Marc Cucurella made his sixth consecutive start against Manchester City last Saturday. It was the first time the Spaniard had tasted defeat, testament to the strong beginning that he and his Albion counterparts had made to the season. Across those six games, Cucurella has clocked over 500 minutes played, a total which provides enough evidence to start drawing some conclusions.
Marc Cucurella’s first four Premier League games by numbers:— Albion Analytics (@AlbionAnalytics) October 3, 2021
70 pressures (18 successful)
22 progressive passes
22 progressive carries
19 tackles + interceptions
12 shot-creating actions
6/8 aerial duels won
A strong start. 🇪🇸 #BHAFC #BHAARS pic.twitter.com/CjXoeGPgYK
The Premier League has become a real hotbed for full-back performance in recent years. Sky Sports have it that in the 2013/14 season fullbacks recorded 75 assists collectively, with this total growing exponentially and reaching 135 in the 2018/19 season and smashing more than 100 in two of the three seasons before that.
As was noted in our player profile on Cucurella when he signed on deadline day, the 23-year-old was an interesting case study for the effect of team styles on individual outputs. His former club Getafe operated as one of the lowest possession sides in La Liga, giving Cucurella fewer opportunities to rank highly in attacking metrics relative to other players in the league, and more opportunities to perform defensive actions.
Style wise, Brighton rank third for 10+ pass sequences completed (134) and average sequence time (11 seconds) among all Premier League seasons. I would be fair to expect a slower start from Cucurella under these conditions, given players generally require time to adapt to the speed of the Premier League not to mention the contrast in styles to his former club. However, the Spaniard seems to care little for that and fbref data (130 individual player metrics in total) has Cucurella as ranking at or above the Premier League full-back average in 64% of metrics.
Marc Cucurella (‘98) ranks inside the top 15% of PL full-backs this season for:— Albion Analytics (@AlbionAnalytics) October 27, 2021
Passes under pressure
Crosses into penalty area
Tackles + pressures in midfield + final 1/3
% of dribblers tackled
Open-play shot-creating actions
Bueno. 🇪🇸 #BHAFC pic.twitter.com/lcYZYNRF8O
He was player of the match in his first two Amex appearances, and in that pair of games he completed 33 of his 41 final third passes, was successful in 3/6 dribbles and all seven tackles attempted, posting a further 12 ball recoveries. Fans have rightly been excited by the speed of the Spaniard, who offers an outlet in counterattacks from deep – nine progressive passes received – as well as the ability to thwart opposition breaks with recovery runs. Fittingly, Cucurella’s total for progressive passes played (25) is almost identical to the combined number of tackles plus interceptions he has recorded (22).
Courtesy of @OfficialBHAFC, Marc Cucurella’s heatmap from his outstanding home debut on Sunday.— Albion Analytics (@AlbionAnalytics) September 21, 2021
The most touches (65) and passes received (38) of any Brighton player.#BHAFC #BHALEI pic.twitter.com/8WdMehbwCJ
Excluding central defenders and Brighton players with less than 270 minutes played, only Pascal Gross (56) is the target of more passes per game than Cucurella, who records 72 touches per game and is Brighton’s second most active player in the final third (28.6 touches per game, accounting for 40% of total touches) behind the German.
Out-of-possession, 69 of his 108 pressures and ten of his 14 tackles have come in the top two-thirds of the pitch, evidence of his advanced role both with and without the ball.
Most recently Cucurella shone in Carabao Cup action at Leicester, completing 4/5 crosses and creating three chances in a 21-minute cameo, when he repeatedly popped up in attacking positions down the left and combined with teammates to get in behind.
It was his excellent cross that Enock Mwepu headed home to level the scores on Wednesday. Such method of assist seems apt for Cucurella’s first in the blue and white stripes, as Pascal Gross (19) is the only player to have crossed more frequently than the Spaniard (15), with no Albion player able to better Cucurella’s five completed open-play crosses into the box. a 30% accuracy rate for crosses is a quality return too.