With Andrés Iniesta’s move from Barcelona to Japan’s J1 League side Vissel Kobe recently confirmed, OptaPro shares a brief snapshot of what the Spanish midfielder can expect from his new team, and how they may need to adapt to bring the best out of the creative midfielder.
A team’s passing style can be used to describe and explain their on-the-ball playing philosophy. By showcasing and comparing both teams’ passing styles, we can gather a clearer insight into what Iniesta can expect from his new team.
There is of course the obvious acknowledgement that Barcelona have more quality than Vissel Kobe, and playing in a different competition influences a direct comparison, but this does help to provide an initial insight into just how much Iniesta’s new side may have to adapt to accommodate the diminutive talent, or vice versa.
Below is a quick overview showcasing how each side uses the ball, providing an initial insight into each team’s style of play in relation to their respective competitions.
In La Liga, Barcelona rank first in relation to all possession related ball events; touches, touches in the box, passes attempted and passes completed, passes in own half and passes in the opposition half. At the other end of the spectrum and perhaps unsurprisingly, Barcelona have attempted the fewest crosses this season and rank 19th in the division in regards to percentage of passes being played forward (30.5% compared to a league average of 36.6%).
Let’s compare this with the J1 season so far (15 games at the time of writing) for Vissel Kobe who are currently lying in 6th place. With passing attempts and completion at 4th highest, their play may not be too far removed from a possession-based style, something that is likely to suit Iniesta.
The Japanese side’s patient, possession-focused approach is also represented by a low percentage of forward passes, (32.7%, ranking them 18th in the 18-team league). Averaging 532 pass attempts per game, Vissel would rank third in La Liga, still way behind Barca’s huge number of 638, but still a fair number when comparing styles of play.
Extending this analysis from team to league trends, the table below outlines some per game averages across both competitions.
While on first look there aren’t major stylistic differences across the two competitions, it should be noted that Iniesta will be leaving the team that’s attempted the fewest crosses per match (10.8) to join one that attempts to cross the ball 23 times in every match.
It is of course unliely that Iniesta will become a midfielder who makes late runs into the box to get on the end of these crosses, but Vissel Kobe’s approach may result in Iniesta often feeding the ball wide, rather than through tight spaces in the central third of the pitch.
Throughout his glittering career at Barcelona, Iniesta has been surrounded by elite level talent, which has further allowed this style of play to flourish. Whether Iniesta’s performances will translate with a different set of team-mates in an entirely new environment is yet to be seen, but the initial on-field signs look promising for the midfielder who has won everything there is to win in the game