Scout report: Saúl Ñíguez – Atletico’s tenacious ball-winner

With the transfer window closely approaching once more, it’s time to take a deeper look at some of the top youngsters linked with moves.

Ñíguez is a versatile midfielder who currently plays for La Liga side Atletico Madrid.

The 22-year-old has caught the eye of many European scouts with his performances over the past two seasons. Importantly though, he has shown consistency when called upon to deliver in a variety of positions this term.

Strengths

Ñíguez is very much an unselfish player and alongside Gabi in a holding midfield role, allows the likes of Carrasco, Koke and Griezmann more freedom to get involved further forward when the opportunity arises.

They work well in tandem and have impressive awareness to scan the pitch for open passing options before making their next decision. Gabi is more tenacious and a willing runner whilst Saúl displays his passing range to good effect, mixing up passing distance depending on the situation.

With five goals and two assists this season, Saúl is a handful for opponents when running forward with the ball at his feet. He shows patience and intelligence to pick his moments in attack, providing an unpredictable threat there. His excellent strike against Leverkusen in the Champions League just reiterated the damage he can create when given space to shoot:

He averages just under two interceptions per game and relishes tackling. In three recent matches (all comps), he completed twelve successful tackles and does so effortlessly. Being able to reduce opposition threats relieves pressure on Atletico out of possession, allowing them a higher chance of winning the ball back quicker when a pass is squandered. Their high-pressure tactic is tiring at times but when reaping the rewards, they can attack with speed on the break.

Weaknesses

His main weakness at present is his inability to concentrate for sustained periods during a match. This can lead to a number of sloppy fouls committed – he has totalled 62 in the league this term, with six bookings too.

There are also other areas that he will be eager to work on. Although his success percentage is 50%, he can improve further when timing his jumps to win possession – especially given how far he can leap off the ground.

MADRID, SPAIN – MARCH 05: Munir El Haddadi of Valencia CF wins the header before Saul Niguez of Atletico de Madrid during the La Liga match between Club Atletico de Madrid and Valencia CF at Estadio Vicente Calderon on March 5, 2017 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)

He has won 47 tackles in La Liga this season, but lost 95 during the same period. Being beaten in a one-on-one battle for possession or getting bypassed too easily by an opposition attacker are things he’ll look to reduce with time – being mindful of the fact he also needs to be careful with challenges too.

Looking forward

Saúl signed a contract extension in May last year and will be keen to continue asserting his quality at Atletico for the foreseeable future. It’s unlikely that he’ll make a move in the next season or two unless big offers are made and he makes clear his desire to leave.

At 22-years-old, it’s important for him to avoid letting any hype get to his head. Being in an environment under the likes of Diego Simeone will prove pivotal for his development.

MADRID, SPAIN – DECEMBER 03: Coach Diego Pablo Simeone (L) of Atletico de Madrid gives instructions to his player Saul Niguez (R) during the La Liga match between Club Atletico de Madrid and RCD Espanyol at Vicente Calderon stadium on December 3, 2016 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)

There’s no reason why he cannot continue to progress at the impressive rate already shown – but it’ll become harder for clubs to resist making their interest known, especially given whispers of a possible Premier League move last term.

Stats’ source: Squawka and WhoScored

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s