Is there any stat that can be used to measure the impact of leadership in numbers on a team? Watching Ronald Araujo play for Barcelona as the leader of the backline makes us wonder how a player with strong leadership can turn around a team’s fortunes in just a single season. We have gone down this road with Virgil van Dijk, who, within six months of joining Liverpool, helped the club reach the final of the Champions League and that too with the erratic Dejan Lovren as his defensive partner.
Araujo’s performances have been nothing short of breathtaking, especially in the La Liga. The Uruguayan has been a critical reason for Barcelona having the best defensive record across the top five leagues in Europe.
Ever since he was signed in 2018, Araujo was touted as a future star for the Blaugrana. However, injuries delayed his rise for the last two seasons. This season, though, has been a different story as the 24-year-old has shown why he is currently regarded as one of the best centre-backs in football.
And with a 12-point lead in La Liga, Barcelona look set to win their 27th league title. However, unlike the previous seasons, this one has been based on their impressive defence and their leader Ronald Araujo.
Ronald Araujo is the reason for Barcelona's exceptional defensive record
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Ronald Araujo stats
After missing 12 matches at the start of the season due to an Adductors avulsion, Araujo has played 14 games in the league, out of which Barcelona have kept clean sheets in seven matches. Araujo is a modern-day centre-back who is brilliant at dribbling and moving the ball forward in threatening spaces.
In the current season, Araujo has been the ninth-best player regarding Expected Threats (xT) from passes. According to fbref, Araujo averages 1.30 progressive carries per 90 minutes, which puts him in the top nine percentile of centre-backs.
Araujo also is heavily involved in the attacking third of the pitch averaging 1.46 touches in the penalty area among the top seven percentile of centre-backs. The Uruguayan is also an accurate passer completing almost 90 per cent of his passing.
Data analytics site Smarterscout has rated me highly on dribbling and link-up play, rating him 97 and 92 on the metrics, respectively. Araujo is also not one to shy away from joining the attack and is a menace for the opposition from free kicks or corners. This is validated by Smarterscout rating him 96 for receiving the ball in the opposition’s box.
Araujo is also not one to shy away from challenging for the ball. Fbref data shows he wins 80 per cent of challenges while tackling a dribbler. This is among the top three percentile of centre-backs in world football.
His defensive brilliance doesn’t stop there. According to Soccerment, Araujo wins two of three duels, a monstrous stat for even the top centre-backs. His 1,88 metre also helps him win 65 per cent of his duels, aerially one of the significant reasons why Barcelona’s defence has been so watertight.
Ronald Araujo’s strengths and weaknesses
As mentioned earlier, Araujo is a player whose brilliance is rarely seen in stats. The reason for this is Araujo’s intelligence and vision are so world-class that he snuffs out the danger in the bud. Unlike several of his peers, Araujo is a player who plays football more with his brain than his feet.
Araujo’s impressive intelligence, combined with pace, allows Barcelona to have a defender perfect for their high defensive line. Playing in such a system requires the player to play the offside trap to perfection and to have the ability to strike a balance between attack and defence.
The 24-year-old is also naturally aggressive, which, combined with his speed and accurate tackles, allows him to leave space behind as he can easily catch up with the opposition’s players, especially during a rapid counterattack.
Araujo is also different from his Barcelona teammates because he is the only player who mostly wins the ball if he goes for a challenge. If Araujo goes for the ball, he either wins or fouls the player to ensure the play is stopped, allowing his teammates to get down the pitch.
The defender also relishes the prospect of being in one-on-one situations, and rather than forcing his opponent to take the ball away from the goal, he prefers to win the ball, a rare trait in modern-day centre-back.
Araujo is also a no-nonsense defender that has afforded Barcelona the luxury of having a player who will do anything to ensure the ball stays away from the goal; that has worked wonders for the team this season.
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Ronald Araujo transfer news
The only way Ronald Araujo leaves Barcelona is when he is on the other side of 30 and is looking for a change. In recent years, Barcelona have fallen off the pecking order of the top European top clubs, and the team will need players like Araujo to become the top dogs in Europe again.
And the best thing is Araujo is only getting better and has still to reach his peak. And this means that for at least the next five to six years, Araujo will be wearing the blue and red of Blaugrana. And for the fans at Nou Camp, the Ronald Araujo show is just getting started.