Ferran Torres and the art of elite movement

Contrary to popular belief, Ferran Torres, Barcelona's big January acquisition, has been immense for Xavi and is continuously performing at a top level. But what's the secret to his success?

Some things in football are very difficult to quantify. For example, how does one properly assess the importance of a morale boost? Or how do you use data to show the true value of negative passing? Often, there are things happening in the background many don’t notice that ultimately make the highlight reels possible in the first place. Perhaps it’s the pass backwards that forced the defensive block to shift, creating separation between the lines and thus, creating space. Perhaps it was the manager’s team talk that inspired the players to break their limits. Or maybe, it was the midfield’s dirty work that unleashed the flamboyant difference-maker on the wing.

All of these things are essential aspects of top-performing teams and yet, they are so often overlooked. ‘Statistics are just a pattern of information that we have. There are players who make the team play good without the statistics.’ Pep Guardiola noted recently in a press conference ahead of Manchester City’s FA Cup game against Peterborough United. ‘If you perform to your maximum [level], if you perform to your best and you helped your team-mates and make the process better, it is enough.’ Pep, of course, knows the value of such players because he too was that player. In fact, many pivots tend to be. Sergio Busquets is the same; he’s a cut above the rest but not necessarily flashy. You can make comps of his incredible passes but they are just the icing of the cake that is his unique player profile. Frenkie de Jong is another example - he’s incredibly powerful and an outstanding technician at the same time. But a lot of great work he does goes unnoticed still.

The same can be said for forwards as well. Barcelona’s big January signing, Ferran Torres, is very similar too. Attackers are by and large analysed by the goals they (don’t) score. The same is true for the ex-Valencia man. But have you ever thought how is it that he gets into so many goal-scoring opportunities in the first place? Or how is it that when he’s on the pitch, Barcelona create and exploit space much better? Probably not.