work his magic. Unlocking a defence in the process.
credit to @gegenpressing91 for graphic one. Excellent graphics and is a must follow. Credit to @jonollington for graphic two and credit football slices for the radar.
Written by TheYoungPeacock. Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed!