During his time in Italy, Álex Berenguer has been gradually making the transition from a modern full-back into an attacking midfielder. Many of his pre-existing traits were transferable to become an attacking midfielder, though that is not to say he did not have his struggles (and still does) in becoming an effective asset in the final third. Having been a squad player since arriving at Torino, would this be the season he would become an undisputed first-team regular?
Through an analysis of his performances this season, we will discover how he has performed under Walter Mazzari, and how he altered his style of play to suit the tactics of new manager Moreno Longo in February. In the two seasons before this one, Berenguer had shown the ability to take the game to his opponent and help his team up the field, with only his final third composure letting him down. What we will detail in this scout report is how much progress he has made this season in every vital aspect for an attacking midfielder.
In this tactical analysis, we will deconstruct Berenguer’s performance across the 2019/20 season, how he was improved, and where he can improve upon.
Style of play
The Spaniard is an agile attacking midfielder who likes to dribble often, getting on the ball in key areas and taking it past his opponent to progress his team into the final third. His flair and technique are notable, as they are useful attributes to have to create a chance or to break down a defence out of nothing, despite the pressure he may receive.
As much as he likes to attempt take-ons, he is a player that likes to do layoffs and combine with his teammates, to break down a tight defence or even a low-block. He is always looking for an avenue to move the ball on to his teammates, continuously attempting ambitious passes. When it comes to Torino’s style of play this season, he seems to fit fairly well. He is a player his teammates are constantly looking for in attacking positions, especially in the latter moments of the game, when they are looking for a moment of magic from him.
Torino are a side which like to play long balls and play most of their football down the wings. Though, as a unit, they struggle to keep possession, a lot of the time due to their preference to play direct, long balls. Mazzari’s and Longo’s favoured formations were some variants of a back-three formation. This fits Berenguer’s strengths to a varying degree, depending on where he is played. They usually attempt crosses with frequency, but he is generally quite useful in getting the balls to the locations where a player can cross the ball.
Passing and build-up
Torino do not focus on playing possession football. They prefer to attack at pace through the use of direct, long balls. They are quite inconsistent when it comes to finding their desired target though. Their passing is often inaccurate or sometimes is intercepted by an opponent, which altogether makes for a passing accuracy of 78.5%.
Berenguer generally wanders around in the centre of the pitch, occasionally drifting to the left-wing for support from his teammates. The Spaniard helps during the build-up and is always looking to receive the ball so he can progress the ball up the field with his dribbling, and potentially create an opportunity for himself or one of his teammates. His passing activity is mostly concentrated up and down the middle of the pitch, when deeper it is usually an avenue for him to get past a defender, when further forward, it tends to be an attempted through ball or key pass. Although Torino most often attack down the wings, the left-wing in particular, Berenguer is used to drive through the centre of the pitch and move the ball out to the wings. This is how they often distribute the ball to the final third.
He begins to dribble from inside his half, looking to move in-field.
As he receives pressure from multiple opponents, he lays off the ball to his teammate on the wing, who could then deliver a cross towards a teammate, who now only has a single marker.
His dribbling invites pressure to his location, which has its benefits and drawbacks, which we will detail later. He sometimes finds himself drifting out to the left-wing to get a touch on the ball, as he can be bypassed when he is in the middle of the pitch. Which is a shame, as we will discuss, his best work comes down the middle of the pitch.
Impact on their attacking approach and defensive contribution
As mentioned, depending on the variant of the back-three formation, Torino’s style of play can fit Berenguer really well. Due to this experience as a defender, he is capable of producing a strong defensive contribution, and his evolution into a forward has seen him improve in every attacking aspect.
Thanks to his solid decision making, he is a useful player in 1 on 1 duels when it comes to the defensive side of his game. He uses his pace to his advantage when it comes to recoveries, and sneaks behind the oppositions backs to steal the ball off them.
This scenario is actually a Torino attack, but the ball is overhit by Berenguer’s teammate.
As soon as the opponent intercepts the ball, Berenguer places pressure upon him. Despite his efforts, the opponent keeps the ball and passes back to the goalkeeper.
His defensive contribution and capabilities have seemingly diminished over the years as he has been altering his game to become a forward. What could once be classified as a strength in his game, has now become a certified weakness. Although he has shown the capability of being reliable in 1 on 1 defensive duels, he now struggles to snatch the ball off the opposition. Evidence of this can be seen in his 42% tackle success rate, which compares weakly to fellow Serie A attacking midfielders, such as Cagliari forward João Pedro with a 70% tackle success rate.
This season, he has a greater impact in front of goal, though. His off-the-ball movement is not always the greatest, which does not lead him into finding himself strong shooting opportunities all too often. His strong finishing this season, though, has allowed him to score from opportunities you may not typically expect him to finish from. This has led him to greatly outperforming his xG90 of 0.07 by scoring goals at a rate of 0.14 goals per 90 minutes.
Here, we see him (#21) enter the box, ready to receive the ball. We can also see a defender (#26) move into a space to intercept the eventual shot.
As he receives pressure from his left, he naturally turns his back towards said pressure. He also waits a moment before striking the ball, to fool the defender to cover a path of the ball, instead opting to shoot in the bottom-right corner, and scoring.
When it comes to his dribbling actions, this is where he excels. Of course, he has improved in many attacking areas, but his ability to take on an opponent always has been, and likely always will be, his strongest attribute. Through analysis, we can see that his dribbling actions tend to be his most important actions of the game, as they will progress Torino up the pitch when they struggle to keep possession, which is regular. He offers a different element for the opposition to contend with, which is important when breaking down a defence.
He receives the ball and begins to take long strides with the ball at his feet. Utilising his acceleration, he bursts past all the defenders nearby.
In this position, he has a few options, including running to the byline and cutting it back, or cutting inside and going for a shot. Thanks to skill and pace, he does the latter, to great success.
He is more than a competent dribbler and for that reason, he decides to dribble with frequency. He completes 2.8 dribbles per 90 minutes, which places him fourth amongst all players in Serie A.
Given all of his offensive efforts this term, Berenguer is still not considered a first-team regular, placing 14th in the Torino squad for minutes played. Though in the minutes he has played, he has impressed more than many of his compatriots. He brings a different, and unique dynamic for Torino with his dribbling, which is a valuable attribute to have. Although he still struggles to entirely understand the tactics he is set by his coaches, his ability to take on his opponent is worth something in this market. With Athletic Bilbao interested in the Spaniard’s services, perhaps he would become more comfortable in his home country.