Talking Tactics

New signings: Firpo tailor-made for Bielsa's system

By Adrian Clarke 26 Jul 2021

Adrian Clarke says versatile left-back has skills to succeed at both ends of the pitch for Leeds

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Adrian Clarke analyses players who have changed clubs this summer and can make an impact in 2021/22.

Junior Firpo (LEE)

Leeds United's new left-back looks tailor-made for a side managed by Marcelo Bielsa.  

The 24-year-old has tremendous work-rate and is reported to have topped previous club Barcelona's fitness tests last season.

Performing for a team that easily led the Premier League rankings for distance covered and sprints in 2020/21, his high levels of athleticism are essential at Elland Road.  

Versatility a huge plus 

From a tactical perspective, Firpo's versatility makes him a good fit for Leeds.   

He can play as a left-back, a left wing-back, at right-back, or in the centre of defence, providing the head coach with a wealth of strategic options.  

Firpo's first Leeds interview

With his best position being at left-back, he is able to move further infield and pop up in central areas.

When Bielsa opts to switch to a 3-3-3-1 formation, it should be seamless for Firpo to join in as part of a midfield or back three.  

Firpo arrives in Yorkshire having spent a couple of seasons as Jordi Alba's understudy at Barcelona.

Making only three starts last term, and 11 the season before, it is difficult to appraise his performance levels at the Nou Camp.

His performances for Real Betis in 2018/19 arguably provide the clearest indication of his attacking style of play.

Firpo rank among LaLiga full-backs 2018/19
  Junior Firpo Rank
xG per 90 0.10 3rd
xG and xA per 90 0.24 3rd
Ball carries for a direct goal involvement 3 3rd

Only two full-backs in Spain's top flight had more expected goals; and the same applied to Opta's Expected Goals (xG) and Expected Assists (xA) combined.

Forward threat

Happy to travel with the ball, Firpo also makes up ground very effectively down the left.

In 2018/19, his last season as a regular starter, Jesus Navas and Jordi Alba were the only LaLiga full-backs to record more direct goal involvements after a successful ball carry.

During his 286 minutes of league action for Barcelona last term, Firpo boasted an 89.7 per cent pass accuracy and will provide Bielsa with an upgrade on last season’s left-back options.

Following Ezgjan Alioski's departure, the versatile Stuart Dallas will almost certainly be used more often in central midfield.

But in Firpo, they have a natural left-sided defender who will provide quality and offer a new dimension to the team.

See: Talking Tactics: New signings for 2021/22

Add Junior Firpo (£5.0m) to your Fantasy Premier League squad

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