Long Reads

Sergio Reguilón: Who is Tottenham’s Latest Signing?

Tottenham are set to sign a marauding left-back, who excels at bombing down the channel and whipping a ball across the box. In his career, he has found success against Inter Milan. The North London club are in a position to re-sign Gareth Bale this summer, although it is the signing of Real Madrid left-back Sergio Reguilón that should give the fans a greater sense of encouragement.

A product of Real Madrid’s enviable youth academy since the age of 8, Reguilón was nurtured at Real Madrid until 2015, when he joined Segunda Division B side, UD Logroñés on loan. Despite his youth, Reguilón excelled in Logroño.

Indicatively, Reguilón impressed his parent club, 18 months on from his spell in northern Spain, the full-back was starting for Real Madrid’s first team. In the 2018/19 season Reguilón played 15 times for Real Madrid, as he tussled with Marcelo for the left full-back slot.

The leap from a struggling side in the third tier of Spanish football, to starting for one of the biggest European clubs in such a short time, may have surprised some. But Reguilón former team-mates at UD Logroñés had no doubts about where his career would head. Miguel Martinez told MARCA that, “Hundreds of players come out of Castilla to Segunda B.” But, players fail to make the grade, as “they don’t have the conviction to succeed.” Reguilón was different. Former UD Logroñés captain Cesar Ramon said that Reguilon “forced his way in the team.”

Reguilón steely determination aided him in much the same way at Real Madrid, but with the departure of Santiago Solari and the arrival of Zinedine Zidane, the full-back soon found opportunities hard to come by.

With the signing of Ferland Mendy last summer, Reguilón was sent on loan to Sevilla. Qualification for the Champions League, and triumph in the Europa League marked an excellent season for the Andalusian club. Similarly, Reguilón had his most successful campaign so far.

Going forward, Reguilón is one of the most exciting full-backs in Spain. In Lopetegui’s 4-3-3 system, the full backs overlap the wingers to create overloads out wide; unless the left-winger is already positioned outside, then Reguilón will make an under lapping run inside.

Thanks to his 5’8″ height, quick speed, and low centre of gravity, Reguilón progressed the ball, through dribbling, nearly 6,000 yards. Only 8 other players in La Liga progressed the ball more. Furthermore, Reguilón 1.43 successful dribbles per 90, heavily outscores Tottenham’s Ben Davies’ 0.48 successful dribbles per 90.

Importantly, Reguilón is also largely effective when he reaches the final third. The Spaniard’s 1.47 key passes per 90 was the 5th highest of any La Liga defender.

Sevilla were one of the most possession-based teams in the league last season. As we can see from his high volume of key passes per 90, Reguilon has an eye for a pass. But a 79.7% pass accuracy could be improved on. Despite this, Sevilla’s full-backs role on the ball is to either progress the ball out of defence in tight spaces, or to provide attacking impetus – typical actions that can lower pass completion.

The ‘high-risk/high-reward’ nature of Sevilla’s full-backs is typified by the large amount of crosses they put into the box. Navas amassed the most in the league (193). Although Reguilón managed only half as many he was still the 7th most prevalent crosser in La Liga. The Spaniard has been the most successful when sliding a low ball across the box. In fact, 3 of his 5 assists in all competitions last season came through low balls drilled in from the left-hand side of the box.

But, ultimately a defender will be judged on how they perform in stopping the opposition, particularly one under Jose Mourinho’s management.

Reguilón 1.18 successful tackles per 90 may not seem overly combative, but considering how much possession Sevilla had last season (58.4%), then naturally defenders will make less tackles. In Lopetegui’s system, Reguilón will often push up and press the opposition right back, or right midfielder, whilst Jesus Navas remains in a more conservative position. Reguilón high-octane style of play can be beneficial in pressing to win the ball back – he completed more than double the amount of tackles and interceptions than Navas last season. Despite this, his eagerness to win the ball, can lead to better opponents playing the ball around him, and then leaving the left-side of Sevilla’s defence exposed. This is highlighted by Reguilón mediocre 46% tackle completion, when facing dribbling players – 4% lower than Navas’ total.

Reguilón small height and lean frame also means that he can be dominated aerially. A 55% success rate in aerial duels is competent. But, this is a significant downgrade on Ben Davies, who won over 65% of his aerial duels last season. That being said, with the role of the full-back evolving higher up the pitch, Reguilón will hope he will not be exposed too much in the air in the coming seasons.

It appears that Tottenham are getting one of the best left-backs in La Liga. A reported £25m fee represents excellent business for the club. The one question is over how Jose Mourinho will new acquisition?

In his time at Tottenham so far, Mourinho has commonly deployed a 4-3-2-1, using a right wing-back to support the attack, whilst left-back Ben Davies stays in a more defensive position to form a back three.

It seems improbable that Mourinho would be willing to deploy two attacking wing-backs, in Reguilón, and the newly-signed Matt Doherty in a back four. Not only does it go against his more conservative style of play, but also Tottenham’s central defenders aren’t quick enough to cover for their full-backs high positioning.

A potential solution would be to use Ben Davies as a third centre-back in a back three, who would cover Reguilón’s channel. Tottenham would benefit from the vivaciousness and attacking quality of Reguilón, whilst largely negating his frailty in the air, and his overly-ambitious pressing.

Undoubtedly, the rumours of Gareth Bale’s return to north London are gaining the media’s attention. But, it would be naive to overlook the significance that Sergio Reguilon will have on this Tottenham team. If he can translate his form for Sevilla into the Premier League, then Spurs fans may be worshipping a different left-footer than they would have imagined at the start of the season.

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