In Argentina, the footballing landscape is dominated by five clubs from the capital – Boca, River, Independiente, Racing and San Lorenzo. Inevitably these Buenos Aires giants, rightly or wrongly, receive most of the media attention, particularly Boca and River who can count on widespread support across the country. As a result, it’s easy for players at “smaller” clubs to go somewhat under the radar.
Perhaps the best current example of this is Huracan’s Ignacio Pussetto. Widely considered the sixth Grande, Huracan boast a rich history and their 1973 team managed by Cesar Menotti is seen as one of the best the country has ever produced. This season El Globo have enjoyed a strong first half of the Superliga and a lot of that can be put down to the form of their 22-year-old attacking midfielder.
Born in Cañada Rosquin in the province of Santa Fe, Pussetto started out at local club Juventud Unida before moving to Atletico Rafaela in 2011. He made his debut two years later and featured intermittently over the next few years, making 48 appearances and scoring 4 goals before his 21st birthday for a struggling La Crema side.
In July 2016, amid interest from Velez and Union, Pussetto opted to join Huracan for $1.4mil and got off to a solid start to his life in Parque Patricios with 3 goals in 15 games. However, this season Pussetto has taken his game to the next level and is showing the talent that has been simmering under the surface for some time now.
With a WhoScored rating of 7.60 at the time of writing, Pussetto is among the leading performers in the Superliga and has made a string of match-defining contributions so far this season. He has weighed in with six goals, including vital winners against River and Estudiantes, has made four assists and has been named man of the match on four occasions.
Here we analyse some of the key elements that have contributed to his breakthrough season.
PACE & DRIBBLING
With his upright, roadrunner-like style, Pussetto is blessed with searing pace and he loves to commit defenders with his direct running. No-one in the Superliga has made more successful dribbles (59) after 18 games and only Gonzalo ‘Pity‘ Martinez averages more per game.
Usually deployed on the right wing as part of either a 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1, Huracan direct a lot of their play down the flanks under Gustavo Alfaro and Pussetto has been extremely effective in giving width and verticalidad to this counter-attacking system.
Capable of playing on the left too, Pussetto’s can even operate as a makeshift forward – as he did earlier in his career – and use his pace to get in behind sluggish defenders. Nevertheless, his switch to the right flank seems a better fit for his skillset.
In the example below, we see a prime example of Pussetto’s potent combination of blistering speed and neat footwork as he scores against Rosario Central.
Not just dangerous when he has space to run into, Pussetto can affect the game in a number of manners thanks to his dribbling skills. Here we see Pussetto in a tighter situation, this time on the left, but he manages to wriggle his way out of trouble and lay on a chance for his side.
Another advantage of Pussetto’s pace and dribbling is his ability to win fouls. On average he has been fouled 2.1 times per game this season, often winning set piece changes in good positions and getting opposition players in hot water, as the example below demonstrates.
An area of Pussetto’s game that has vastly improved this season is his success in front of goal. Almost half of his career total has come in this season alone and the added goal-scoring threat has made him an altogether more rounded and fearsome proposition.
While Pussetto does make intelligent runs cutting in off the flank to support the centre forward, he doesn’t just rely on his pace to get into goal-scoring positions. He has proven that he finishes well off both feet and has the reactions and instincts of a striker when it comes out to sniffing out chances in the box.
Under Alfaro, wingers are expected to track back and help out the full backs and Pussetto is very diligent in this respect. For an attacking player his stats of 2.2 tackles per game are good and his pace and stamina means he can get up down the flank all day.
In the system Pussetto is seen not just as the first attacker, but also the first defender and he helps push the opposition back. He does commit a fair number of fouls however but most of these are tactical to help break up the play, giving his side a breather.
As the example above demonstrates, Pussetto isn’t afraid of a bit of sacrifice and once he’s carried out his defensive responsibilities, displays his aforementioned dribbling to transition quickly from defence to attack.
At 1.80m, Pussetto cuts a relatively tall, strapping figure for a winger and his aerial threat gives him added dimension to his game. This season he has averaged 3.5 aerial duels won per game and he is a good target for the long balls Huracan like to play.
This aerial ability comes in handy in the penalty area too, both when defending set pieces but also as a goal threat, as the example below shows.
AREAS TO IMPROVE
As a team that like to get the ball wide, Pussetto benefits from getting plenty of the ball and has got four assists to his name so far this season. Having said that, he doesn’t attempt as many crosses as you’d expect for a wide player and his passing percentage is surprisingly low at 64.2% completion rate.
Perhaps this down to Huracan’s direct style or the high-risk passes he attempts in the final third. Although his percentage has improved over the past couple of seasons, Pussetto nevertheless needs to improve this area of his game. His stats show he is effective but this could be increased even further if he works at this element.
Huracan may have lost Ramon Abila and Alejandro Romero Gamarra during the mid-season window so even more responsibility will fall on Pussetto’s shoulders in the second half of the campaign. Fortunately, the consistency in Alfaro’s style should continue to get the best out of him as they make a push for continental qualification.
After his breakout year, the offers will no doubt come in the summer and the likes of Benfica, Bologna and Monaco have all been linked in the past. For a player who has a similar age, position stats to Cristian Pavon, Pussetto could provide to be a cut-price alternative to the Boca starlet for a smart club willing to take a punt.