Aymeric Laporte (vs Barcelona, 17/01/16, 1st half)
I decided only to do the first half for this look at Laporte because, quite frankly, playing 45 minutes against Barca (especially when your goalkeeper gets sent off within the first few minutes) is the same as playing at least a full game against most other sides.
Laporte didn’t get much time to dwell on the ball in this half, for understandable reasons. There was one misplaced pass in particular which set up a quick Barca attack and a good chance.
However, there was also a fairly nice cross-field pass, though a little slow and lofty, but promising technique for a young centre-back.
Against Barcelona, positional issues will happen. They were a joy to watch – for anyone other than the team defending against them – in this half, midfielders taking turns to make probing runs behind the defence, strikers lurking just slightly offside only to be replaced seconds later by one of the other Cerberus heads of MSN.
He seemed to have been tasked with staying close to Rakitic whenever the Barca player came within his orbit, though for me he occasionally went too far in this, either wandering a little too wide or into midfield more than was necessary, though this is being strict.
However, largely he was genuinely good, with one notable moment in particular in which he stayed in position before coming across to cut out a ball to a threatening Messi.
The defensive line as a whole seemed almost slanted or staggered quite often, either a team instruction or deliberate positional play, which I didn’t like as it seemed to practically invite Barca to play a ball over the top to whichever striker happened to be between the centre-backs at that moment.
His awareness was generally very good. There were a couple of moments when he looked a little swamped by the movement around him (but who wouldn’t, Barca were like a fast-flowing river), and one slight lapse of note, although to his credit there are an awful lot of defenders who wouldn’t have noticed the run behind him at all:
But that was it. Rakitic shaped to make runs in behind several times, starting from positions just out of Laporte’s direct line of sight with the ball often on the left (Laporte’s right), but the centre-back was always equal and ready for them, at which point Rakitic would then retreat.
There weren’t many of these types of error in Laporte’s half. There was one moment when he headed to his centre-back partner, Etxeita, who was then put under pressure, when he conceivably could have headed back to his keeper instead.
On the other side of the coin, there was also an eye-catching sequence of play when he stepped up to intercept, nearly lost the ball due to a heavy touch/deflection, but somehow managed to make his way through. There are pluses and minuses on show here, but it was generally pretty good (providing that he’s intelligent enough not to try this all the time, which I think he is).
Speed and strength (/how to overcome these)
Laporte has both speed and strength; from the limited amount of time that I’ve spent focussed on the two players it’s not too dissimilar to Gerard Pique in that respect, and this may be why he was allowed to step up into the area between midfield and defensive lines to the extent that he did. One gets the impression that he’d have been able to hold off Suarez much better than Etxeita for the incident that led to the 4th minute penalty and red card.
Overall, for this half I’d probably give him a 6.5-7/10, which is pretty good against Barcelona. From what you can tell from this half, I’d be putting him in as a future 8-9/10 central defender which, considering I don’t think I’d ever give anyone a 10/10, isn’t too shabby.