In this piece, Ryan Quinn casts his eye over Ian Poveda’s season at Leeds and asks what the future looks like for the young winger…
First-team minutes have been hard to come by for winger Ian Poveda. With a mere 345 minutes from 13 appearances this season — all off of the bench — Poveda is clearly down the pecking order at Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds. But in these fleeting appearances, the Southwark-born youngster has shown a directness and guile from wide positions that could prove invaluable for the club going forward.
Coming off of the bench, Poveda has often offered an impetus that had previously been lacking in matches. Sometimes it comes to no avail, but it always offers Leeds United a different sort of threat to their other wingers. Why? In this article, we’ll explore this threat.
Dribbling and Directness
Ian Poveda’s biggest strengths are dribbling into and forcing the ball through tight spaces along with a fine change of pace.
A left-footer — like all of Leeds senior wingers — predominantly playing on the right flank, Poveda tends to take up a rather wide starting position when Leeds are in possession. From this position, he can receive the ball with space where he will then look to dribble inside and try to force the ball through the midfield or move into the penalty-area.
Noticeably, Poveda is keen to move forward with the ball; he is very direct in this sense. This directness was on show early on in the league campaign. During Leeds 1–1 draw with Manchester City, Poveda gave left-back Benjamin Mendy a difficult time with his movement.
More recently, in a deserved 1–1 draw with Liverpool, Poveda provided a threat late on. This almost resulted in a winning goal late on:
Luke Ayling’s pass found Poveda in a wide starting position. Poveda then moved infield, dribbling into space between the midfield and defence with Tyler Roberts a viable passing option.
The right-winger then played the pass into Roberts on the blindside of the nearby defender, and with Roberts free in the box, the Welshman had time to open up for a shot.
Unfortunately for Leeds, the shot was saved.
Although Poveda isn’t the only strong ball carrier in the Leeds setup, he is quite different from his teammates both stylistically and numerically.
Stylistically, Poveda takes small touches when dribbling so the ball is close to his feet when bringing the ball forward. This makes it hard to make a challenge against him.
Another stylistic difference when it comes to Poveda’s dribbling is how he likes to front up his opponent in one-on-one situations. Take this screenshot from the recent Leeds match against Brighton:
Coming up one-vs-one against Dan Burn, Poveda sets the ball up forward in his stance, giving him the option of going both ways and inviting the challenge towards him so he can use the opponent’s momentum against him.
Compare this to Leeds’ other good dribbler, Raphinha:
In this screengrab from the recent Manchester City fixture, the Brazilian shows a different approach to one-vs-one dribbling, keeping the ball backwards in his stance.
Similar to Poveda, he is tempting his opponent to step into the challenge where he can then use his momentum to step past him. However, where Poveda is moving at speed with direction, Raphinha is slowing down and looking for a change of pace.
As Mendy shapes to follow Raphinha down the line (where he eventually goes), the ball is still deep in the Leeds’ wingers stance:
From this position, he drags the ball down the line and chases it, eventually beating Mendy for pace:
These are very different styles of dribble, even if they are both effective in their own way. However, where Poveda is relying on raw speed and directness, Raphinha is a little more cerebral in his dribbling. This leads to decision-making issues on the part of Poveda. More on that later.
Although Ian Poveda offers a significantly smaller sample size when analysing the data, it is still instructive.
According to FBref, Poveda attempts more dribbles per-ninety minutes than any other Leeds player: 5.79 attempted of which 3.42 are successful. He also completes 0.79 dribbles which lead to shots on goal every ninety minutes.
Poveda has brought forward glimpses of creativity which is also backed by data. Of couse, Raphinha leads the way in most departments: a testament to his technique and decision making. But Poveda does complete more through balls per 90 than his fellow wingers (0.26) and he makes a respectable 4.47 progressive passes per 90 too.
The pass to Roberts against Liverpool was one of five in the final third, and against Brighton, he completed the joint most number of take ons by any Leeds player, with three:
Areas for Improvement
Although a threat because of his directness and willingness to move the ball forward, Poveda is still raw technically.
In a recent 0–2 defeat to Brighton & Hove Albion, for example, Poveda did well to lead an attack, breaking through the centre:
However, a misplaced switch out to the left side slowed down the attack and Leeds lost all momentum:
Poveda retains the ball well but can take his time to release the ball when under pressure and can subsequently be forced to pass backwards. In these sorts of scenarios, he is often trying to locate the full-back — typically Luke Ayling — who is making an overlapping run.
Of course, this season has seen Leeds United gradually migrate away from the aggressive style that they displayed early in the season. This might partially explain why Poveda looked much more dangerous against Manchester City earlier in the season than he did against, for example, Brighton more recently.
On top of this, there are also questions about Poveda’s decision-making, as we mentioned earlier.
Here’s a good example from the Brighton game last weekend. Poveda starts up against Dan Burn on the sideline. Showing him down the line, Poveda cuts inside at the same time that Mateusz Klich drags Adam Webster out of position:
Robin Koch, seeing the space that Klich has created, runs into it and a simple pass opens up for Poveda:
However, he turns back to the wide area and the chance is lost:
These are the sort of decision-making lapses that can mark young players, especially those who look to use pace and agility to get an edge over implementing game-sense and exploiting situations. With time, hopefully, Poveda will be able to iron these out from his game.
Ian Poveda has made progress this season but now it is a matter of whether to play Poveda more often next season or to move him out on loan to gain regular first-team football essential to his development. Keep in mind, though, it should not be a question of moving Poveda on permanently.
Leeds have enjoyed an admirable season and are safe. In which case, would it be worth starting Poveda as the season comes to a close in order to gain a further idea of his potential worth to the team in both the short and long-terms?
There will be those who are questioning Poveda’s future because of his relative lack of production in this Leeds team. But his talent is there to see and it needs time to be honed.
You can follow Ryan Quinn on Twitter @Quinntactics.
The data in this piece comes courtesy of FBref.
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