Gonzalo Montiel is a 23-year-old right-back from Argentina who currently plays for River Plate. He has already played 91 matches for the Argentine giants and has developed himself very well over the last year. The right-back, who has had 4 international caps for Argentina, either plays as a right-back in a 4-3-1-2 formation or as a right midfielder in a 3-5-2 formation. He possesses both the Argentine and Spanish nationality and is destined to make a step up to Europe this summer. In this player report, you will read a detailed analysis on his playing style, strengths and weaknesses.
River Plate mostly play in a 3-5-2 formation or in a 4-3-1-2 formation. Gallardo has chosen for the former formation in the last few weeks of the Superliga and Copa Libertadores. They play attacking football, with high-positioned wing-backs that need to cover the whole wing. However, with both wide midfielders (the LCM and RCM) often moving outside, both full-backs need to be able to tuck inside as well, which means that they take up a more central position as well. The playing style is the same in the 3-5-2 and 4-3-1-2 formations, with just small changes in both formations.
In this analysis, we will dive into the role of Montiel and his strengths and weaknesses.
Playing style of Gonzalo Montiel
As mentioned above, the full-backs of River Plate are licensed to play very high up the pitch whenever Gallardo’s side builds it out from the back. They need to provide width for the Argentinian club which means that both Montiel and Casco can often be found sticking close to the sideline. This often attracts the oppositions full-back to close the gap which creates a gap on the right wing, or the full-back does not close the gap which means that Montiel is in space. The 23-year-old contributes to the attack a lot and often receives the ball. He plays 43,84 passes per 90 minutes, which indicates that he contributes to the build-up as well.
In the images down below, you can see an example of both situations.
In situation 1, you can see that the left-back of Binacional has closed the gap towards Gonzalo Montiel. The fact that he closes the gap and is out of position makes sure that there is space behind him which then can be exploited by right central midfielder Ignacio Fernandez or right striker Matías Suárez. Both are quite experienced and have shown that they are able to exploit this space very well, just like in the example above, where a powerful pass is played into Matías Suárez, who plays a first touch through pass towards Fernández.
In situation, you can see that the left-back of Independiente decides to stay narrow and leave a lot of space open for Gonzalo Montiel. This means that they are trying to close the center and force River Plate to play it out wide. In this example, this does not happen as Diaz manages to find Rafael Santos Borré in space between the two central defenders who eventually scores the goal. During the times that he actually receives the ball, he would dribble forward to eventually play a cross, or play it backwards to the right central midfielder. Gonzalo Montiel has good crossing ability, he always looks up before crossing and spots the man in space well.
The exact same thing happens when the midfielders are in possession, but the only difference is that Gonzalo Montiel is often looking to make a run in behind the defensive line to eventually play a dangerous cross from the byline. The Argentinian right-back is able to play both high and low crosses. In the image down below, you can see an example of him playing a low cross towards Matías Suárez, who misses the ball, despite the fact that the cross was perfect. Per 90 minutes, Gonzalo Montiel plays 2,26 crosses and 35,44% of his crosses are accurate.
As mentioned above, he is also capable of making runs in behind. This creates variation in the playing style of River Plate and confusion for the opponent, as the constant position changes and patterns of River Plate in the build-up play are very hard to defend for the opponent. In the image down below, you can see that Gonzalo Montiel starts making a run when Enzo Pérez receives the ball in space. The midfielder does not play the pass in this situation, but Montiel makes a good run and there was definitely space to play the through pass.
River Plate usually don’t play with a winger, but that does not mean that you can’t find a player occupying the right wing. When Ignacio Fernández, the player that normally occupies the right wing, receives the pass, Gonzalo Montiel either drops deeper to receive the ball in the combination or he makes an overlapping run to eventually cross the ball into the box. In the paragraphs down below, we will go into these two different situations more detailed.
Before the midfielder receives the pass, Montiel takes up a high position close to the sideline. When he sees that the pass is being played to Ignacio Fernández, he drops deeper and immediately makes a move towards the halfspaces (image 1). The 23-year-old looks up and sees that Matías Suárez makes a run in behind the defensive line and he tries to find him, in which he does not succeed (image 2). However, he keeps following the ball and makes another run, but he arrives a little bit late and makes a foul (image 3).
This situation happens more often in a River Plate match and it can be seen that Gonzalo Montiel is capable of linking up with his teammates and spotting the runs of his teammates. The final pass could be better at times in these situations, but he has good vision and is able to stay calm in the link-up play with his teammates, which also helps when he needs to play out of pressure.
In this situation, the right central midfielder occupies the halfspaces on the right, while carrying the ball forward. This often leads to the left-back of the opponent needing to make a decision whether to step out or not. Gonzalo Montiel does well in this situation to wait for the pass, as it makes the pass easier for Ignacio Fernandez. He runs with the ball down the line after he received the pass and delivers a good cross into the box, which then is headed away by the Binacional defender.
