Since arriving from Zenith St. Petersburg in January 2019, Argentinian Leandro Paredes has been experiencing a complicated start with PSG. Thomas Tuchel prefers Idrissa Gueye to him and the Boca Juniors trained midfielder played only 881 minutes in Ligue 1 this season.
However, the 25-year-old player has great qualities and has the ability to make a name for himself at PSG or another big European club. His particular style of play and great talent doesn’t leave anyone indifferent, and there is even a kind of frustration at not seeing him play more.
Role and style of play
At the beginning of the season, Paredes played mainly as a defensive midfielder in a 4-3-3. His position changed with Tuchel’s formation changes and towards the end of the season, he was left central midfielder in a 4-4-2. He is right-footed, but playing as a left-centre midfielder gives him a lot more possibilities in his passing game.
Paredes uses the orientation of his body a lot to feint the opponent and find complex passing angles. The Argentinian is very available to build the game. It’s a deep-lying playmaker, who loves to organise the game and dictate the tempo. We often see him dropping deep between the two central defenders to organize the build-up play.
As can be seen on the heatmap above, Paredes is mostly present in the central part of the pitch. He does not move higher and remains mainly in his initial position. His role is important above all in the build-up play, but once he passes the ball, he does not try to push too far forward. He simply remains a support option in case his partners play backwards.
The Argentinian midfielder has a strong temperament and loves to lead on the pitch, with and without the ball. He is often seen waving to his team-mates to show them where to position themselves or where to pass the ball. He’s the kind of player you like to have in your team and has the soul of a captain. Paredes is the first to go to defend his partners when there is a clash with an opposing player.
In addition to the impressive passing skills that we will see later, he has an exceptional understanding of the game. The Argentinian is one step ahead of the others and his reading of the game allows him to destabilize the opposing block despite a very low position on the field. Playing in a team that has the ball most of the time (64.4% average possession this season) enhances his profile.
In the picture above, he stands between Presnel Kimpembe and Marquinhos to get the ball. Reims plays with a very low block, and Paredes’s passing quality can help to find players between the lines to progress the game. This allows the central defenders to move away from the Argentinian, allowing the full-backs to move higher on the wings.
Take a look around
Before we look at his quality as a deep-playmaker, we’ll look at the quality of the information he takes. It’s essential to know what you’re going to do or what you can do before you receive the ball. Paredes is always aware of what’s going on around him, from the movements of his partners to those of his opponents.
This information will allow him to do several things. First of all to detect possible flaws in the opponent’s block and in this case to take advantage of them by playing quickly (one-touch pass or control and pass in a minimum of time). His passing quality can punish the opponent if the block is badly positioned or if a player’s position is not good.
It also gives him information if the opponent presses it or not, or if teammates make calls between the lines or in-depth. Doing all this before receiving the ball saves him a considerable amount of time and increases the efficiency of his passing game.
In the image above from the UEFA Champions League, shows Paredes free in the middle of the field and expecting to receive the ball. He takes a first glance forward to see what is happening and to observe his surroundings.
Kimpembe passes the ball to him and the Argentinian takes one last look behind him to see if he is being pressed by an opponent and if Marquinhos is a viable passing option. All of this is done in a very short time and at the real speed, it’s very impressive.
It’s often said that taking in information differentiates a good player from a great player. Paredes has understood this, he plays first with his head and then with his feet.
A wonderful passer
“Technique is not being able to juggle a ball 1000 times. Anyone can do that by practising. Then you can work in the circus. The technique is passing the ball with one touch, with the right speed, at the right foot of your teammate.” This quote from Johann Cruyff expresses quite well the feeling you get when you see Paredes play. Making a good pass looks so simple.
This role as a deep-lying playmaker allows him to touch many balls. Paredes decides the tempo, whether he delays or plays fast forward. His nonchalance also makes him unpredictable because at any moment he is capable of a laser pass that breaks several lines. His technique of passing with short run-up also allows him to have a high speed of execution in his movements.
His body is always oriented so that the opponent does not know where he is going to pass until the last moment. The same applies to his left foot, which serves as a support and allows his right foot to have very wide passing angles. His vision and his ability to take in information are sublimated by an exceptional passing technique. The midfielder is also very accurate in his ball control, which always puts him in a good position to pass the ball.
The graphs above show Paredes’ stats compared to other Ligue 1 players in passing in key areas. It is often blamed on some deep-lying playmakers for a certain form of sterility, with a lot of side passes in particular. Here, it is the opposite. Paredes is a player who wants to play forward as soon as he is allowed to do so.
This season, he has an average of 91.33 passes per game with a 93.5% success rate. The success rate is quite incredible when you see his propensity to play forward (27.64 forward passes per 90 minutes) and break lines. Moreover, most teams facing PSG play with low and very compact blocks in which it is not easy to find solutions.
The former Zenith player makes an average of 13.82 progressive passes per 90 minutes and this shows his real impact in build-up play. He takes responsibility and brings the ball into dangerous areas for the opposing team.
His passing stats to the final third per 90 minutes is the best in Ligue 1 with 15 passes per 90 minutes in this area of the field, while his progressive runs per 90 minutes are quite low. The Argentinian prefers passing to driving the ball to advance his team’s game and assumes that the ball goes faster than the player. That’s why his stats in progressive runs are quite low with 0.94 per 90 minutes. Paredes carries the ball relatively little and most of his dribbles are successful thanks to good directional control, which eliminates his opponent.
