The teenager has been a revelation for La Roja at the continental showpiece.
Spain registered their first win of the UEFA Euro 2020 with a 5-0 drubbing of Slovakia on June 24. La Roja finished the night in second place in Group E behind leaders Sweden. Slovakia, on the other hand, crashed out from the group stage, along with Poland.
Luis Enrique’s made several changes to the Spanish lineup against Slovakia as captain Sergio Busquets returned to the starting XI after recovering from COVID-19. Cesar Azpilicueta and Pablo Sarabia also made their first starts of the campaign, as the latter registered a goal and a couple of assists with it. The star of the show, however, was teenage midfield sensation Pedri.
Pedri, who is being touted as one of the most talented young footballers in the world right now, lived up to the hype after being handed start at the Euros. He also returned the favour with consistent stellar performance and is expected to continue the good work in the knockouts.
Without the likes of Andres Iniesta, David Silva and Cesc Fabregas – one might wonder that creativity could potentially be a problem for La Roja. However, Pedri Gonzalez’s midfield presence has made sure not to give anyone a single moment of nostalgia. In fact, Spain’s biggest problem in the Euros have been their inability to convert the chances – not creating those.
Spain’s primary architect
“Champagne Football at its best,” said the commentator when Jordi Alba set up Sarabia for Spain’s third goal against Slovakia. It was Pedri who found Alba on the wide left, something he had done for all his teammates before and after that goal too. Pedri’s pass took Slovakia’s entire second line of defence out of the equation, creating an opportunity for Alba to create a goalscoring chance.
This is exactly what Pedri does best. While he may not have that many goals and assists to his name, his passing ability, clever movement and understanding of the game is unparalleled. He dictates the pace of the game and is fundamental to Spain’s chance creating ability. Spain lead the tournament for big chances created with 14 .
Spain have kept 75% of the ball on an average in all three of their Group E games. Truly showing their dominance in midfield. With the likes of Thiago and Fabian Ruiz also available but on the bench, Pedri’s starting berth is truly a testament to the quality he brings on the table.
The young Spaniard has been simply phenomenal. In his first two games, Pedri registered seven Shot Creating Actions (SCAs) and delivered 36 passes into the final third – the highest in the competition. This was despite having played one less game at the time than most of the other players.
Against Slovakia, Pedri and the entire Spain team looked to right their wrongs from the first two matches. It was a completely different performance as Enrique’s men hammered Slovakia 5-0. Pedri was central to this improvement.
Pedri’s importance in Enrique’s system
The most notable aspect of Enrique’s reign as Spain manager is the complete rehaul of the national team with his selections. Several experienced players are no longer in the reckoning and a young core is the heartbeat of this team. Pedri is one of those young gems who has helped lift Spain to another level.
In Spain’s attacking 4-3-3 formation, Pedri operates on the left of a midfield trio as the most advanced midfielder. This position gets the best out of him as he seems to be at the heart of all the build-up. He operates cleverly in between the lines and in the half-spaces. These are dangerous positions where the starlet can receive the ball and create chances. He can also carry the ball forward himself from these positions. His dribbling and awareness are crucial in this phase.
However, what truly makes Pedri an invaluable asset to Enrique at such a tender age is his link-up play. Pedri combines well with Jordi Alba on the left-hand side and the forward who operates on the same area. Alba loves to go forward, where Pedri provides the necessary defensive cover.
As for Gerard Moreno in the game against Slovakia, we saw how Pedri swapped positions with Moreno to move wide on the left when Moreno tucked in alongside Morata as the second striker. The clever interchange of positions and understanding makes Spain much harder to read and defend against. It is no surprise that a larger portion of Spain’s attacks come from the left side.
Importance of Pedri to Spain’s campaign and what the future holds for him
In a group where Spain have enjoyed over 75% of the ball in all their matches, the qualities of Pedri have been on display for everyone to marvel over. His impeccable decision-making is an immense asset . His spatial awareness about the time and space he has upon receiving the ball helps him make the correct decision with regards to the kind of pass that needs to be played.
It is not very often that one would find Pedri forcing the ball into the final third prematurely. He is able to differentiate between the desire for patient build-up and direct in-behind long balls. There is no doubt about his ability to execute the same.
Spain and Pedri have enjoyed a lot of time on the ball against opponents who have allowed Spain to dictate play. However, as the tournament progresses, the quality of oppositions will naturally increase. As Spain prepare for the Round of 16 clash against Croatia, a thrilling midfield battle awaits us.
Pedri will be up against the likes of Luka Modric and Mateo Kovacic. Spain could potentially face Paul Pogba and N’golo Kante of France in the quarter finals as well. It will be interesting to see how Barcelona’s 18-year-old breakout star copes with the demands of international Football.
Without a doubt, Pedri has shown maturity beyond his years. His 52 appearances in all competitions for Barcelona are telling and he has now become the youngest Spaniard ever to have featured for the La Roja at the Euros. The future is immensely bright for him and Spain. His talent is not a secret anymore and the sky is truly the limit for Pedri Gonzalez.