Diego Lainez is the latest Mexican youngster who has moved to the European competitions recently from Club America as he joined Real Betis in La Liga in the middle of last season. Despite the few minutes he has gotten so far, both in the second half of last season and up until the current season before the break, Lainez has shown great talent.
Through this tactical analysis, we will try to review what the player has provided tactically and show the statistical improvement in the Andalusian team with him in it.
Style of play
Real Betis are playing under the Spanish coach Rubi who favours using a 4-1-4-1 formation with two wingers able to go forward in possession of the ball and insists on quickly getting the ball back upon losing it.
Diego Lainez is always there on the flanks and he has participated in 13 games with Betis this season, including 12 games on both flanks, showing his great versatility. We can see where Diego prefers to operate on the wings in his heat map during this season, and that can tell us more about his movement and positioning.
Here we can see Lainez’s movements on the pitch, on both sides of the box, and in the half-spaces beside “zone 14”. It’s important to note that this is the area where he mostly receives the ball and has done so 116 times this season. Among them, 106 of them were in the space between the middle third and the offensive third of a team.
With Real Betis’ tactics putting an emphasis on the build-up from the back, Lainez drops off to participate with the players in the build-up, as we can see this in the next example which will provide further analysis on this.
Here we can see Lainez dropping off to his team’s first third of the pitch, where Marc Bartra, the centre-back of Betis, has the ball and moves it forward to the central midfielder Edgar Gonzalez, with Athletic applying high pressure. But by committing men forward, Yuri Berchiche, the left-back of the team, leaves a lot of space to be exploited behind him.
Lainez’s presence in that area forced Unai Lopez, the Athletic midfielder, to press forward to apply pressure, which meant leaving the left side without the two key players for defensive coverage as neither he nor Berchiche were there anymore.
Here, with just two passes alongside Diego’s move into the free space, he managed to capture the ball and lead a promising attack on the right side, ending with a goal for his team. We see that his movements across the pitch and his great spatial awareness made it all possible for his team.
Despite the fewer minutes that Lainez got to play this season compared to last season (he played only 207 minutes this season in La Liga – 140 less than last season’s total), he showed an improvement, especially in individual situations and isolated scenarios.
As Diego has a successful dribbling rate of up to 58%, it surpasses the percentage of last season that reached 54.2%, and this shows development for a young man who is still at the beginning of the road in the European leagues with a lot of confidence.
When we talk about him, we must also talk about a flexible and kinetic player who can position himself well in his team’s tactics when his team owns the ball, especially on the flanks, taking advantage of the individual skill he possesses.
He can boast with 5.9 progressive runs per game and 80% of successful passes, which always comes after running for distances to help his team advance into the opponent’s area. We can see that in the next example.
Here we can see Diego in an individual duel against Atletico Madrid‘s Renan Lodi and Thomas Lemar, but the young Mexican has a lot of mobility that makes him emerge victorious from a numerically inferior position. Seeing how the opposition have him outnumbered 3 v 1, we can add the touchline as an additional competitor since it heavily limits his options and area of movement.
And yet he successfully beats his markers and advances the ball into the box with his piercing run and great dribbling abilities, both of which are clear weapons in his vast arsenal.
Now it can become clear to us that his skill in cutting inside makes him put his team in a suitable position during the possession of the ball, as he has more than one choice – either to shoot or pass. Unfortunately, perhaps due to the lack of experience, he ultimately didn’t end up making the right decision.
We can talk about an example of his positioning when his team loses the ball, where he holds the line with midfield players in an area closer to the right-back, which is where he will mostly be positioned without the ball. Besides that, Lainez mustered 16 defensive duels, and has won nine times and lost six in the first third of the field, while also recovering 28 balls from the opponent, including eight in the final third.
Here we see the defensive contribution from Lainez in the first third of the pitch in his team’s tactics, where he gives support for his teammates during the defensive situation horizontally and makes a double block with right-back Emerson and his teammate beside him to close the channels.
Using his individual skills alongside his flexibility and moving smartly in the final third is how Diego prefers to play, and perhaps that is a good introduction for us to talk about how he supports the team even further offensively.
If we talked about Diego’s offensive capabilities as just numbers, this would be considered a great injustice for a player who has great offensive skills but did not participate much or even obtain significant game minutes. We can, however, say that he supports the offensive team with his good positioning in the final third.
