Pedro Goncalves: The next Fernandes?

Name: Pedro Goncalves

Team: Sporting Lisbon (Liga Nos)

Nationality: Portugal (Played for U21)

Age: 22

Height: 173 cm (5ft8in)

Position: centre attacking midfield

Foot: right


Pedro Goncalves left Wolverhampton Wanderers without making a Premier League appearance in the 2019/20 Summer transfer window. Leaving as a promising player, which was a decision criticised by sections of the Wolves fanbase.


How does he compare against other elite attacking midfielders in Europe's top 5 leagues?


GPG = Goals per game

APG = Assists per game

G/A-PG = Goals or assists per game

Non-Pen G/A = Goals and assists without penalties

League data only

What can be taken from this chart?

  1. He outperforms Fekir and Lo Celso and is slightly off Fernandes and Muller in almost all of the categories, this suggests he has a large amount of quality. Yet to reach the elite levels of Fernandes and Muller, improvement is still needed - which could come with age.

  2. Improving his goal contribution via assists is an area of improvement.

  3. His goal output stands up against one of the best attacking midfielders in Fernandes, especially without the inclusion of goals from penalties.

What is his style, strengths and weaknesses?


An attacking midfielder with an eye for a goal. His strengths include his dribbling, finishing and incisive through balls. Struggles in the air, largely due to his small physique. Weaknesses he can improve on? Largely just his passing at times, which can be sloppy. However, it is a small weakness which doesn't counter balance his strengths.


An example:


In an away league fixture at Maritimo, Goncalves played as the right of a pair of attacking midfielders. Behind Paulinho in a 3-4-2-1 formation. He scored both of Sporting’s goals, but it was his performance overall which impressed. He had three shots on target, and made numerous incisive passes between Maritimo’s back three.

His first goal:

As the Sporting defender is travelling with the ball and prepares to pass, you can see Goncalves has moved away from his marker and is ready to spin into space. This highlights his spatial awareness; whilst his opponent is facing the opposition on his heels, Goncalves is moving.


The image below is after Goncalves received the ball and moved around the goalkeeper. To engineer space for an easy finish, which he scores from. The space created from the run which he begins in the first photo, leaves him § in a large amount of space and only the goalkeeper to beat. The goalie rushes out and is easily evaded with a smart couple of touches by Gonmcalves, showing his calmness in front of goal.

His second goal:

The above photo shows Goncalves stops his run a yard inside the box. As 5 Maritimo defenders rush back towards the goal, Goncalves leaves himself in space for the cross from the left. The highlights his composure and movement, which provides an option to the winger.


The photo below is after the cross arrives to Goncalves' feet, and he dispatches the ball into the bottom right of the goal with the inside of his right foot. Because of Goncalves creating space for himself on the edge of the box, the defenders are unable to recover and make a block once the ball reached Goncalves. His body angle in the photo emphasises Goncalves' technique, rather than smashing the ball he chooses to guide it towards the corner of the goal.

Who would he suit in the Premier League?

  • Arsenal

  • Tottenham

  • Wolves


Why?


Arsenal have the 5th lowest in the league in terms of their average number of successful dribbles per a game (8). Only better than West Ham and relegation battling Burnley, West Brom and Sheffield United. What does that suggest? A lack of individual quality to create space. Goncalves and his 1.33 dribbles per a Liga Not game this season could be the solution. Also, his 0.77 goals per game could help Arsenal's attacking output. Only two Arsenal players this season have scored over 5 goals, Lacazette and Aubameyang - both strikers.


Tottenham's weaknesses: over reliance on Kane and Son, and incisive passing. With only Kane and Son scoring over 3 goals, and also being the only two players to average over 1 key pass per game in the Premier League. Two areas of weaknesses which Goncalves is strong in. The Portuguese playmaker has scored 14 goals, and averages 1.6 key passes per a game. Even more pertinent considering the failure of Spurs to a large extent in replacing the key passing of Eriksen, who would sit between the midfield and attack - similar to Goncalves at Sporting.


Although a return to Molineux would be unlikely. Wolves are 12th in terms of goals scored in the Premier League, possibly the most significant problem they've encountered this season. How could they improve their goal scoring? Add goals to their team via Goncalves. Neves is Wolves's highest scoring midfielder with just 4 league goals so far, therefore Goncalves could provide a greater number of goals from midfield for Nuno's team. Wolves have the second highest average number of unsuccessful dribbles per game (8.3) - which is a strength of Goncalves' play. Therefore, the Portuguese player may add individual skill which is needed by the Wolves side.


Why sign Goncalves instead of Porto's Sergio Oliviera?

Although Oliviera boasts international and Champions League football currently, which Goncalves currently does not possess. Oliviera's international appearances would make him an 'easier' signing, regarding the new transfer rules since Brexit. Oliviera, like Goncalves, is one of the best Liga Not players and has undoubted ability.


However, I would opt to sign Goncalves. Who is six years younger and boasts a better attacking output record than Oliviera this season. Oliviera is Porto's designated penalty taker, considering that Goncalves' 'Non-Pen G/A' is 0.5 better (or 1 goal better for every 2 games played). Due to his age and no international senior appearances so far, Goncalves may be more expensive and a 'harder' transfer. Nonetheless, Goncalves would have a much higher sell-on value than Oliviera.


Problems which may be encountered?

The transfer fee. Sporting sold Fernandes, a similar player who is older, for a big fee. Therefore, it is reasonable to believe they will ask for another big transfer fee. Which many many not afford as a result of the financial implications of the pandemic.

New transfer rules as a result of Brexit. He would need to play 30% of Portugal’s senior competitive international matches during the two years (or one year if under 21) preceding the date of application. So far he has only played for Portugal’s youth sides. However, the nearing retirement of Moutinho provides an opportunity.

Physique. At 174 cm, Goncalves strengths are not based on strength. Similar to numerous players who have come from Europe, he could suffer from the physical nature of English football. However, the likes of David Silva who are also not big players, have succeeded in England’s physical leagues.


Why should Goncalves be in no rush to leave Portugal?

It is Pedro’s 1st season playing for Sporting regularly in Liga Nos. Bruno Fernandes, at an older age, spent 2 and a half seasons at Sporting. Nemanja Matic, like Fernandes, also spent 2 and half seasons at a top Portuguese team before moving to the Premier League. Both have excelled in the Premier League since joining from Benfica and Sporting Lisbon respectively.


Whilst the likes of Ricardo Quaresma can be a warning to Goncalves, for moving on ‘too early’. Mourinho took Quaresma, one of the top Liga Nos players at the time, to Inter Milan. Yet he was loaned out a short time after. However, 5-time Ballon d'Or winning Cristiano Ronaldo spent just one season in Sporting Lisbon's A team before moving to Manchester United.


Images from Liga Nos YouTube video.

Data from WhoScored.

Data up to date to 21st February.

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