Real Betis have finally found their replacment for their former number 6, Fabian Ruiz in recently-announced Argentina midfielder Giovani Lo Celso. The 22 year old joins Quique Setien’s side initially on a season-long loan. Real Betis have the option to take the Paris Saint Germain player on a permanent basis at the end of the season and have a €30 milliion purchase option inserted in the deal.
A few weeks ago, we assessed the best options to replace Fabian Ruiz, who has left for pastures new, joining Carlo Ancelotti in Naples. Today, we reassess some of these contenders against new arrival Lo Celso.
As you can see in the infographic comparison (big thanks to our friends at Squawka), we have compared Real Betis’ most influential centre midfielders over the past three seasons. Dani Ceballos from 2016/17, before his move to Real Madrid, Fabian Ruiz last season and Sergio Canales, who has been used by Setien in this role so far this season is also assessed, using his stats from last season with Real Sociedad. Lastly, Giovani Lo Celso, who will be expected to fill the void left behind by Fabian Ruiz is investigated, using his stats from last season with Paris Saint Germain in Ligue 1.
In the key stats picked out in this assessment, Giovani Lo Celso stands up in high regard; topping his competitors here by being the highest rated in three different categories. Namely; pass completion rate, total passes and tackles won per 90 minutes.
Such values are clearly needed in this Real Betis team. As mentioned in the match report after El Gran Derbi 1-0 win over Sevilla, William Carvalho has so far proven to be very slow in moving the ball. Last season, the speed at which Fabian Ruiz received and passed the ball was incredible. This allowed Quique Setien’s side to play such attractive football and this speed in transitioning the ball was key to quick counter attacks. Carvalho has so far failed to keep up the tempo Fabian Ruiz set last season; Lo Celso may be the individual necessary to do such however.
One of the key attributes by both Fabian Ruiz and Dani Ceballos before him was their ability to take the ball from deep and bring it into the attacking third by dribbling. Last season with PSG, Lo Celso was clearly able to demonstrate this ability, completing over two successful take ons per game, with almost the same efficiency as Ceballos during his final season with Los Verdiblancos.
Lo Celso clearly clocked up a lot of tackles last season in France with 3.45 per 90 minutes. Under Unai Emery, he was deployed as a defensive midfielder in 30% of his appearances. At Real Betis, he should expect to be played in a more regular central midfield role, essentially taking up the role of the current Napoli midfielder, Fabian Ruiz.
One stat that he has fallen down significantly on compared to his peers here, was chances created. Compared to Sergio Canales’ 2.30 per 90 mins, Lo Celso managed a meagre 1.07. Again, this is in large part down to the position he was deployed in at PSG. With that, Canales was predominantly played as an attacking midfielder also at Real Sociedad, making his comparison unfair. Lo Celso’s chance creation per 90 minutes holds up well against fellow centre midfielders Dani Ceballos and Fabian Ruiz however.
With Quique Setien setting his side up to dominate possession, having players with a high level of passing accuracy is essential to his system working efficiently. Last season, only Mateo Kovacic (93.7%) and Toni Kroos (93.1%) achieved a higher passing accuracy than Aissa Mandi (91.9%) and Javi Garcia (91.8%) in La Liga. In this comparision above, Giovani Lo Celso clearly has the expertise on the ball that Setien is looking for in his players. With a 91% passing accuracy, the 22 year old Argentinian was – on average – 4% more accurate than Fabian Ruiz and played 10 extra passes per 90 minutes.
Overall, it looks a coup that Real Betis were able to prise Giovani Lo Celso from PSG. He certainly appears to have the correct characteristics and traits to allow him to be a success under Quique Setien at Real Betis. As mentioned, someone like him is needed in this Betis midfield to speed up the play. The Argentinian’s dribbling ability is one that should unlock opposition midfield and open up space for the likes of Joaquin and co. Giovani Lo Celso will have a significant role to play this season should Betis build on their success.