We all have in mind that image of Sergi Roberto down on the pitch, a shot with his right foot (he is a left-footed), his dancing steps, and his smile we’ve come to know from so many Latino players.
Hector Junior Firpo Andres – also known as Junior Firpo – is the left-back who every coach with issues on the left flank wants to bring into their team. This tactical analysis will use statistics to determine whether the current verdiblanco is an overrated player or not.
An atypical route
Before being the main target of Real Madrid and Manchester City to replace their current left-backs, Junior Firpo was a huge fan of baseball – like all Dominicans. Pedro Martinez, Manny Ramirez, and evidently Sammy Sosa were his idols. In a country where baseball is a religion, Junior Firpo dreamt of playing the sport when he was younger.
At six, he moved to Spain. His step-father sent him to a football academy to socialise with his classmates, and he was so bad at the beginning that he cried several times after the training.
With hard work, he rose the ranks of some small teams in Andalusia until the Betis’ scouts found him and brought him to the club at 18 years old.
In 2017, he became the fourth Dominican footballer to play in the La Liga after Heinz Barmetter (Valladolid, 2013), Tano Bonnin (Osasuna, 2016) and Marinao Diaz (Real Madrid, 2017). However, he is the first player actually born in Dominica to play in La Liga. An hour after his first game, all the island went crazy. He even received a call from the Dominican media, who told him of how proud his fellow countrymen were.
Hector Junior Firpo Andres: the 22-year old left-back that doesn’t have plenty of experience in La Liga. Last season, he played 14 games in La Liga (all starting) scoring twice and offering two assists. However, after being blighted by injury, Firpo was rendered out-of-action for a large portion of the 2018/18 season.
The current season
This season, he has completed 496 passes in 16 league games, tallying a passing accuracy of 82.1%. He has completed with six shots on the target (50 %) and has averaged 1.7 dribbles per game. Junior Firpo has also averaged 1.0 shots per game, while Real Madrid’s Marcelo and Barcelona’s Jordi Alba have managed 1.3 and 0.5 respectively.
He was matched up directly against Jesus Navas in the derby of Sevilla. After the game, Betis extended his contract to 2023 with a clause fixed at €50m.
Still, Firpo played his best football at the Camp Nou in a 4-3 win over Barcelona. He was the cause of three of four goals, he proved that he can be more than just a left-back. He has already played with the U21 Spanish team back in September, and it’s not a secret he wants to play for la Roja – like a certain Mariano Diaz. With him, Luis Enrique has an occasion to move apart Jordi Alba definitively.
Style of play
Betis this season have on average 60.9% of possession. They rely on a 3-5-2 system and a midfield with high technical potential. The Betis front line always provide forward passing options through their opponent’s midfield, as the seemingly evergreen Joaquin and Loren Moron maintained a central presence.
From here, wing-backs Cristian Tello and Junior Firpo support in wide areas, as the deeper midfielders – William Carvalho and Andres Guardado – can pick central passes to split the opponent midfield. In this system, the Dominican tallies 0.3 crosses per game, a rather poor number in my opinion. However, Quique Setien doesn’t ask his full-backs to cross as much as a side like Real Madrid.
After the consecutives failures of Fabio Coentrao and Theo Hernandez – along with Marcelo’s recent muscle strain – Real Madrid were forced to step into the market a bit earlier than they would have wished with the objective to replace their 30-year old left-back. Knowing that David Alaba is more complicated to hire and Raphael Guerreiro totally fits in at Borussia Dortmund, Los Blancos have reportedly chosen Junior Firpo as their main target.
Statistics prove that his defensive contributions are more important than big names such as Alba, Marcelo, Hernandez or Filipe Luis.
He can also handle himself accordingly in aerial duels. His 1.84m height has helped him average 1.5 successful aerial duels per game. Whereas Marcelo and Jordi Alba, both shorter than him, averaged less than one.
Judging by his style of play, Junior Firpo seems like an adequate left-back to replace Marcelo. Fortunately, he has the characteristics similar to Roberto Carlos and Marcelo – on his good day. But it’s not enough to succeed in a big European team like Real Madrid. There is no comparison between starting a UEFA Champions league match and a Europa League game in Benito Villamarin: even if it’s against Milan.
Managed by Media Base, Pere Guardiola’s agency, the English newspapers have linked him to Manchester City. Out of City and Madrid – the latter seems more probable. Although, he has to be consistent with the Green & White in order to become one of the best at his post.
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