I was asked to make a Semedo appreciation post, a player which, I must confess, I don’t tend to appreciate much. It isn’t that I believe he isn’t a good player for any other team. Good right-backs are not abundant these days and Nélson does have some qualities that would be very useful if joined by others.
Why am I not Semedo’s biggest fan? Because he combines some strengths which I consider ¨overvalued¨ for Barça’s style, and weaknesses in traits which I consider indispensable. Athleticism, speed, explosiveness or one-on-ones, either in defence or offence, are all qualities that usually catch the fans’ eye, but that say nothing about the relationship with teammates and context. They are conditions, but don’t present a collective advantage alone.
By contrast, positioning, decision making, maintaining the right distances with opponents and teammates, or picking the right pass in positional attacks, have never been among Semedo’s biggest assets. He can dribble past a player through pace and power, but when he has to generate advantages in static attacks he shrinks. He can win individual duels in defence, but then be poorly positioned or not mark the right player, which is what matters. When the team needs width and depth, he many times is in a poor zone.
Has Nélson shown an improvement in these facets? It is hard to tell. His first halves against Real Madrid and Napoli were excellent for his standards, but then, it was possibly more because of his natural conditions than positional astuteness. The sample is not big enough to judge whether there has been an evolution of his cognitive aptitudes. But if he has his best game and offers his best qualities while not looking out of place, maybe yes, I would start him against Bayern.