Midfield talent: Igor Zubeldia
Although Real Sociedad have only taken 16 points from their opening 12 La Liga games under Asier Garitano, as they’ve struggled for consistency this season, the performances of talented youngster, Igor Zubeldia, have undoubtedly been a real positive.
Indeed, the man who joined the club’s youth setup at the age of 11 has been extremely impressive for his boyhood team. Playing predominantly in his favoured central midfield station, the 21-year-old’s undertaken his work with immense maturity, authority and leadership.
Featuring in every one of La Real’s league matches, the Spanish under 21 international has notably played around 50 more minutes than any of his teammates this term. Reliable, durable, full of intensity and with a fierce determination, he’s been an absolutely fundamental component within Garitano’s plans.
An absolute weapon on the defensive end, he never gives his opponents an easy touch, for he presses doggedly, forcefully applies his interventions and generally looks to physically impose himself.
Zubeldia’s also exercised plenty of smarts, however, when getting through his work. Aside from being positionally sound and awake to his nearby surrounds, his judgment when to press his marker, cover a teammate, hold his post or drop back and support his backline has been admirable.
To shine the spotlight on his pressing, where he excels due to his timing and nous, it’s been fantastic to see him use his cover shadow to block passing lanes behind him and set traps to give the ball holder the perception a nearby option is free before pouncing.
Tall, mobile and quick off the mark, whether he’s battling for duels in the air or on the ground, tracking runners into the box or responding to win second balls, his stopping exploits have been the first rate.
Despite him picking up four yellow cards and committing 1.3 fouls per game, this isn’t of too much concern, as his attitude and energy here far outweigh any of the negativity attached to the aforementioned numbers.
Contributing tidily towards his side’s possession phases, Zubeldia’s kept his passing neat and tidy, something that’s seen him act as a handy constructor whenever La Real build out from the back. Keeping things ticking over and providing essential support to the wide men, he’s been a secure distributor, who efficiently circulates possession and gets the ball into feet of his side’s more dangerous attackers.
Working in tandem with the experienced Asier Illarramendi, who’s not yet reached his best under Garitano, will be doing wonders for his development and teaching him so much on the offensive phase especially.
Zubeldia’s statistics further illustrate what a successful campaign he’s having, as he’s making 4.58 interceptions pg, winning 2.19 aerial duels, embarking on 1.12 dribbles pg and completing 89.4% of his 45.56 attempted passes pg.
Considering he was uncertain whether he’d be a starter ahead of the crusade courtesy of the competition for midfield places from the likes of Illarramendi, Ruben Pardo, David Zurutuza and new signing Mikel Merino, his promising form has seen him endear himself to his manager and cement his spot within this talent-laden squad.
Relishing every opportunity to test himself week in, week out against the best La Liga has to offer, expect Zubeldia to be a man in high demand before too long.
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