Featured Image: 10z Soccer
Club football is on hiatus for two weeks as the November international break begins. That means Peruvian players are all converging to Lima for training ahead of the Ecuador friendly.
A few players enter that game in tremendous form, including Cristian Benavente, Pedro Aquino and Miguel Araujo, all of whom are slated to start versus Ecuador. But how did they fare in their final club matches?
Find out in our weekly in-depth roundup on 13 different Peruvians abroad.
Talk about finishing on a high note.
Miguel Araujo completed the 90 minutes for a third straight game since returning from injury. It’s also the third clean sheet in a row for Talleres, who drew 0-0 with Aldosivi.
In what’s becoming a trend, Araujo started as the left-sided centre-back for Talleres without any discomfort. The Peruvian defender led all players with 64 passes (85 per cent accuracy) and five interceptions.
Surprisingly, Araujo was somewhat flimsy in his defensive duels, although he was still quite solid. He made three crucial blocks in the opening 20 minutes, then proceeded to singlehandedly shut down Aldosivi’s attack.
The most startling stat of all is Araujo’s increase in passes. He averaged around 27 attempts per game with Alianza Lima. That’s surged to 39 since joining Talleres. Even in an eight-game sample size, that’s a significant increase. Of course, the rigid, counter-attacking system at Alianza likely affected Araujo’s output. Maybe a proactive and possession-based philosophy fits his arsenal.
Veracruz snapped a three-game losing streak, and they only had one Peruvian on the field to experience it.
Pedro Gallese is in Lima training with the national team, so Wilder Cartagena was the lone Peruvian who participated, logging around 10 minutes to help Los Tiburones Rojos wrap up a 2-2 draw with Querétaro.
Cartagena, who was not called up to the latest squad, will stay in Mexico as Veracruz prepares for its final match of the Apertura against Club América.
Someone is entering Lima on a hot streak, and his name is Cristian Benavente.
The 24-year-old scored in a massive win for Royal Charleroi over Club Brugge. Charleroi normally struggles in this fixture, but thanks to their Peruvian playmaker, that was not an issue on Saturday.
This goal is almost indescribable. Benavente headed the ball, which was sizzling towards him, with his back to the goalkeeper and somehow directs it into the corner.
Otherwise, it was business as usual. A few dribbles, unlocking space in the final third and launching killer through balls into the box.
Benavente already has five goals and two assists in 15 games this season. That matches up nicely with his expected goals and expected assists (xG+xA) of 7.48, which means this is sustainable. He’s also on pace to shatter his totals from last year (nine goals, six assists, 36 appearances). Those were career highs, too.
We might be witnessing another fantastic campaign from the 24-year-old, which could see him move to a bigger league at season’s end.
On the Peruvian Waltz Podcast a few weeks ago, Christopher Vizcardo and I discussed Pedro Aquino starting in the Yoshimar Yotún role for León against Necaxa.
Eventually, Aquino returned to his regular role where he often drifts to the right side of the pitch. However, he was back in the Yotún position in León’s 1-0 defeat to Chivas.
Not only was Aquino favouring the left side more often, he actually looked comfortable carrying the ball into the final third.
Just six of Aquino’s 63 passes missed the intended target and he mainly received the ball in the attacking half of the pitch as well.
Just watch these sequences and tell me this isn’t a Yotún clone.
With Alexis Arias pulling out of the squad with an injury, it would be worth seeing Aquino on the left side of the midfield pivot in one of the upcoming friendlies. Either way, Ricardo Gareca may have found his vice-Yotún.
After coming off the bench in his previous five appearances, Edison Flores finally started for Monarcas Morelia in a win over Xolos. Flores finished the full 90 minutes, which is impressive given his limited playing time.
It wasn’t the best of games for Flores, although he was consistently closed down without any support and suffered a fair number of fouls, hence the 27 completed passes out of 55 attempts.
Positionally, the 24-year-old mainly stuck to the left wing, though he slid into the midifeld on a few occasions as well.
Whether this performance hurts Flores’ chances of starting after the international break remains to be seen. As for the national team, he’ll be looking to build on his two brilliant showings in October.
We hadn’t seen Irven Ávila since the end of September. Due to the form of Miguel Sansores and Sebastian Ferreira, the Peruvian was relegated to the bench, and sometimes out of the 18 altogether.
