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Carles Perez's Performance in Limited Minutes Points Towards Larger Role Next Year

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The young Spaniard produced some impressive underlying numbers and could be poised for greater production in the 2020-21 season.

AS Roma v Udinese Calcio - Serie A Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

While Gianluca Petrachi’s brief stint as Roma sporting director was marred with controversy, it was also an arguably very productive tenure. From bringing in established players like Chris Smalling, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and Jordan Veretout last summer to promising talents Roger Ibañez, Gonzalo Villar, and Carles Perez over the winter, Petrachi certainly has an eye for good fits.

Petarchi likely won’t be brought back to continue his work under the Friedkin Group, so we’ll never know what he truly could’ve accomplished over a prolonged stretch working in concert with Paulo Fonseca. However, the pieces that he brought in during his time in charge could have Roma set up for success as Friedkin begins his time as club president. That’s especially true because of the work he did over the winter mercato bringing in Ibañez, Villar, and Perez.

In their half season thus far with the club, all three showed flashes of potential to excite the fan base. Ibañez certainly garnered the most attention when he stepped into the three-man back-line. Meanwhile, Villar turned heads, especially with his poise on the ball against sides like Juventus. Then there’s Perez, who may not have lit Rome on fire with goals, but contributed more than his surface stats reveal.

Due his Barcelona pedigree, Carles Peres arrived at the Olimpico with many hoping he’d unlock whatever potential Barca saw in him upon promoting him from La Masia. After all, if you’re given a chance with the Catalan giants at just 20-years-old, you must be fairly talented.

And all things considered, in the second half of the wild 2020 campaign, Perez gave us a glimpse of his promising skill-set. After being schooled at La Masia and with Barca’s B-team, Perez’s ability on the ball, close control, and quick decision making are hardly surprising.

Fonseca quickly worked him into his attacking rotation, playing often as a substitute prior to the lockdown, gradually surpassing both Justin Kluivert and Cengiz Ünder in the pecking order. Upon resumption of play, Perez grew into an even larger role, starting five times. All told, Perez made 14 appearances for Roma, accumulating just over 550 minutes.

It wasn’t a huge workload, but there were lots of positive signs, especially when looking at the Spaniard’s Per 90 and underlying stats. This is why, Perez is poised to make bigger contributions during his first full season in Rome.

Perez by the Numbers

Carles Perez of AS Roma in action during the Serie A... Photo by Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images

Shooting & Goal Creation

While Perez’s one goal and three assists won’t blow anyone away on the surface, he contributed more than meets the eye when looking at traditional stats. To begin, when those stats are weighed per 90 minutes played, Perez led the Roma with 0.48 assists per 90 and was fifth on the team with 0.64 goals+assists per 90. And when removing penalties scored—which can inflate certain stats—Perez moves up to fourth, trailing only Kalinic, Mkhitaryan, and Dzeko.

We should see an uptick in Perez’s goal-scoring next season because he’s not afraid to shoot the ball—and when he does he generally puts it on target. Perez was second on the team with 3.34 shots per 90, trailing only Dzeko’s 3.94 Sh90. Meanwhile, in terms of putting them on target Perez (1.27 Sot/90) was third behind Dzeko (1.45 SoT/90) and Zaniolo (1.32 SoT/90).

Of course, Perez’s finishing will have to improve, considering he only scored once and under-performed in comparison to his 1.7xG. But, when taking into account his three assists compared to an xA of just 1.2, Perez’s overall contributions to Roma’s scoring was better than expected.

Passing & Play-Making

How is that? Well, thanks to some quick ball movement, Perez was heavily involved in Roma’s build-up play.. On the surface, his 84.5% pass completion percentage is solid but not spectacular. Yet, despite being just 12th on the team, it was still the highest of any attacking player. For a point of reference, here are some of the percentages of players in a similar role to Perez: Mkitaryan 83.7%, Kluivert 81.6%, Zaniolo 79.6%, and Ünder 70.5%.

That high completion percentage allowed Perez to rank favorably in two advanced metrics: xGChain90 and xGBuildup90. xGChain90 measures the expected goals of every possession in which a player is involved, and Perez's 0.79 xGChain90 puts him on par with Mkhitaryan and in the top 5 on the club.

Comparatively, xGBuildup90 is the total expected goals of every possession in which a player is involved but removes key passes and shots from the equation. In this metric, Perez's 0.60 is best among Roma players with at least 500 minutes played.

The second stat is especially impressive when you consider it doesn’t take into account Perez’s high shot rate and 9 key passes. Therefore, it speaks to his ability to drop deep and get involved in the build-up play early on.

The next highest xGBuildup90 for a player in an attacking role was Lorenzo Pellegrini at 0.38. Additionally, Perez saw a much smaller drop-off from his xGChain90 to xGBuildup90 than other Roma players in attacking roles. Of course, one could argue that an increase in minutes could bring this stat more in line with other players in similar roles. And that could be the case, but it is an encouraging sign as to what Perez brings to the table.

In line with his passing and build-up metrics are the number of shot creating actions (SCA) and goal creating actions (GCA) Perez is a part of per 90 minutes. Perez ranked third on the Giallorossi in SCA90 with 4.13. That number trailed only Pellegrini (5.79 SCA90) and Ünder (4.85 SCA90). Meanwhile, in terms of GCA90, his 0.80 GCA90 trailed only Pellergini (0.90GCA90). Next best (min 500 minutes played), was Dzeko at 0.57 GCA90.

What Do The Numbers Mean?

When looking past the traditional stats, Perez becomes a very attractive player in Fonseca’s system. Using a wider lens to include advanced metrics and weighing his stats Per 90, Perez becomes one of Roma’s more productive attacking players.

His increased workload down the stretch seems to indicate an increased trust from Fonseca, which bodes well for Perez going forward. Even with a healthy Zaniolo, Mkhitaryan, Pellegrini, and the newly arrived Pedro occupying similar roles as Perez, one would think that his workload increases greatly for the 2020-21 campaign.

With Roma playing on three fronts and the ever-looming threat of injures, it wouldn’t be surprising to see his minutes rise to around 1,500. Perez’s underlying stats show he can be an important contributor for Roma, and with more minutes next season, he should be poised to take the next step in his development.

Ünder and Kluivert are likely to be shown the Trigoria doors soon, plus Mkhitaryan and Pedro are on the wrong side of 30, so if Roma are going to finish in the top four, it is vital that they receive greater contributions from young players like Perez.