Ansu Fati is a prodigious young talent. Barcelona’s youngest-ever goalscorer in La Liga, their youngest-ever goalscorer in Europe and at one time Spain’s youngest-ever goalscorer. His potential knows no bounds. But anyway, you didn’t need me to tell you that.
You want to know what a club, who some 26 years ago were on the brink of bankruptcy, can offer the Blaugrana’s prodigal son. Well, let’s flip the script and take a leaf out of John F. Kennedy’s book for a second. What we should be asking is not what Brighton can do for Fati, but what can Fati do for Brighton. Such has been the Seagulls’s rise up the football pyramid, they are now in a position not only to pluck talent out of Barcelona but to make these decisions for the betterment of their squad.
For many years Barcelona’s deadwood, the likes of Andre Gomes and Yerry Mina were passed off onto middling Premier League teams in an arrangement that allowed said players to restore their reputation in front of a captive audience, whilst the team in question would gain a player of, debatable, European prestige. The Barcelona brand was the main selling point behind these types of deals. But now progressive Premier League teams are taking back control. They only want the best, and only if it suits them.
Fati has had his injury problems, but he’s still undoubtedly one of the hottest talents in European football. That said, with Kaoru Mitoma and Solly March having picked up from where they left off last season, the 20-year-old wouldn’t appear to have much of a look in. So where exactly does he fit in?
Brighton Hove & Albion have qualified for European football for the first time in club history and will be competing in next season’s UEFA Europa League.
Today, we’re going to be taking a look at some of the heroes behind the Seagulls’ historic campaign: pic.twitter.com/c3LLWXyTVh
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Well, ironically, it all boils down to injuries. Julio Enciso was the creative heartbeat of Brighton’s team, but upon suffering a knee injury in training, Roberto De Zerbi was left with little option but to go back into the transfer market. So, when the opportunity arrived to take Fati on loan with no obligation to buy, it felt like the perfect short-term low-risk, high-reward deal Brighton were after.
Despite his education on the flanks, Fati’s appreciation of space lends itself to playing through the middle. The youngster receives, on average, 11.17 progressive passes per, according to FBref, and is unafraid to drift into space and anticipate balls into the box. Fati whilst also capable of driving with the ball, sets himself up in goalscoring positions when out of possession.
Brighton currently tops the Premier League for shot-creating actions, and with Fati in the side, they have a player who backs himself in front of goal. This, ultimately, is the same guy who scored 11 goals from the first 16 shots on target in his professional career. Fati is the definition of a sharpshooter, and if Brighton can keep creating chances at their current rate, then the Spaniard could explode.
The Seagulls already have a goalscorer ready to set the league on fire in Ferguson, though, and Fati’s role will be just as much about creating as it will be about finishing chances. Now FBRef would suggest that Fati’s creative numbers are nowhere near the level De Zerbi would want, they have him ranked in the 25th percentile for shot-creating actions.
But as James Lawrence Allcott explained in his video on Fati, these stats are misleading, and if you take them within the context of a player who only managed 12 starts in La Liga last season, then suddenly it paints a picture of someone who given freedom and confidence can become the creative hub of Brighton’s attack.
Fati’s 3.23 shot-creating actions per last season show a bassline creative instinct that he has maintained throughout his career and that only marginally pales in comparison to Pascal Gross (3.83) and the now departed Alexis MacAllister (3.31), who took on much of Brighton’s creative burden last year. The Spaniard came on for the final half-hour of their 3-1 win at Manchester United before playing the full 103 minutes in Brighton’s first-ever European match, a 2-3 loss at home to AEK Athens, and he’ll be looking to make an impact in attack as the Seagulls host Bournemouth before traveling to Chelsea for a midweek EFL Cup fixture.
Whether or not Fati finds his feet at Brighton will boil down to his fitness. But whilst out of favour under Xavi, he at least proved a dependable option last season, showing the world that perhaps his injury woes are a thing of the past. Either way, Brighton owe little to Fati, so whilst he’ll bring an added star quality to Brighton’s team, they know their season doesn’t start and end with his ability to stay off the sidelines.
By: Sam Tabuteau / @TabuteauS
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Steve Bardens / Getty Images