Leeds United don’t need to be reminded of the mercurial genius that courses through the veins of Pablo Hernandez like ichor through the veins of the immortal Gods of Greek mythology. Just in case they did, there was this from Saturday:

Hernandez is god-like in his football yet also humble, stating afterwards that 99% of the Leeds United side could hit that pass. A pass where he didn’t look, just pivoted and directed the ball onto a shilling of space for Jack Harrison to run onto whilst at full pelt and not breaking his stride. He’s special. Leeds fans know that.

George Wood/Getty Images Sport

His years may be mounting up, but his skill levels are in no way going in the opposite direction. Indeed, his output is as consistent as you could want it to be. He has 6 goals and 7 assists now this season and he is the reigning, two-time consecutive Player of the Year at the Club.

He’s 35 now but Leeds United are getting a whole heap out of him even when managing his game time. However, to get the best out of him, they need to keep doing what they are doing and play him centrally rather than out on the wing.

Pablo Herhandez is more effective in the middle (2018/19) than out wide (2018/19)

Right-wing 2018/19 (878 minutes)

This Smartmap (above) shows the position, type (coloured block) and frequency (size of block of Hernandez’s actions whilst playing out on the right-wing position last season. Instantly, you can see that he tended to dominate down the right, his contributions elsewhere sporadic. Down the right flank, you can see a mix of long (yellow) medium (shades of green) and short (blue) passes at a decent volume. His shots (white) tended to be dominant on the edge of the area and across the face of goal.

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Using Smarterscout metrics (above – scored for position out of 99), you can see that from a right-sided wing position, Hernandez had ‘model ratings’ of an attacking output of 48, ball retention of 40 and a defending quality 20/defending quantity 27. Style-wise, he had the following ratings: shooting 10, aerial 10, disrupting opponent play 76, recover loose ball 96, link-up play 42, pass towards goal 95, dribble 13 and receive ball in box 39.

Central midfield 2018/19 (878 minutes)

The first thing you notice is that more away from a predominant right-wing position. Given a central role in midfield, Pablo Hernandez is a threat in more areas. There are many more short passes (blue) in all areas and a higher volume of passes spread across the opponent’s half.

Additionally, he engages in more dribbles (purple) in dangerous areas such as central to the goals and on the edges of the area. His shooting (grey/white) has also increased, especially around the fringes of the penalty area. One aspect of his game is to arrive late and profit from the earlier balls out wide that Bielsa’s football thrives on.

Using Smarterscout metrics (above – scored for position out of 99), you can see that from a more central position things change massively for Pablo Hernandez.  His attacking output is now a maxed 99 (+55), although ball retention drops to 8 (-32). His defending quality rises to 94 (+74) and defending quantity drops to 7 – meaning he is called on less to defend but does so better in the centre of the park.

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Style-wise, his shooting increases to 82 (+72), aerial doubles to 20 (+10) and his disrupting opponent play drops to 31 (-45).  However, centrally, his recovery of loose ball rises slightly to 98 (+2) but his link-up play drops to 25 (-17). His passing towards goal drops slightly to 83 (-12), his dribble rockets to 67 (+54)and his receiving the ball in box soars to 71 (+32).

View from The72

No matter where you put Pablo Hernandez on the field, he will be a threat. However, after his fellow mercurial Spaniard, Samu Saiz, left Leeds, Pablo was moved further infield. Doing that gives him influence over a wider area of the field. The danger he possesses can be seen by increases in shooting receiving the ball in the area.

A key aspect of Bielsa’s football at Leeds is spreading the ball to the flanks, often moves that start in midfield. A key aspect of Hernandez’s game is that perfectly-timed run into the penalty area to finish off a move.

Combine both, and it isn’t hard to see why Pablo Hernandez got 12 goals and 12 assists last season.

Graphics reproduced by kind permission of Smarterscout. Explanations of the metrics used can be found on their FAQ page.

Will Pablo Hernandez prove key in the rest of Leeds United's season?


The guy is class.

No, not really.

He’ll play a part.