In the image above, the block of reims is very low with little distance between players. Paredes notices the space between the middle line and the defensive line, with Julian Draxler running to position himself in between.
Despite the very low space, Paredes makes a perfect pass, with a lot of power to prevent the interception of an opposing player. Draxler is then in a very dangerous position with several very interesting passing options. The skill required for such a pass is very high. However, Paredes does it quite frequently, with the right timing, power and precision.
On this action above, Paredes uses the orientation of his body to fake the opponent. His shoulders are oriented towards Gueye and give very little indication of what he is going to do. Axel Witsel directs his run towards Gueye to anticipate a possible pass from the Argentinian.
Note also how Paredes uses his head to mask his intention. The head is directed towards Gueye and at no time can we imagine a pass to Neymar. But that’s what will happen, with a short laser pass, which breaks the Dortmund line. The 25-year-old midfielder is equally at ease in both the short and long game, and in the feet as well as in the depth. The trajectory of his passes and especially his curves allow him a wide variety of pass types.
The graph above shows the types of progressive passes he makes, especially according to the distances (short or long). We can see that he is at ease everywhere with very high success rates at long distances. The 75% success rate on progressive passes from 0-20 meters is explained by the fact that there is much less space on short distances and more opposing players in a small area. This 75% rate is still impressive as these are risky and complicated passes to make.
On the picture above, Paredes sees Thomas Meunier on the opposite side of the field and alone on his wing. The compact block of Reims leaves large spaces on the wings. Just like in the short game, Paredes needs short run-up to make his long pass. The trajectory of this one is tight and perfectly dosed so that the Reims player cannot get too close to Meunier.
Finally, Meunier has time to control the ball without being harassed by an opponent. By going around the block in this way with a long pass, Paredes offers a real goal opportunity to his team, with a two-on-one on the right-wing.
The Argentinian midfielder brings rather little presence in the last 30 meters and often remains in a rather deep position. He is not often seen in the half-spaces as Blaise Matuidi could do in the past. It must be said that he has recently been playing in a two-man midfield, and Gueye has a greater tendency to be higher than the Argentinian.
Paredes staying lower allows Gueye to be higher but especially Neymar, who is on the left-wing, to take a more axial position. The relationship between Neymar and Paredes works pretty well in passing. The latter can easily find the Brazilian whose placements between the lines are clever.
Moreover, Paredes is not the fastest player and suffers in defensive transitions. This lower positioning allows him to compensate for this lack of speed. I think that Paredes’ ideal positioning is as a defensive midfielder in a three-man midfield, where he is more supported in the defensive aspect, which is his main weakness.
Paredes’ defensive performance is rather paradoxical. At times he will put up a real physical fight, with a lot of intensity and commitment. And at other times he will be quite passive or even disinterested in the opponent’s offensive action. His lack of speed and acceleration is a handicap on the pressing (sometimes late) and on the defensive transitions where he is easily taken of speed.
However, he has a vision of the game and a great sense of anticipation which should make him more important in the defensive phase. PSG press very high on the field and try to recover the ball as quickly as possible (6.88 of PPDA). If we look at the pressure in the final third of the field, Paredes does 1.78 per 90 minutes. By way of comparison, Gueye does 4.89 per 90 minutes and Verratti 6.00 per 90 minutes. The Argentinian is much less involved in counter-pressing than his team-mates.
As you can see on the graph above, these stats in terms of recoveries are correct but not exceptional, knowing that he is in a team that presses a lot and that should facilitate the chances of recoveries. The 25-year-old midfielder averages 7.87 defensive duels per game and wins 57% of them. For example, against Dortmund, he played 13 duels and won only 5.
On the above action, Paredes is a little too far away from Emre Can when he anticipates Witsel’s pass to the German. His lack of speed does not allow him to arrive in time and he misses his sliding tackle. This missed tackle offers above all a large free space for Can who can move forward without being harrassed towards the area left free by Paredes.
He is good at sliding tackles, but his over-commitment sometimes causes him to make mistakes and lack lucidity. Yet he has the mentality of a good defender with some aggression and a hot-headed side. It seems that he does not use his football intelligence to improve his defensive contribution.
Just after his tackle, we’ll see his passive move in the picture above. His missed tackle is dangerous for his team and he will not try to make up for his mistake. We see him slowly heading back to his goal where he should be fighting for the ball because three Dortmund players are free in the right half-space.
On this above action, Jadon Sancho is in a small area with a lot of PSG players around him including Paredes just in front. The Argentinian goes again seemed uninterested in the action and lets the English international easily penetrate inside the PSG block.
What is striking when you see Paredes defending is the impression that once he is eliminated by the opposition, he no longer seems concerned about the action. It’s this aspect of his game that’s preventing him from being a world-class player for the moment. Especially in a two-man midfield, it’s essential to have a high defensive work-rate, which is not the case for Paredes.
Paredes is one of the best passers in Europe with a very varied and accurate passing game. As seen in this analysis, he manages to find dangerous situations where others do not see them. His vision of the game allows him to be one step ahead of his opponents. Everything is done with a lot of intelligence and composure.
However, for the moment he is too under-performing in the defensive aspect to become a must-have in his position. It remains to be seen how he will be used in the coming seasons as he seems to be more comfortable in three-man midfield tactics as a defensive midfielder.