It’s Official, Sergino Dest is a Barcelona player.

6 min read
Sergino Dest

Sergiño Dest is one of the many new generation American footballers that include – Christian Pulisic, Gio Reyna, Tyler Adams, Tim Weah, Josh Sargent, Weston Mckennie and Barcelona’s own la Masia graduate Konrad de la Fuerte, who enjoy important status at the big European clubs. Just like the rest, Dest is very technical and has a flair for dribbling that closely resembles their namesake further South.

Profile

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Sergiño Dest is a right-footed full-back born in Almere (23 miles from Amsterdam) who like many other complete full-backs of this generation, started as a left-sided inverting winger and moved lower down the pitch as he moved through the youth ranks finally settling as a full-back. Having signed his first professional contract for Ajax in December 2018 (With Jong Ajax), he quickly made it to the first team by the start of the next season playing in the Johann Cruijff shield against rivals PSV Eindhoven, where Ajax won 2-0.

But unlike the many players that left Ajax over the past two seasons, Dest was not a regular starter for his home club sharing duties with Morrocan Nasem Mazroui at right-back (sometimes even moving to left-back, showing great flexibility).

Sergino Dest  – In possession

He stays wide on the right during the build-up to increase the width of the pitch.

build-up wide
Always hugging the touchline during the build-up.
Sergino Dest's Heatmap
Sergino Dest’s Heatmap

One of the striking statistics for the flying full-back is that he observes twice the number of touches in the middle and attacking third as compared to the defensive third. This, among many such stats, explains the kind of positions that the American enjoys occupying.

middle 3rd

attacking 3rd
Dest occupies high and wide (hugging the touchline) on the right, with most of his touches coming in the opposition half.

However, his technical abilities allow him to exchange positions fluidly to drag markers and provide superiority for the team.

wide-inside 1

wide-inside 2
Intelligent movement from Dest to get out of the cover shadow and creating a passing line by horizontal inward movement from wide.

As forward moves wide to occupy space, Sergiño Dest makes an underlapping run after passing the ball through dragging the maker and creating a 1v1 situation (for the forward), while also arriving in a good position to receive from the forward.

pockets of space
After a quick one-two with Ziyech, Dest arrives in halfspace unmarked (after the defender doesn’t follow) for the latter to play the ball into the box.

At the same time, he is also capable of keeping width (as in the below pictures), he makes a diagonal run wide to drag a marker after passing the ball and providing a wide passing option for a cross.

diagonal run wide
Dest in the halfspace makes a diagonal run wide to drag the marker in the halfspace and give Ziyech space to dribble while providing a wide passing option.
dragging marker (wide-overlap)
With Ziyech in the halfspace, Dest makes an overlapping run wide to drag the marker and provide (a 3rd man) passing option in space.

These movements indicate his favourite give and go (also called one-twos) to help create superiorities wide and favourable conditions (positionally) for the team while coming out of cover shadows to always be in a position to receive from a teammate (with 90.2% success in receiving a pass meant for him).

half-space position
Halfspace positioning to receive the ball in space

Although he exhibits commendable off the ball intelligence, his abilities on the ball are meritorious. With three dribbles per game (and about 0.50 success rate), he enjoys getting out of tight situations by taking on the opponent directly especially using his nimble feet and springy change of pace.

This is especially useful for full-backs to create space and cross into the box. With his back to goal, he can feint (or drop his shoulder) to trick opponents, while in an underload situation he prefers simple acceleration (and step-overs at most) to run at the defence (about two progressive runs/90). In the Barcelona set-up, with Griezmann on the right playing as an inverted forward, having Dest to patrol the flank will be very exciting.

Dest secures a respectable 85% passing success rate with 0.78 progressive passes/90 and 0.15 key passes/90. In the final third, he enjoys floating crosses into the box, especially from a wide position with both feet.

cross 1
Typical movement of Full-back to the by-line with good acceleration
cross 2
Cross into the box at good speed and height to allow forwards to attack the ball

The most admirable trait in the final third is calmness and composure on the ball, and Dest does possess that in abundance. This is especially important for wide players who have to hold the ball for a fraction of a second longer for teammates to get into good positions to receive the cross without losing it. This is mostly seen when he varies the pace of crosses into the central zone with great accuracy (1.52 crosses/90 with 38% completion rate) even from small pockets of spaces or unlikely positions.

goal contribution (best u20)
(credits: Bogaluis youtube channel)
goal contribution vs barca-bayern
(credits: Bogaluis youtube channel)

Offensively, Dest is one of the best full-backs around, but defensively he gets beat-up. For the majority of the game, Dest played in the halfspaces due to Hakim Ziyech deployed in the right outer corridor. Whenever Dest used to trackback in case of transitions, he would lose a lot of 1v1 or was not able to defend. This is mainly due to his high positioning on the flanks, which leaves a lot of space in behind.

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Here during turnover, Dest is trying to win the ball from an Alkmaar forward, but his bad positioning, not able to interpret the situation makes it worse for him and AZ easily progress towards the goal Dest lost the ball within a second.

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Here, Dest was in the defensive line, and AZ player was reaching towards him. Naturally, he stepped out of his position to block his move, but he was poorly positioned. Instead of making a curved run to block a lateral passing option, he directly jumped over trying to make a last-ditch tackle. On his right, there was already an Ajax player who had an eye on the wide AZ player. This resulted in: The player on Dest left receiving the ball and almost a goal which just went wide.

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Another thing which we observed was his reliance on Ziyech. Whenever AZ got the possession and Ajax had time to organize, Dest was constantly in trouble to defend against the winger. Ziyech had to drop back ever so often and save Dest’s defensive frailties from getting exploited.

Dest 0.38 tackles+interceptions/90, which indicates his poor defensive intention, as he gives up the defensive line in fear of protecting the space behind him. One of the biggest reasons why there are very rare moments when Dest defends is due to the system in which Ajax players play. In Eredivisie, Ajax mostly has the ball throughout the 90min, and their major game plan relies on overloads in specific zones of the pitch(mostly the left-hand side or advance areas on the right which includes Ziyech predominantly).

Even if there is a moment of possessional lapse, Ajax’s strong double pivots fill up the space left by Dest. This is why it is hard to comment much about Dest in the defensive phase directly.

Conclusion

Sergino Dest

Dest has shown tremendous offensive potential for a 20-year-old. He can demonstrate well on the pitch via his on the ball skills and good coordination with the winger who plays on his side of the pitch. But defensively, it’s still a long way to go.

In La Liga, Barcelona always faces teams who hit them hard on transitions and with weakness in defensive part, Dest might face a lot of difficulties, but with time and experience, there is a glimmer of hope that he can learn about that aspect of the game and work hard on it. The young kid has signed a 5-year-deal with Barcelona, and the club has high hopes from him to deliver. 

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