Oscar Mingueza has recorded some promising minutes for Barcelona, and he was more than adequate on the ball. An excellent technique for a center-back, good vision and solid mechanics when on the ball; he raises the question can he be the new Pique? or just somebody holding the place for him, or even Eric Garcia.
I am going to show you a couple of examples of how from a purely tactical standpoint Mingueza is a reliable option, and yet also currently can be exposed. We understand that he is a young player learning his trait, and most of the time he is going to need help and guidance from his senior colleagues.
In his first matches as a professional player, you would expect him to be the guy needing help and approach in a way that allows the young player to step into the team comfortably. But instead, he looked comfortable and played more freely than expected considering the fact that he was trying to fill the void of Gerard Pique in his absence.
Oscar Mingueza vs Osasuna in the absence of Pique
Oscar Mingueza connected on 78 passes. Seventy-three of those attempts were short-distance ones, and five were long balls. No surprise here, he is good on the ball and Barcelona enjoys possession-based football. However, that ranks third in the team in successful passes – Messi, Griezmann, Coutinho all behind him in that category. If we look at the heat map, his movement resembles that of Pique. Moving up and assuming the position of an almost right-sided central midfielder.
When given the freedom to step up and look for his playmakers, he is very comfortable in that position. Another interesting statistic says that he is third in the team, also in total touches – 89. Again more than Messi, Griezmann, and Coutinho. Mingueza alone has over a fifth of the total touches vs Osasuna accumulated as a team.
He is good on the ball. Does not rush situations, plays a good ball, and has a decent vision. And all of those qualities are vital when the opposition is “parking the bus”, has a very narrow and tight shape and dares you to break through it.
Osasuna created a couple of half-chances, but their big opportunity came in the 67th minute when Mingueza tried to play his way out of trouble, short pass inside his own penalty box, intercepted and only the post saved the clean sheet for Barcelona.
You are 3:0 up and dominating. There are 25 minutes left. There is no need to gamble and try to keep possession so close to your goal and expose your team to danger. Passing the ball in that situation makes no sense. In Barcelona, the mentality to try that pass and be different is taught from the academy right through the first team every single day, and without world-class players on the pitch, you are prone to errors when put under pressure.
In simple words, Oscar Mingueza is a good fit for Barcelona, but we have no idea if he is a good defender. He has not been part of those games that turned Barcelona’s fortunes around like the ones in Rome and Liverpool where the team needed to defend and failed. He has the opportunity; we know he can do part of the job too.
We will not have the whole idea if he is the answer for Barcelona until those big games in the spring, but for now, he is a reliable solution in that spot. Oscar Mingueza has the necessary parts to fit nicely and find his way covered and protected by the style of play, passing ability, and opposition shape.
Oscar Mingueza and Clément Lenglet
Both Lenglet and Mingueza felt extremely comfortable on the ball and had chances to advance the play forward. Both heatmaps are from the games in Kiyv against Dinamo and yesterday’s game vs Osasuna.
Oscar Mingueza has the passing ability and the confidence on the ball to play in La Liga. With already an assist in the Champions League in another 4:0 cruise in Kyiv, he shows in each game that he grows more and he understands his role. Lenglet also felt pretty comfortable in sitting a bit deeper, coordinating the defense, and letting Mingueza enjoy the most of the ball and try to progress it forward.
It seemed like Ronald Koeman will rely on him for the time being as a partner to Lenglet, and they will form some stability at the back. And then Lenglet came down injured against Osasuna, so Oscar Mingueza will be tested immediately in the next couple of games as the leader of the defense. With more playing time and more opportunities to perform in the right system, we will have a pretty good idea if Barcelona found another diamond defender from La Masia.