Rodolfo Pizarro: An analysis on the talent and possible next steps.
The 2017–18 season was supposed to be an opportunity for Chivas to build on their Clausura title, a title that ended an 11 year drought for one of Mexico’s most historic clubs. Instead it appeared that the club went backwards finishing 13th in the Apertura and 17th in the Clausura. Some solace can be taken in the club’s capture of the CONCACAF Champion’s League trophy over Toronto FC but the truth is this was a team with high expectations from the fanbase and one that did not live up to those lofty expectations.
Throughout the success though a true icon was born in the heart’s of all Chivas fans, this was Rodolfo Pizarro. A man who was arguably the catalyst for their success and a player of immense talent. 2018 has not been a great year for Chivas and it hasn’t been a great year for Pizarro either, his performances have dipped but much of this can be down to the fact that he has not been played in his best role and has been surrounded by a cast that seems to place almost all the creative burden on his shoulders. Pizarro has not been helped by a lack of constant position either, versatility is certainly a useful trait for players to have but at some point playing in a constant position is crucial to development and that is where Chivas have failed him. They have switched between a 4–4–2 where he played as a left midfielder or central midfielder, a 4–2–3–1 where hes a left winger, a 4–1–3–2 where he played LCM. He has also played on the right side of the field and as a CAM. His talent and ability to create chances for others should be a reason to build around him, not just throw him in where you need him because he’s capable of it. His best spot is as a 10 and so far this season he has rarely been put in that position.
What makes Pizarro such a great talent is his ability to remain calm under pressure, this is something he began to show more and more as he played on the wings this season. Most teams that like to press will do so when the opponents have the ball on the wing, Pizarro seemed to always remain calm when he was pressed and in fact could use those situations and turn them into counter attacks for Chivas. Below you see an example of this as 3 Necaxa players close down on Pizarro there is zero sense of panic he simply finds the pass and immediatly makes a run into open space to continue providing passing angles for his teammates. A better pass into his feet and this is a goal.
Pizarro is a player much in the mold of Isco, He likes to dribble and go at players and often uses his close control to attack and create counters. Now this is a stretch of a comparison because the talent level that they face is different but Pizarro posts a similar take on completion percentage of 69% to Isco’s 75% and they both complete on average 7 dribbles per 90 minutes of play. The talent is clearly there its a matter of whether that translates when playing against better competition. Below you see Pizarro’s ability to bait the defender in and get past him for the cross.
Again you see Pizarro dribbling straight forward waiting for the defender to bite into the play before slipping through his teammate for an opportunity on goal.
Playmaking and vision are traits that are difficult to teach to a player, often you either have it or you don’t and Pizarro can recognize open space like few others in Mexico. The ability to be calm under pressure and find teammates as well as create chances out of nothing are why Pizarro should be more of a focal point than he is. At Chivas his teammates look for him to create but by the time he’s cutting in from the left and looking for that pass the opponent’s defense has already been set. He is being put in positions to fail not just because he’s playing out wide but because there is no other creative outlet around him. There are a number of wide playmakers in football today and in fact it is a position that is starting to become more and more popular as many teams have stopped playing with a traditional number 10. It’s a position Pizarro currently plays and can excel in but with no real creative support around him the burden becomes too great. Again below we see just how quickly Pizarro can recognize the run being made into space and that both central defender’s focus is on him. He makes a quick outside the foot pass that creates yet another opportunity.
As talented as I believe Pizarro to be he has a number of flaws in his game. At times he can be passive and let the game come to him rather than go search for the ball. He can also overdribble to the point where he loses the ball and the opportunity he creates for himself by taking one man on. His decision making also leaves something to be desired, there are times when if he was one or two seconds quicker in deciding what he wants to do there would be a more positive outcome. Again this is nit-picking a bit and also partially down to the structure at Chivas that puts such a heavy burden on his shoulders to create for others. Great players often know they are great but it’s when they become complacent with their talent that they stop growing. There are serious questions to be asked whether Pizarro has hit a wall he wont get over and whether he is content with just being a great player in the Mexican league or if he wants more out of his career.
Pizarro was left out of Mexico’s World Cup squad (a mistake in my humble opinion), possibly because of the poor season Chivas had. So what’s next for him? There are a lot of teams across Europe that play it safe but Pizarro presents an interesting risk for a lot of them. If you can keep him challenged and lessen the burden on his shoulders to be creative he can still grow into a phenomenal player. He is versatile and can fit into most teams but at 24 is he too old to be considered a prospect? If Pizarro want’s to reach his full potential and make himself part of Mexico’s future plans he should be looking to move on from Chivas but not just to another team in Mexico. He needs to be coached and he needs proper guidance in his development, PSV strikes me as the easiest option as they have a history with signing players from Mexico (Hirving Lozano being the most recent). Where he ends up will tell us who the real Rodolfo Pizarro is, a man who is content with where he is at, or a man who wants a new challenge and an opportunity to prove to everyone that he belonged on the World Cup roster, lets hope its the latter.