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Unai Emery Reportedly Requests Levante Chance Creator

Jose Campana the latest link to Villarreal transfer.

Levante UD v Athletic Club - La Liga Photo by Mateo Villalba/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

The rumor mill is flying, and most of it is tied to finding a replacement for Santi Cazorla (as if there is such a thing). Today, we have La Razon reporting that Unai Emery has requested Jose Campana from Levante. Add his name to Takefusa Kubo and Oscar Rodriguez as creative mids linked to Villarreal just this week.

Campana first broke into La Liga way back in 2011-2012 for Sevilla as a teenager, but things did not really click for him until he arrived at Alcorcon in 2015-2016 in the Segunda. After one successful year he moved to Levante, helped them gain promotion, and has been a mainstay in their side ever since. Over the last two seasons he has 16 assists in La Liga.

In 2019-2020, the only players in La Liga who had more key passes than Campana were Lionel Messi and Sergio Canales. Campana had two more key passes than Santi. Does this suggest that he’s a replacement for the outgoing magician? Well, not really.

The reason for this is that not all created chances are, well, created equal. In the chart below, look at the overall difference in xA (expected assists) and shot creating actions (which include things like dribbles and drawing fouls) between Cazorla and Campana.

The ‘shot creating action’ metric includes the two moves before a shot. I like it because if Santi puts in a line breaking pass that takes four defenders out of the play and then Gerard slides it over to Paco for a tap in, Santi had just as much to do with creating the goal as Gerard did, but doesn’t get credited with an assist. The SCA metric accounts for this. Also, if a player creates a shot for himself off the dribble it is counted, or if he draws a foul on the edge of the box and someone else takes the direct free kick he gets credit for an SCA. It’s a more holistic approach to asking the question “how is this person contributing to the final phase of the offense?”

Canales gets a lot of key passes, but his overall contribution to shot creating actions is low. Part of this is that he dribbles less and completes a lower percentage of his dribbles than Cazorla did (you can see that on the left side of the chart) and also the fact that he passed into the box far less than Santi.

All told, 23 of Santi’s key passes came from dead ball situations, 18 for Campana, so a similar percentage of their creation is coming from open play, but at the end of the day Campaana just doesn’t have the wide variation in his skill set that Cazorla has.

Ultimately, though, this isn’t much of a criticism. Frankly, unless David Silva decides to rejoin Emery at Villarreal, no one we could reasonably have a hope of adding this window is going to have Santi’s full skill set. We have Manu Trigueros in the fold who with more minutes will take up some of the burden, and adding a veteran playmaker like Campana at the right price could give us depth in that position on the field.

I’m curious to see where this rumor goes. The reported fee is around 30m Euros, which seems entirely too high to me. Even though I’m not as high on Oscar Rodriguez as some Villarreal folks and I really don’t like the notion of loaning in Kubo, I’d rather do either of those moves than spend 30m on Campana.