Leicester’s new man, Vicente Iborra, where will he fit in?
Since joining Sevilla from Levante in 2013, where Vicente Iborra was both a fan and a youth product, the club’s supporters have taken him in as one of their own. Within those four years, he has consistently been a leading presence that can both offer a physical and goalscoring edge.
A component that helped Los Nervionenses to three consecutive Europa League titles, the latter of which secured their place in the Champions League group stages for last season, means Iborra arrives armed with vast European experience. In the summer of 2016, he was appointed as Sevilla’s club captain, an honour he held in professional fashion, despite not being a first-choice piece of Jorge Sampaoli’s puzzle at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.
Will he fit in Leicester’s 4-4-2 system?
Standing at 6 foot 3, Iborra is undoubtedly a hulking presence of a central midfielder. In Leicester’s 4-4-2 system, he may well find himself a little exposed, with his slight lack of pace having the potential to be found out if his side do not keep their shape and press from the front.
It is tough to see how Craig Shakespeare may line up for the new season, but a flat midfield four isn’t the kindest environment for Iborra to adjust to Premier League life in.
Just as Wilfred Ndidi offers physicality and an obvious presence in midfield, Iborra can do the same. However, the Spaniard has a lot more to offer going forward. Often last season, his role was reduced to super sub, but he executed it brilliantly.
His involvement at Sevilla
As a first-team captain who saw his duties diminish, it would have been understandable for his commitment to the cause to waver, but instead the 29-year-old knuckled down and changed the complexion of many contests after being introduced.
Sevilla evolved their style of play under Sampaoli, opting for a more fluid, open and attacking approach. Previously, under Unai Emery, Los Nervionenses had been more defensive, cautious and measured. Typically, this huge transition in a short space of time brought with it teething problems, and Iborra was often turned to when things weren’t quite clicking in attack – whether it be down to his side’s own inadequacies or an opponent that had their intentions figured out.
In La Liga last season, he made just 12 starts, coming off the bench 19 times, often in an attempt to either offer further midfield presence or to chase a goal in a game that wasn’t going well. After making his Levante debut in La Liga as a bullish centre forward, just under a decade ago, former coach Luis Garcia thought Iborra could offer something while playing deeper.
In the past at Sevilla, Emery had, albeit very rarely indeed, used Iborra as a second striker too. Last season, it was seen that he could affect games in a similar way, without necessarily being deployed up top. When their intricate approach was not bearing fruit, Sampaoli could alter his team’s shape, include Iborra in his midfield and allow the Valencia-born substitute to push on.
His height and physical presence were a nuisance, with Sevilla able to go direct if required. If his teammates were struggling to play out from the back, he would be a capable carrier, both physically and technically, to bring possession further upfield, allowing for Los Nervionenses to stage their attacks from a more advanced base camp.
Against better opposition, he could battle and use his size and strength to try and unsettle their play, and his presence in and around the box would ensure that goals could always be a possibility too.
Rather than a star player, Iborra made the lives of those around him easier. He is not known for any mazy dribbling, jaw-dropping skill or even necessarily dictating games from deep. Instead, he is a competent and determined cog in the machine, one whose skillset helps the cause.
Previously, his role had been believed to be in defensive midfield, but recent years have highlighted that he is very versatile. While he can carry out the basal duties of a central midfielder, Iborra is far more polyvalent.
If his team are on the back foot, he can hark back to his days as a defensive midfielder and comfortably be aware of the situation and his role. But if Leicester spend long periods camped in the opposition half, Iborra should be allowed to creep forward and use his aerial presence to great effect.
With his height, jump and desire to get on the end of high balls, he has been arguably one of the best headers of the ball in Spain since the departure of now-Swansea City striker Fernando Llorente.
Leicester a new challenge
Iborra leaves Sevilla as a hero, with fans heartbroken to see a man depart who has helped define the club’s Europa League-dominating era. New coach Eduardo Berizzo likes to play with neat, tidy central midfielders who love to have the ball. Though the Spaniard is technically competent, he perhaps is a little more robust. It is the right time to move on.
Steven N’Zonzi’s excellence and Ever Banega’s return to Seville means that limited opportunities were only going to become rarer for Iborra, should he have chosen to stay in Andalusia and fight for his place under a new coach.
Leicester offer him the chance to change games and charm another fanbase, in a league that should ensure that he is forced to battle for both his place and the ball – one which he will relish.