Barcelona’s team is going through a volatile season in terms of performance and results, during the reigns of both former coach Ernesto Valverde, and when Quique Setién took over the job last January.
Despite this, Barcelona lead La Liga at the moment, thanks to the many distinguished players they have in all positions, and among them is the Chilean international Arturo Vidal.
Through this tactical analysis, we will try to review what the Chilean player has provided tactically to his team this season, along with some of his statistics.
Arturo Vidal showcased his great defensive abilities with Barcelona this season whenever he was given the chance to be a part of the squad at many times, both under coach Ernesto Valverde, and then when Quique Setién took over the job.
When Barcelona play in their usual 4-3-3 formation, the three central midfielders always have various roles in the team’s defensive shape, regardless of whether the ball is in the possession of Barcelona or the opponents, as we will see in this tactical analysis.
Arturo Vidal is one of the players who make the most recoveries, snatching the ball from the opposition at a rate of 5.5 per game. Out of the total of 182 times he recovered the ball, 120 of them happened in the final and middle thirds of the pitch, serving the ideas of Quique Setién who preferred to use high-blocks in the defensive phase in his tactics as we will see that in the next examples.
Here we can see Arturo Vidal getting forward to the final third, when the ball is with Ousmane Dembele at the left flank, and taking the good position to be an option to receive the ball or press on his opponent wherever his team lost the ball.
Here we can see Arturo Vidal’s reaction when the ball was lost to Sevilla’s De Jong – he tackles to take the ball back and brings it to Barcelona’s possession, as his position and movement made his team continue on the offensive after the challenge.
Arturo Vidal succeeds in tackles by more than 67% this season in the league, he used the tackles 39 times to recover the ball, with great concentration specifically in the middle and final third, which serves Barcelona’s philosophy a lot, especially in recovering the ball quickly from its loss, so that the team continues to gain possession while trying to create opportunities.
He also exerts pressure on opponents during the build-up phase of the game, as he is the third-most player who did this in the team after Sergio Busquets and Antoine Griezmann, where he pressed 310 times, including 77 in the last third of the field and 148 times in the middle third, as we’ll see the importance of that in the next example.
Here we can see Arturo Vidal’s positioning in the build-up phase for Seville as he moves to cut the ball passes and make the Andalusian team suffer at the beginning of the attack which made the Seville team resort to a vertical ball and return possession to Barcelona.
Arturo Vidal is strongly present in the space between his team’s defensive line and his offensive line, making a lot of effort to become a pass-maker or even cut the ball from opponents, as we will see in the heat map of his moves.
We can see the effort exerted by the player, whether he is in possession of the ball or is running to recover it, and despite his advanced age, Arturo Vidal has an abundance of energy that clearly benefits Barcelona’s tactics, especially their defence.
Arturo Vidal has a great percentage of defensive duels won and that helped his team to get the possession back from the first third on the pitch up to 9.37 times per game as the ninth-most in the list of players of the Spanish league. We will see his concentration and his strength over in the next example.
Here in this scene, we can see the vertical ball from Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Jan Oblak, which Alvaro Morata was able to return with a header to his colleague Joao Felix, and we have to note Arturo’s concentration to track back and engage in a duel.
Here, when the ball was headed from Morata to Joao, he went quickly to win the ball back so his good positioning allowed Barcelona to restore the ball and prevent the opponent from attacking the half-spaces between Sergei Roberto and Gerard Pique.
Arturo Vidal has great defensive capabilities, but he also has a distinct attacking role in the event of Barcelona’s possession of the ball.
We can talk about Arturo Vidal in the offensive part of Barcelona in two stages – before the departure of Ernesto Valverde and after that, accompanied by Quique Setién.
But in general, we are talking about a supporting pivot player who plays a distinctive offensive role by scoring six goals and assisting three to colleagues, and this shows well both with the first coach and the second, as he has an expected goals (xG) value of 0.54 per game, and that will appear clearly under Ernesto Valverde in the next examples.
Arturo Vidal during the period of Ernesto Valverde was always a midfielder closer to the midfield circle, approaching the opponent’s area, as we see in this picture the ball reaches it horizontally and passes it to Lionel Messi, and then decides to go off vertically.
Here we see Arturo’s move in a vertical way that created a solution to strike the defence of the Valladolid team through a cross by Lionel Messi over the defence block, accompanied by Luis Suárez’s move to “zone 14” which helped occupy the defenders. Vidal’s launch made it possible to score the goal.
Arturo Vidal in this scene was the “free-man” as well, as all of his teammates are closely marked by the opponent’s defenders, and he became the option to pass and confuse the defensive shape of the opponent.
Vidal’s vertical movement is frequently repeated here. We can see his position in the space between the left-back and the wing relative to the opponent, and Barcelona use that movement as this gives a solution for players as an option for passing while confusing the defending players in terms of expanding or narrowing the pitch to close the passes.
Here we can see him taking the right position to receive the pass from Luis Suarez and succeed to score the goal. We can see in the analysis that Vidal always moves in a vertical way, as was particularly characteristic of the player under the leadership of Ernesto Valverde as one of the three midfielders he depended on when using a 4-3-3 system.
As for his role after Quique Setién took over as Barcelona coach, his role seemed somewhat diversified, taking advantage of his capabilities to pass the balls properly by up to 90%, but as Suarez was also injured and absent from the team for a long time, the coach decided to adopt Vidal in a new position for him, closer to the attacking midfielder or the wing and we will see that in the next example.
Here we can see Vidal’s positioning when Suarez was absent due to the injury. Vidal becomes a false striker, causing problems and more burden for the opponent’s centre-backs.
Above, the ball was with Riqui Puig on the left side, and we see Vidal move to become a solution in receiving the ball, thus confusing the calculations of the heart of the defence of the Granada team by occupying the space and moving in and around the box.
His great understanding with Lionel Messi is glorified in this shot, as he received the ball from Griezmann and played with the heel of the foot to put Messi on his waves and scored after a decisive Chilean pass.
With 2.3 expected assists (xA) this season and 0.60 chance-creating actions per game, Arturo Vidal had great performance especially in tactics of two coaches who took charge of Barcelona.
Despite Arturo Vidal’s distinctive capabilities, either on the defensive or offensive side, his way of playing does have some negative points.
One of Vidal’s most important problems lies in committing the fouls in front of opponents in player-to-player situations where he commits fouls by 1.7 per match. Vidal has strong interference with competitors, which can lead to violence at times, which in turn can lead to cards.
Here we can see his violent intervention on Inter Milan‘s Niko Barilla on the ankle in an attempt to cut the ball, but luckily for Barcelona, he did not reach the area to gift the opposition a penalty from the referee.
Another problem for Arturo Vidal is his loss of the ball, specifically many times in the middle or final third of the pitch, where he lost the ball 234 times, as we will see in the next scene.
His loss of the ball, especially in the offensive third, is very clear because he does not have a successful dribbling in the final third rate – 0.22 per game, which means that he suffers a lot in individual situations when he has the ball in the front third for Barcelona.
Another problem is his age, as he is close to 33 years. Combined with the large number of injuries he suffered, the most important part of his player profile, which is his physical side, is bound to be affected.
However, what was mentioned previously does not completely reduce Vidal’s efforts, both offensive and defensive, within the team.
In this scout report, we tried to show Arturo Vidal’s great defensive capabilities and support for his team’s attacking system, besides some of his weaknesses.
Even though he is slowly ageing and can be harsh in his challenges, the Chilean international is still a fantastic asset to Barcelona. Still, it remains to be seen what the future holds for him in the summer transfer window.