In this series, we take a look at some of the most interesting young talents in the world of football. Next up is Argentinian 20-year old center-back Gastón Ávila.

The emergence of Cristian Romero during Argentina’s Copa America win heralded a changing of the guard in the heart of the Albiceleste’s defense. For years center-back had been a problem position for the national team but now an exciting crop of young defenders is finally emerging.

On top of the likes of Romero, Lisandro Martinez, Facundo Medina and Nehuen Perez, another new name from the Primera Division is making a claim to be considered in the same breath.

Gastón Ávila Player Report on Wyscout.

Gastón Ávila doesn’t turn 20 until the end of the month but the Rosario Central defender, on loan from Boca Juniors, has been one of the top performers in the league so far this season. The teenage center-back was also a key fixture in Central’s surprise run to the quarter-finals of the Copa Sudamericana.

Ávila, a Rosario native, came through at hometown club Central before Boca signed him in 2019. An ACL injury in pre-season sidelined the youngster and he made his debut the following year. Despite an impressive 4 game cameo at the tail end of 2020, he returned to Central and quickly became a pillar in Kily Gonzalez’s youthful Canalla side.

Left-footed, quick across the ground and comfortable with the ball at his feet, Ávila is a confident, proactive defender and ranks in the top 10 in the league in his position for both defensive duels (8.96 per 90) and offensive duels (4.06 per 90).

As the opposition midfielder advances, Ávila is ready to engage and anticipates the poor touch, allowing him to quickly step forward and dispossess the player and snuff out the danger.
Not content with breaking up play, Ávila strides forward and slides in a perfectly weighted through ball to the two forwards running in behind the defense.

As the example above highlights, once Ávila has won the ball he also knows how to use it. Averaging a pass completion of 82.4%, he possesses an impressive range of passing too, particularly his raking cross-field balls.

Ávila displays his excellent long-range passing by pinging a perfect diagonal ball right into the path of the striker, who is able to get a shot away immediately.
Again we see Ávila’s ability to switch the play which gets the Central winger in behind the full-back to set up a dangerous attack.

His progressive passes (10.85 per 90), passes to the final third (8.6 per 90) and ball progression (4.73 per minute) are all in the top 5 across all U23 players in the division and show what an asset he could be to any possession-based side.

Gastón Ávila's ball progression - from Wyscout Player Report.

Ávila’s aforementioned speed is one of his biggest strengths. Not only does it allow him to keep up with pacey forwards when making recovery runs but it also enables his side to play with a higher line and push further up the pitch.

What’s more, once in position, Ávila then has the technique to execute tackles when necessary, as demonstrated in the example below.

In the modern game, pace is vital for any defender at the top level but Ávila must be careful not to become over-reliant on it to get him out of trouble and must continue to work on his positioning and decision making.

At first glance, it would appear that Ávila possesses a decent aerial threat given his 3 headed goals this season, including one against his parent club Boca. Certainly, when he is able to attack the ball from set pieces, he has proven he knows how to find the back of the net.

However, on the defensive side, the numbers don’t stack up quite as favorably. An average of 3.17 aerial duels per 90 isn’t a huge amount for a player in his position and a couple of goals recently conceded against Boca and Banfield have shown up his aerial presence.

As the cross comes in, Ávila has got himself into a good position and body shape up against Luis Vazquez.
However, Ávila ends up focusing more on the man than winning the ball and gets comprehensively beaten physically and aerially by Vazquez who heads in the equalizer, demonstrating an area that Avila needs to work on.

While not the tallest at 1.82m, more should be expected from a player his height and there are some deficiencies when coping with high balls from a standing position. When he has the time to attack the ball he fares a lot better and, while it may never be his strongest attribute, there is certainly room for improvement.

With his loan due to finish at the end of the year, Ávila comes to an early crossroads in his career. His performances at Central merit being given a chance to prove himself back at Boca but it will be difficult to dislodge the experienced Marcos Rojo from the left-sided center-back position.

Ávila looks to have the technique, personality and potential to be Rojo’s long-term heir at Boca but, given the economic state of affairs in Argentinian football, will he get a chance to prove himself before Los Xeneizes decide to cash in?

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