Lainez had the same expected goals (xG) ratio of up to 0.7 per game this season as the last one. We can attribute this to his constant aspiration to concentrate in the half-spaces on the area of the opponent’s penalty area when his team has the ball, or even during penetration from the flanks, as we will see in the following examples.
Here we can see Lainez positioning himself between the left-back and centre-back when his team builds up with the ball. This allows him to either pin the defenders back and allow his team a smoother progression, or identify and exploit free pockets of space through his runs.
Sometimes that will mean changing the direction of his run to lose the marker, and sometimes it will just be a darting run in-behind, with or without the ball at his feet. But he is often seen in multiple different roles across the final third.
Here, he works as a second striker to give more depth in attack for his team, while Emerson, the Brazillian right-back, stretches the pitch on the flank.
We can see Lainez exploiting the spaces well between the lines for Athletic, and receiving the ball in a danger area. This gives him many options – either shoot or pass the ball to Joaquin on the left side, and we can conclude that he always knows where to position himself in the final third of the pitch when in possession.
Lainez is very good at carrying the ball. He carried the ball with his runs 97 times this season and went to the opponent’s area with an expected assist (xA) ratio up to 0.4. He has great vision to pass for his teammates, as we will see in the following example.
Here, after he went to the final third of the pitch, he managed to create the space for his teammate, Borja Iglesias, to create a pass that put him in a great position to score the goal.
Lainez cuts inside, making the Uruguayan defender José Jiménez leave his position in the centre of defence to meet the young man in an advanced area to try to cut the ball, and this created the space for the Betis striker to move and receive the ball.
Diego’s offensive movements make him special and can even resemble the ones the Barcelona star Lionel Messi makes – especially in his constant requests for the ball in the final third of the field, and by being available to receive the ball inside the penalty area specifically, as we can see in the Copa del Rey match that is shown below.
Here we can see the ball is with Borja Iglesias and he is looking for a lead pass to the penalty area of the opponent when Diego is coming to penetrate the penalty area with intelligent movements, to be an option to receive the ball.
Here we see that Diego’s continuous movements vertically to the opponent’s penalty area allows him to arrive in a place that favours his team heavily. And moving in this way always confuses the opposing defender who is facing him, which leads to fear of committing fouls due to speed and skill of Lainez.
Aside from the Mexican youth’s style of play or offensive moves, he does have some weaknesses and this is normal for a player of his age.
The 19-year-old Mexican has some problems with his performances, and this has appeared since he went to the Spanish League from Mexico since that mid-winter.
One of the first things the young Mexican needs to do is adapt to the new way of playing and the tactics of his new team, as explained by his colleague and fellow Real Betis player Andrés Guardado.
Andres said in earlier press statements, “I told him that perhaps he came tactically distracted, very disordered. What they told him to do tactically he did not do. He has been learning that and grasping the key concept.”
The arrival of the young Mexican from Club America to Spain was also accompanied by a lot of hopes and dreams, and he hopes to achieve something that he worked hard for.
But besides the adaptation factor to the atmosphere and the tactics, the player who has a height of 5.5 feet can’t win much air duels, although he is trying to do so, albeit mostly unsuccessfully.
But it’s also his decision-making that can sometimes be questioned, as we will analyse in the examples below.
Here we can see Diego received the pass from his teammate Emerson on the right flank, where Betis started the build-up, but Lainez, trapped by an Athletic duo, then opted for a riskier and far more complicated decision.
Instead of passing the ball to one of his teammates in the back and returning from the first third to start the attack again, we find that he decided to advance despite the opposition having numerical superiority, and then lost the ball in his attempt.
Losing the ball to the opposing team is one of the player’s most key problems, and this is perhaps due to a lack of focus when he takes possession of the ball, as we can see in the next picture.
Here we can see the places where Diego lost the ball, in which he lost it 95 times, including 54 times in the final third, in a place where he is forced to make a decision quickly, which has not happened many times.
In his team’s patterns of play, as we saw in this scout report, Diego Lainez can still turn into one of the most important players when it comes to creating goalscoring chances because of his playing style and his ability to move in the final third. But he also has to work on some points that will increase his offensive capabilities as well as adding more to the team in the defensive manner as well.