He is very active in transition and can exploit the space on the wing very well. As River Plate often play without a winger, he is tasked to run down the wing and to make overlapping runs. In image 1, you can see that River Plate just recovered possession and that Montiel starts running immediately. He is in a lot of space and receives the pass eventually. In image 2, you can see that Suarez makes a move to the first post to create space for Santos Borré to get into the box late and get his head to it. Montiel plays a perfect cross.
Gonzalo Montiel makes 1,51 progressive runs per 90 minutes, and these progressive runs come from these kinds of runs where he receives the ball into space, before dribbling forward and eventually playing a cross into the box.
Gonzalo Montiel has good technical ability, which help him when he is being put under pressure. He either likes to carry the ball inside to play out of pressure, but the 23-year-old can also use his good vision to play a through pass or to play a short pass and link-up with his teammates. He is very press resistant with both feet. He also showed that he is able to play good long passes over the ground. When he is dribbling, he shows good close control and he uses his good acceleration and strength in the duels to hold off his opponent. He is quite agile and can keep his balance well.
The Argentinian right-back does not only have good vision in the attacking phase of play, he is also very smart in putting pressure on the opponent and chooses the right moments. Normally, he stays very close to his direct opponent and follows him around which helps him to put pressure immediately and preventing the opponent from playing the pass towards his direct opponent. This does not mean that he follows his opponent around blindly, as he often scans and coaches his teammates to take up his position whenever he puts pressure higher on the pitch. Also, when the left-back makes a run, he always covers it well and he never gets surprised.
However, when the opponent have difficulties building up (image 1), he is quick to close down the gap towards the left-back of the opponent. Montiel knows that he has left his position and coaches his teammates to cover that position or player (image 2). When the left central defender of Independiente receives the ball, he closes the gap down fully and makes sure that he can’t play the short pass (image 3). However, Barboza of Independiente stays calm and cuts away from Fernández to play out of pressure.
This good defensive vision allows him to put pressure on the opposition at the right times, which make him a very interesting player for teams that like to put high pressure on the opponent, besides the other qualities of Gonzalo Montiel, of course.
Another example of Gonzalo Montiel anticipating well can be seen in the following situation, in which the opponent was in possession on their own half and being put under pressure by River Plate. The opponent only has one option to pass to, which is then spotted by Gonzalo Montiel who immediately closes the gap down and eventually, possession is recovered by River Plate.
In the defensive duels, Gonzalo Montiel often follows his opponent around aggressively, forcing him to move backwards. This approach has proved to be effective for the right-back as it makes sure that River Plate can regroup and put pressure on the opponent in an organized way. Because of this, and the attacking style of play by River Plate, Montiel does not get into that many 1v1’s.
One aspect in which Gonzalo Montiel could improve on still is his slide tackling when he battles for a loose ball or when an opponent runs at him. The Argentinian defender is good at making recovery tackles, where he closes the gap down with his opponent using his good acceleration and pace before slide tackling his opponent. However, he can still improve in his tackling when he needs to battle for a loose ball or when an opponent runs at him. In these situations, he needs to stay more calm and when an opponent runs at him, it would sometimes be better to stay on his feet rather than going in for a slide tackle.
As River Plate have recently played in a 352 formation, Gonzalo Montiel plays in an even more attacking role which suits him well. However, this means that he needs to rely even more on his defensive vision as well. He often does this very well, but he occasionally does not cut the passing lane efficiently which means that a through pass can be playing in behind. With River Plate playing a three at the back formation, the wide central defender provides enough cover to make up for this though.
Gonzalo Montiel is only 178cm, but this does not hinder him in the physical duels. He looks quite strong in both the defensive and attacking duels and is able to hold off the opponent well. Montiel is quite agile and can keep his balance well. The 23-year-old has good stamina as he keeps running down the wing for 90 minutes long and has a good work-rate and determination.
Gonzalo Montiel is definitely ready to make a move to Europe. He would suit well in either a four at the back playing as a right-back or three at the back playing as a right wing-back. Montiel needs to play in a team that dominate possession and where he is licensed to move higher up the pitch to contribute to the attack in the final third. He is able to play in a team with a lot of variation in the final third and who like to put early pressure on the opponent. He chooses his moments to put pressure very well which is ideal for these teams and that is why I think that he would fit incredibly well at a club outside of the top 5 leagues who have the above mentioned playing style, play regular Champions League football and are one of the, if not biggest team in their respective country.
He certainly has the level to play in a top 5 league, but I think that it would be better for him to move to a club outside the top 5 leagues that play regular Champions League football and have the above mentioned playing style.