However, Ávila was back on the pitch on Saturday night versus Xolos, logging around 30 minutes in his first match in six weeks.
Ávila settled right back into his usual role as a target man, but there was an obvious struggle when battling other defenders due to the long absence. However, that will come with time if Roberto Hernández is willing to hand him more minutes.
It was a positive week individually for Jefferson Farfán. He scored his first Champions League since 2013 in midweek, albeit in a 4-1 loss to Porto. Then he started over the weekend against Rubin Kazan.
That’s now 176 minutes over the last three matches since Farfán returned from injury. It’s not enough to usurp the red-hot Raúl Ruidíaz, but the veteran forward should still see time off the bench versus Ecuador.
As for Sunday’s game, Farfán started on the right wing for Lokomotiv, but didn’t really stick to that side of the pitch. The attack struggled in general, as evidenced by the 0-0 draw and 16 combined shots from both teams. Farfán had some decent moments, only for Rubin Kazan’s defence to shut down his teammates.
Since he was omitted from the Peru squad, Christian Cueva has started for Krasnodar in a 2-1 win over Standard Liege in the Europa League and came off the bench in the subsequent league match versus Yenisey.
However, Cueva was substituted out of Thursday’s game at halftime and only picked up another 12 minutes on Sunday. The struggle to lock down a place continues for the Peruvian.
Cueva started in the midfield in Krasnodar’s standard 4-3-3 system, but unfortunately for the Peruvian, he was asked to defend a lot and lost every defensive duel. Even when he was able to sprint forward on a counter-attack, Cueva continually lost the ball and his passing wasn’t too proactive.
The major issue for Cueva has been his fit in the 4-3-3 system. Since he’s primarily a No. 10, he can’t really fit in a midfield three. There’ve also been experiments as a left winger and up front, the latter of which was successful, but was scrapped after one game.
Unless there’s a change of system or Cueva tweaks his style to fit into Krasnodar, he may have to start looking for another club in January.
Last week’s match against Barcelona meant Luis Advíncula had to temporarily operate as a centre-back to restrict Barca’s threat down Rayo Vallecano’s right flank. But the Peruvian full-back was back to usual self on Sunday versus Villarreal.
Do you want defensive solidity as well?
It was just another one of those really solid showings from Advíncula. The distribution was strong, his dribbling was clearly on full display and he was a defensive stalwart.
Any time a smaller Portuguese club plays one of Os Tres Grandes, that team is expected to sit back and absorb pressure. Sergio Peña’s Tondela was no different.
Surprisingly, Peña was arguably Tondela’s best player in the 3-1 loss to Benfica. He covered all areas of the pitch and contributed defensively to the team when necessary.
It wasn’t perfect as Peña wasn’t afforded the luxury of dictating the tempo on the ball. But it’s refreshing to see him tracking back and defending.
I’d like to slightly retract a statement I made about Alexander Callens last week. I mentioned that his form has fallen off a cliff since he was called up by Peru. In reality, it might not be his fault.
Sure, New York City FC faced Atlanta United, one of the two top teams in MLS this season. However, it was apparent watching Callens that he and his teammates had no clue what system to play.
It looked like NYCFC tried to deploy a high line, which was constantly torched by Atlanta’s free-flowing attack. The fact that United was also play a 3-5-2 and countered quickly didn’t help matters.
Callens had a couple of vital interventions, but eventually he was helpless.
Head coach Domenec Torrent will have a full pre-season and new players will surely be signed. But perhaps the changes in the summer contributed to Callens’ slight decline.
André Carrillo finished the weekend on a positive note as he created a few quality scoring opportunities in Al-Hilal’s 3-0 victory over Al-Wehda.
Carrillo finished the match with a game-high four dribbles, 57 passes (89 per cent accuracy) and two key passes. I’ve mentioned several times that the Peruvian is expected to dominate in Saudi Arabia, but it will be interesting to see Carrillo face quality opposition at the 2019 Copa América and see if these performances translate.
If this sequence doesn’t perfectly describe Christian Ramos, I don’t know what does.
Ramos hadn’t played a match for Al-Nassr since Sept. 24. He was, however, back in the lineup as the Saudi runners-up edged Al-Ettifaq 2-1. It was a solid performance, especially given the long layoff.
And anytime a defender can close down space this quickly, that’s always a positive.