FEATURE | Grading Monchi’s 2019-20 Signings

To call 2019-20 a season of transition at Sevilla FC would be an understatement. Over the summer, after a brief sojourn at Roma, the club welcomed back Monchi as sporting director and the fan favourite wasted no time putting his distinct stamp on the squad.

The executive, whose transfer market gaming has been credited with bringing a historical period of European success to the club, flooded the side with 12 new signings as well as a number of high-profile loans. On top of the new on-field editions Monchi brought in former Spanish national team manager Julen Lopetegui as manager and the duo have sought to overhaul Sevilla’s personnel and playing style.

As one would expect it has been a mixed bag in terms of success and failure for the new arrivals. The spectators at the Ramón Sanchéz-Pizjuán have watched some flourish and other falter; below we hand out letter grades to each of the club’s new arrivals.

*Note: These Grades do not include players acquired or sent out on loan.

Lucas Ocampos, 25 years old, Forward – A

Far and away the club’s most successful signing, Ocampos has been a force since arriving in Andalusia. The Argentine was acquired for what now seems like a paltry €15m and has gone on to lead Sevilla in scoring with 10 goals. While it is true Ocampos is over-performing some of his numbers (his xG hovers around 6.5), his willingness to take opponents on out wide and desire to drive the ball forward at all costs has made him a fan favourite. His truculence can sometimes get him into trouble, but his spirited attitude and physical style has been a welcomed sight to a side hoping to be remade into a more imposing force.

Diego Carlos, 27 years old, Defender – A

In a short-time Carlos has come to personify the new defensive spirit of Lopetegui’s side. The hulking centre-back has played the second-most minutes of any outfield player on the team, has the third most clearances in the league (a significant feat considering Sevilla often enjoys the bulk of possession) and has chipped in with two goals. His physical presence at the back is a source of comfort during set-pieces and he’s proved to be a reliable passer during buildup.

Fernando, 32 years old, Midfielder – A

Fernando has quietly been one of Sevilla’s best players this season; expertly playing the role of defensive midfielder in Lopetegui’s three-man buildup. The Brazilian, who was acquired for a measly €4.5m, has been the epitome of reliability both defensively and during offensive sets. At present Fernando has the best passing percentage on the team, while also averaging two interceptions, two tackles and six duels won per 90.

Jules Koundé, 21 years old, Defender – B

It took until week seven for Koundé to earn a start at centre-back, but from that point forward the France youth international never looked back. Alongside fellow new arrival, Diego Carlos, Koundé has helped to form one of La Liga’s most consistent centre-back duos. The 21-year-old’s eloquent passing has made him stand out and at times his style is reminiscent of former Sevilla and current Barcelona central defender, Clément Lenglet. If there is one criticism it is that Koundé has been guilty of the odd defensive error and giveaway. Nevertheless, his potential remains enormous.

Joan Jordán, 24 years old, Midfielder – B

Another new arrival integral to the style Lopetegui has propagated; Jordan’s work-rate and relentless pressing is crucial to Sevilla retaining possession and holding a high defensive line. The former Eibar staple has shown some offensive potency, but is still well behind fellow midfielder, Ever Banega, in terms of overall numbers. Banega’s departure this summer may open the door for Jordán to take a larger role during buildup and become the focal point of the club’s offense.

Óliver Torres, 25 years old, Midfielder – B

Torres’ underlying numbers have been good all season, but curiously not good enough to find him a consistent place in the lineup. Torres is third on the team in passes to the final third and penalty area (per 90 minutes), is second in through balls, and is fifth in NPxG90+xA90. The fact that Torres performs well in so many key offensive metrics makes his sporadic inclusion in the lineup all the more confusing.

Nemanja Gudelj, 28 years old, Midfielder – C

Acquired on a free, Gudelj has proven to be a useful defensive midfield substitute. His ability to fill in for Fernando, in Europa League matches in particular, has been advantageous, but he remains far from a regular starter.

Luuk de Jong, 29 years old, Forward – D

Key goals in big matches (see: Real Betis, Real Madrid, Atlético Madrid) have staved off a failing grade for the Dutch international, who outside a few moments of magic, has been largely ineffective. The lanky striker’s inability to finish has hounded him all season and saddled him with one of the league’s worst NPG-xG ratings. De Jong’s work-rate and commitment to the squad is admirable, but it does little to help make up for his ineffectiveness in front of goal.

Rony Lopes, 23 years old, Forward – F

Domestically Lopes has only managed one start and a total of 87 minutes for Sevilla this season. The 23-year-old’s only real run-outs coming in the Europa League against Dudelange and Qarabag, where he made little impact. The fact that Lopes was the club’s most expensive acquisition at €25m does not help matters and Monchi will be hoping this season accounts for a mere blip on the young player’s radar.

Javier Hernández, 31 years old, Forward – F

Hernández lasted only until January – confirming what many saw at the time as a desperate signing. Hernández’s contributions were minimal; his most significant being that his sheer presence in the squad took meaningful minutes away from more capable and versatile forwards (Munas Dabbur, Munir El Haddadi).

Youssef En-Nesyri, 22 years old, Forward – N/A

With only 320 minutes under his belt there is not enough of a sample size to truly assess how effective a signing En-Nesyri has been thus far. Nevertheless, there are several exciting signs and already enough to indicate he should be selected ahead of de Jong. Already the youngster has banged in two vital goals; one coming in injury time to seal a victory over Osasuna and another in the 82nd minute to earn a draw against CFR Cluj in the Europa League.

K.T. Stockwell

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