Over the last seasons and when watching La Liga, we have noticed the outstanding performance of Athletic Club, both on the team level and even the players’ individual display.
Iñaki Williams is the most important talent that has emerged in recent years at Athletic Club and as one of the few who showed responsiveness and ability, he continued to participate and develop until he became among the most prominent players there.
Through this tactical analysis, we will try to review what the Spanish player has provided tactically and some statistical improvement with his team this season.
Williams has had consistency with his attacking contribution with Athletic between last season and the current season. He contributed to 20 goals for his team last season in 41 games, scoring 15 goals and assisted 5 goals, and so far this season he has had 10 goals and three assists during 34 games.
He has had an expected goal (xG) 0.25 value per game this season till now, compared with the whole last season had expected goal (xG) 0.34 value per game, but we have to take into consideration an important point, which is that the player isn’t constantly deployed in the position of the centre-forward but in some games on the left front of the attack line as a winger.
Inaki Williams has great awareness with vertical movements into the opponent’s penalty area and is often taking good positions to receive the ball from his teammates, and then combine it with his sharp ability in finishing, as we will see in the next examples.
Here we can see Iñaki Williams with an eye on the ball which is with Ander Capa on the right flank, and he goes on to get into the penalty area of Barcelona, as we notice his under-lap with Artiz Aduriz as the forward duo in the attacking line.
Notice how he moves according to the movement of the defenders and tries to exploit Samuel Umtiti’s blind spot to get in behind the defensive line.
Here we can see Iñaki Williams positioned on the near post in Barcelona’s area, and with a wonderful sense of where he is, after choosing not to go towards Clement Lenglet. He heads towards Sergio Busquets where he has a bigger chance of winning the duel, and he managed to head the ball. That shows us both his intelligence in choosing the correct positioning, which made him able to hit the header ball, as well as seeing the bad position of Barcelona’s defence.
Williams has 31 total shots in La Liga competition this season. With an average of 1.22 per game, and when we speak about Athletic, they are not among the teams which prefer possession on the ball, but rather they rely heavily on counter-attacks led by coach Gaizka Garitano.
With his top speed and his style of cutting inside the pitch, we can realise his ability in countering to exploit the free spaces behind the full-backs and go into the penalty area, as we will see.
Here we can see his vertical running to the Real Sociedad area, with great awareness and speed, when the ball with Iker Muniain who was waiting for the right time to play the through pass toward Iñaki Williams, as we can notice his advantage over the defenders because he sprints face-front while the defensive players try to turn with the consideration of the ball.
Here we can see his advantage to beat the defenders and that ability to go to the opponent’s area using his speed and to overcome the idea of the numerical superiority of the opponent’s players, as his move provided an opportunity for his teammate to pass. Williams has 2.13 progressive runs – compared with Vinícius Júnior, Real Madrid’s player, who has 5.8 progressive runs as the best in La Liga.
Iñaki Williams is moving distinctly on the sides, especially the right side, on his way to go to the penalty area, as we will see in the heat map for him this season.
This shows us the main places where Iñaki Williams moves on the pitch, and it’s all with sharp vertical movements into the opponent penalty area where he creates 2.67 shots per game this season in LaLiga.
Iñaki Williams has a good contribution in assisting goals to his colleagues also, using his style of play with dribbling and cutting inside from flanks, with an expected assist (xA) 0.9 value per game this season with consistency as last season where he had expected assist (xA) 0.8 value per game.
Iñaki Williams’ movements on flanks with ability to receive long passes from his teammates make him a great option in the transition phase, as he has received long balls at a rate of 1.85 per game. Besides that, his good vision and his team’s style of play suits him perfectly.
Here we can see Iñaki Williams Moving forward with awareness to be inside after the long ball from central midfielder Dani Garcia who played the vertical pass toward Williams.
Here we can see Williams’ ability to control the ball and play in the space again behind the opponent’s defence, taking advantage of his speed and his ability to dribble the ball and make the assist for his teammate. This tells us that his forward movement always allows for penetrating the opponents’ area.
Just as he has impressive offensive capabilities that he adds to his team, he has a defensive role when losing the ball.
Iñaki Williams has a specific role in Athletic’s defensive tactics, where he must have dropped off to the central third when the team loses the ball possession and makes pressing on the opponent’s player who has the ball in the centre.
In La Liga, this season Iñaki Williams has 298 times put pressure on the opponent player who carried the ball, 125 times of those in the central third, and 28 times in the defensive third, with his team style as aggressive with high pressure on the opposing team.
Iñaki Williams with the duty of contributing to his team in defensive shape as we will see in the next example.
Here we can see Iñaki Williams positioning as the player in his team defensive shape, when the ball with Seville team, specifically with Jesus Navas, with no direct pressure on him with the freedom to move in the space in front of him to penetrate the defence.
Here we note the return of Iñaki Williams and the pressure on Navas to make it difficult to play vertically from the Seville team within the third of the Athletic team.
He recovered the ball 42 times in the counter-pressing to gain possession to his team again, to serve his coach’s ideas to quickly return to put pressure on the opponent when losing the ball, as we will also see the location of all these interventions and restore the ball in the next image.
Here we see Williams managed to have 21 attempts to recover the ball in the last third of the field, which is half of the total number. Here, the most important and supreme role of the player within his defence system is highlighted to us.
Williams has pressed on the opponent players in the attacking third 145 times to make the build-up much harder for them as we will see in the next example.
Here we see Iñaki Williams pressing and upon analysis of his team’s structure, we see it’s a man-to-man defence, by pressing all Barcelona players to make the build-up phase much more difficult.
Here we see when Gerard Piqué resorted to passing to his goalkeeper, who in turn lost it when trying to pass it short to the midfielder, and we notice Iñaki Williams centring and the continuing pressure that made the ball come out like this.
Besides his offensive and his clear defensive roles, his performance is marred by some issues, which we will explore further in this tactical analysis.
Skills needing to be improved
It is true that Williams is one of the best-attacking players in the team and affects the offensive system in general, but there is a point that shows the improvement needed of the 25-year-old player in playing the cross balls.
Williams played this season seven games out of a total of 34 on the flank, which means he was often in a position to cross, especially since he always moves out wide anyway, but his correct percentage in playing those balls is not that great.
Iñaki Williams deployed 2.29 correct crosses per 90 with 36.21% accuracy, in contrast to the other wing fellow Ibai Gómez who has a percentage of playing crosses of 32.43% but with up to 4.78 per game.
Although Iñaki Williams is one of the most important players in the offensive side of the Basque team, alongside Raul Garcia and Iker Munain, he sometimes doesn’t contribute sufficiently.
Iñaki Williams blocked only 10 passes from the opponent this season and that showcased the bad awareness of him when the ball progressed in the defensive situation like in the next picture.
Here we see when all players of Athletic Club retreated in a defensive situation with the possession of Barcelona on the ball, with Sergio Busquets, who was preparing for a short turn in the direction of Lionel Messi, did not move Iñaki against the ball to cut off the pass.
Here we see the second goal of Real Betis against Athletic as the delay in returning from Williams helped Andre Capa on the right side and they could double down on the defenders as a result of that.
But this doesn’t hide that Iñaki Williams is one of the best players on the scene in Spain during the past seasons.
In this scout report, we tried to showcase Iñaki Williams’s great offensive capabilities, with his role in defensive shape, besides the things that need to be improved in the next period.