Andrés Guardado – PSV’s flawless diamond
With no assists and one goal in 2014-15 followed by four and one in 16 matches this term heading into Sunday’s clash with FC Twente, Andrés Guardado’s influence on PSV is not immediately clear to anyone casually browsing the Dutch league’s most decisive players.
But having made a hat-trick of assists in his side’s 4-2 win against the Tukkers, Guardado’s stock will have risen in that respect, though it still does nothing to tell even the smallest fraction of his story in Netherlands.
These numbers do not capture the grace, elegance and pertinence of an exemplary versatile player who is the true inspiration and central figure of Phillip Cocu’s side.
While not many chances created by the 29-year-old are ending up in the back of the net so far, he does create plenty of them – more than anyone else in his team, despite generally being one of the deepest sitting players.
A tireless, diligent and infinitely determined player, Guardado is simultaneously easy on the eyes and brutal on opponents. His technique is exemplary, his passing flawless, his anticipation instinctive and his mind incredibly quick.
So effortlessly does Guardado glide through matches in the Eredivisie, his presence in the PSV team almost seems preposterous.
Whether it’s a 10 metre pass or one that stretches across the field, they are all the same to Guardado, who can find his team-mates immediately and with immense precision.
His third and final assist against Twente is a great example of how he combines his vision, passing ability and decision making. Taking the ball in the middle of the pitch, he needs just a glance to see Luciano Narsingh running towards goal. Guardado then picks out the space and quickly places it right into the winger’s path, making the finish a simple one and letting PSV go 3-1 up, despite having been a goal down earlier on. He had just planted two set-piece crosses directly onto the head of Hector Moreno to reverse the scoreline, now he had almost sealed the win by putting it on a plate for Narsingh.
His passes are not always extravagant, but they are accurate, intelligent and key to the intent behind PSV’s attack.
Guardado’s vision is immeasurable. He sees things with a clarity well beyond 20/20. He views the game, runs, movements and passes well in advance of them even being made by others. Within the football pitch, Andrés is an omnipresent, omniscient being, sensing, understanding and acting upon the vibrations around him. Physically, this 5’6” Mexican takes up a mere dot on the field, but his spirit and sight engulf the entire stadium.
His movement off the ball, too, is sublime. When PSV are in possession, Guardado is always available and always moving into space to help out the ball carrier. Building from the back, he quickly drops in between the central defenders to allow them to move wide and free up the full-backs to advance up the pitch. From here, when Guardado takes on the ball, he has a complete view of the field and can carefully pick out the best way to kickstart his team’s attack.
The Mexico international and captain does so much more beyond the halfway line too. Moving into pockets of space and across the entire width of the pitch, making quick, neat passes to team-mates and even accelerating with the ball to try and spark a move forward, there is not a job he cannot do from the middle of the pitch.
The change in his game has been quite a surprise and turnaround. Guardado had generally been utilised as a left wing-back or winger during his three years with Valencia. However, upon joining the Eindhoven side on an initial loan deal, he was immediately thrust into the centre of the midfield. It took some time for the heart of the PSV team to find some balance, with the newcomer being utilised as a deep-lying midfielder, but without offering substantial defensive cover. After a few weeks, that was no longer a problem and he was soon able to contribute everywhere for Cocu’s men.
Setting the tempo and covering immense ground, he helped his side develop as a unit and improve throughout the campaign as they blistered ahead to win the league by a 17-point margin.
This year, with Georginio Wijnaldum and Memphis Depay leaving to join Premier League clubs, Guardado has stepped up and helped carry the team. His loan deal was made permanent for a bargain of around €2.8 million.
He then went on to become a Concacaf Gold Cup winner with his national team in the summer, scoring six times, including the opening goal in the final. After winning the Golden Ball in the competition, he carried his incredible form back to Eindhoven. In the Eredivisie, he has been wonderful, and he has looked gorgeous in the Champions League too, helping his side progress to the second round, where Atletico Madrid await.
“He can do almost anything, but I particularly enjoy his passion,” Netherlands legend and renowned left-footed midfield general Willem van Hanegem said.
“He is always in motion, always sits behind the ball. When the opponent gets the ball, then Guardado is there often with his little body again, getting PSV back into possession as quickly as possible. It’s great to see.”
Guardado is not only very much the most consistent of consistent performers for PSV, a decent performance by the Mexican for the Eindhoven club is as sure as death and taxes.. He has not been racking up a great deal of assists, but that is not his fault, nor does it bother him. “It is special to give three assists,” he told De Telegraaf on Sunday. “But I don’t care about goals or assists, just winning with the team.”
At 29, he is the oldest first-team regular in Cocu’s team and has a great deal to offer over the coming years. He is a dream player for a coach. His mentality is admirable, his ego is never an issue and his ability is fantastic. Contracted to PSV until 2018, he will remain the heart and soul of this side for the foreseeable future.