If you know what you’re looking for, there’s a lot you can tell about a player from a single game of football (crucially, if you know what you’re looking for, you also know what you *haven’t* learned about a player from a single game as well). In the ‘One man, One game’ feature, I do just that.
Giménez is one of that awkward bunch of nominal centre-backs: those who get shunted around the pitch into different positions because they’re young, and good but not too good, and malleable. England has a recent tradition of this. Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Calum Chambers, and Eric Dier are just the first defensive player names to spring to mind.
Evaluating centre-backs playing at centre-back is one thing; evaluating how people playing in other positions might fare at centre-back is something else. This week, I’m going to watch a game of Giménez playing at right-back and next week, a game at centre-back. What skills or features of his game will transfer, or not, from right- to centre-back?
First: setting the bar. Giménez, when he’s linked away from Madrid, is a rumoured target of Manchester United et al. This is the level we’re comparing him to, the level which he needs to attain in order to impress, and any ‘problems’ with his game will be problems for a player hoping to reach those heights. He might, for example, have footwork problems, but his footwork will still be leagues ahead of a League Two bruiser.
And there were problems with his game. Real Madrid players accelerated past him as he turned on numerous occasions. Without having watched more of them, it’s hard to say how much of this is down to being uncomfortable at right-back and how much is a problem which would affect him at centre-back. In the middle, you’re rarely square on to a forward running unimpeded straight at you, but at full-back it happens far more often. A moment which I think is a bit of both is the below.
Here Marcelo goes ‘meep meep’ and zooms past on his merry way pic.twitter.com/KyPoiv40E1
— Mark Thompson (@EveryTeam_Mark) July 19, 2017
Here he comes up to Marcelo from a pretty large distance away, which is fine – Marcelo needs to be pressured a little and it’s broadly in Giménez’s zone. From that distance, though, it’s unlikely that he’s going to get close enough to force Marcelo in any particular direction so it seems that he’d have to be reactive in his defending rather than proactive in this moment. However, Giménez is still moving by the time that Marcelo has set himself after receiving the pass, which I think makes it easier for the Real Madrid player to pick his option and accelerate back past the Atletico man.
Elsewhere, he got sped past fairly easily and Giménez didn’t seem to be getting much push to accelerate from each of his steps. I’ll be honest and say that I’m beyond the knowledge-level that I can comfortably claim to have just from watching games on TV here – maybe the defender could improve that with work in the gym; maybe it’s a footwork think; maybe it’s just a case of getting better at situations where he’s likely to need to be able to turn quickly.
Below is a slow-mo of Benzema speeding past him. I could be reading too much into it, or I might not be, but I think part of him getting caught is a lack of power as he pushes to accelerate in the other direction.
This one may take a few viewings to get your eye in. Gimenez is the third defender who arrives to Benz a sec after the clip starts pic.twitter.com/34UCZLcDii
— Mark Thompson (@EveryTeam_Mark) July 19, 2017
It should be said that this was a very difficult match for a part-time right-back to be playing in, with Marcelo, Isco, and occasionally Benzema causing problems on a regular basis on that flank. Yannick Carrasco, Atletico’s winger on that side, didn’t seem to offer a huge amount of defensive support.
Giménez generally had good positioning and awareness throughout his time on the pitch (he was subbed off just after 55 minutes). There wasn’t too many difficult moments which would test these skills which seemed like they would obviously transfer over to centre-back, in terms of major red or green flags, but a generally good base-level is of course pretty good. His role as a right-back probably helped slightly in this, as it was pretty deep and defensively-minded as a whole, and similar to a right side-back at times.
I don’t recall too much about his passing or strength/heading-based on physical attributes. No red flags, no green flags – which is fine, pending further game-watching.
In terms of things transferable to centre-back, I think that part of his troubles with being turned are an underlying issue, as well as something that was partially a matter of being uncertain at right-back. The decent base in all the other areas will likely all be pretty transferable too – putting himself in good positions on the pitch; a decent physique; decent awareness of opponents milling about around him. Just being able to keep up with a very good Real Madrid side, while out of his preferred position, is impressive, particularly as he’s still only 22.
Let’s see what we find out from watching him at centre-back next week, then.